Wow. What a fourth quarter that was!
After a defensive struggle between the Steelers and Raiders for three quarters, both offenses exploded in the fourth quarter for a combined five touchdowns, with the Raiders upsetting the playoff hopeful Steelers 27-24.
The winning touchdown went to Raiders receiver Louis Murphy to cap an 88-yard drive led by quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
In possibly the best quarterback performance since the days of Rich Gannon, Gradkowski would finish the day with 308 yards passing, three touchdown passes, three runs for 20 yards and much elusiveness to avoid pressure despite two sacks by LaMarr Woodley.
It is important to note that Dallas has a tendency to win big at home on Thanksgiving. I say that because, despite the Dallas game, the overall trend of the Raiders has been upwards since the switch at quarterback to Gradkowski.
I also have a new nickname for Louis Murphy; "Murphy's Law". Except instead of decreeing that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, it's anything that can go right will go right. In the fourth quarter, Murphy caught four balls for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yarder.
Murphy, however, was not alone amongst Raider receivers. Chaz Schilens would also catch a touchdown in the wild quarter, while Johnnie Lee Higgins would make big plays all game. Todd Watkins brought a key first down in the fourth quarter.
This performance is important because the Raiders were uber-maligned for selecting Darrius Heyward-Bey instead of Michael Crabtree in the 2009 draft. Heyward-Bey was deactivated for today's game. In the same draft, the Raiders selected Murphy in the fourth round.
In retrospect, it would have been nice if the Raiders had taken a player at a different position, but clearly the pick of Heyward-Bey will not impede the development of the receiver corps.
It is important to note that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was inactive for today's game, which hurt Pittsburgh in deep pass protection. Nevertheless, had this performance resulted solely from the absence of Polamalu, it seems that the Raiders would have scored long touchdowns all day.
Thus, it was great to see the Raiders respond the way they did in the fourth quarter. We haven't seen this much life from them in quite some time, and it is another reason why the Raider future looks bright.