The Oakland Raiders wide receiver trio of Chaz Schilens, Johnny Lee Higgins, and Louis Murphy did what nobody thought was possible, they carried Oakland to its biggest victory since the 2002 AFC Championship game.
This group shredded the Steelers secondary for 11 catches, 236 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
It was the single best performance by Oakland receivers in four seasons.
You’d have to go back to the days of Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry to find better statistics by Raider receivers.
At the heart of this receiver renaissance in Oakland, is rookie wide out Louis Murphy.
His flash of brilliance in the fourth-quarter at Pittsburgh (4 catches, 128 yards, and 2 TD’s) was nothing short of spectacular, and a sign of things to come in 2010.
The rookie is quickly becoming Gradkowski’s go-to-guy as well. They cultivated some late-game heroics in a 20-17 upset over Cincinnati in week 11.
And last week in Pittsburgh, the Gradkowski-Murphy connection came alive again.
The rookie’s 75-yard catch and run gave Oakland a 20-17 lead with 5 ½ minutes to play.
The former Gator followed that up with a mind-blowing touchdown catch that gave Oakland a three-point lead with only nine seconds to play.
Suddenly Gradkowski has multiple weapons. These raw but talented pass-catchers finally woke-up the Raiders dormant offense.
However, I’m not sure if Raiders coach Tom Cable knows what he has yet.
The offense needs more snaps, and more games, to truly see if the future is now in Oakland. One game doesn’t prove anything but five may.
And here’s a painful question Raider Nation: If healthy, should Darrius Heyward–Bey start over Murphy or does he need to sit and watch along side JaMarcus Russell?
Some fans have already declared that DHB to be a lost cause. I’m not in that boat. I believe the speedster can take his game to the next level and will, if given the right opportunity.
Heyward-Bey is fourth on the team in receptions (9 catches, 124 yards, and 1 TD) and trails Murphy in yardage, catches, and touchdowns.
Yes, I get that Heyward-Bey drops too many balls and Michael Crabtree should have been drafted in his place. I get all of that.
But, Oakland is in the midst of new found confidence and under a new quarterback. It's vital to see where DHB fits in this revamped offense.
Fans actually need to trust in Al Davis and just be patient with the learning process that all rookies go through. It worked for Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, and it will work for DHB too.
Should Heyward-Bey have a reduced role?
That’s possible and probably likely. But if Cable doesn’t try to get him on the field and give him the experience he needs, then the Raiders run the risk of stunting his growth.
And no NFL team needs two of its highest paid players sitting on the bench masquerading as cheerleaders.