Bruce Gradkowski Inspires Defense: As Oakland Declaws Bengals 20-17
Before I even begin with this article, i'll be very honest. Unlike my usual sundays, I didn't sit back and listen to the game via radio from the get go(Not old enough for a bar people!). Nor will I claim that I followed the action from beginning to end, as such not seeing everything that happened. Instead I took a trip to watch football with my friends most of the afternoon, and tuned into the game roughly in the late third quarter. As the stalemate continued on the broadcast, I patiently listened to see if something great could happen, and to the dismay of all the gamblers in the room, The Raiders would produce (in my, very biased eyes) the upset of the week!
I'd be lying to say I wasn't anxiously awaiting the start of backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Unlike some people, I really don't feel like it was a bad move benching him with how awful he's been doing as of late. Once again, if you put aside the (*ahem*) "growing partnership", he has with the teams rookie wide outs, you'd still be watching a player that shows zero effort, and considers costly interceptions as, "slight errors in judgement". Please. For the most part, Bruce really stepped up to the plate, going 17/34, with 183 passing yards, 2 TD's, with sadly 1 interception and a fumble. Still, he made the offense flow nicely while avoiding the pressure when needed (remember, watching NFL highlights here) and throwing clutch passes in the 4th quarter when it counted. There's nothing better than having your quarterback run the two minute offense, period, so way to go Gradkowski.
While his praise is deserved, let's not also forget the defense really showed up today as well. Many skeptics ignore that they're ranked 12th in passing defense, and when you invite Carson Palmer to that, well, don't be shocked if he doesn't throw for 300 yards. Better yet, who was surprised that he scored the only TD's for Cincinnati, on two runs? I was, and you probably were too. However, I give the game ball to Tyvon Branch who played excellent coverage today, recorded 11 tackles and 1 sack. Although Bernard Scott ran for 119 (yikes!) yards, it's almost an afterthought with the shutdown of Chad Ochocinco to a mere 67 yards. I've had an interesting theory all year long, that if the Raiders can keep the chains moving, put some (not too much, just give us what you got) points on the board...that it makes guy's like Asomugha, Morrison, Howard, and Huff play their hearts out, giving the D some extra kick. After the game, Nnamdi said, "Oh my goodness. When we saw them scoring and moving the ball we thought we were line, 'Look. This is how games should be' ". Could my theory be correct?
In a game that didn't need a handoff the majority of plays (18 run attempts to 34 pass attempts is great to see!) seems to show that Tom Cable isn't afraid of using the new guy on the block. Head coach having confidence in the quarterback, is something that has been preached all year long about our organization. Problem is, Russell just never really gave him a reason to. This win today though, if for nothing else, gives the ballclub much needed confindence going into Thursdays prime time matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Instead of walking into Texas heads down, we might see the Raiders pumped up shock the NFL once again. Chad Ochocinco (nice guy, one of my favorite WR's in the game) commented during a conference call afterwards, "We played a great Raider team, despite their record. Especially defensively. The front four, the front seven, whatever you call it. They're really good". I couldn't agree more Chad, and with thier undeniable potential, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them decisively finish the season off with more wins than last year.
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