By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, September 19th, 2010 at 7:17 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes, quotes and observations from the Raiders’ 16-14 win over the St. Louis Rams Sunday at the Coliseum:
— We’ll never know for sure if Tom Cable’s job was in jeopardy or even if it was Cable that made the ultimate call to bench Jason Campbell in favor of Bruce Gradkowski at halftime while trailing 7-3.
Could have been offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, could have been Al Davis, although Davis would be the most unlikely candidate given his on-the-record support of Campbell as the next Jim Plunkett.
But it sure looked like it was Cable that made the call, because it was the desperate sort of move a coach simply doesn’t make in Week 2 unless he thinks he’s under extraordinary pressure to win a game.
The Raiders had spent much of the first half in Rams territory and come away with only three points. The offense had no rhythm, and when Campbell threw an interception directly into the hands of James Butler at the St. Louis 25-yard line late in the half, the crowd booed and then began chanting, `Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.’’
When the second half began, they erupted with “BRUUUCCE’’ when he actually took the field.
The Raiders traded for Campbell, made him the undisputed No. 1 quarterback, the owner gave him an endorsement as well as a one-year contract extension for $4.5 million and Campbell got a buck-fifty (six quarters) in return.
Let the record show that it worked. Gradkowski’s picture could be in the dictionary next to the word “spark.’’
– We’ll see how the whole Gradkowski-Campbell scenario plays out this week, but it’s clear someone with the Raiders wanted to make it clear the job doesn’t “necessarily’’ belong to Gradkowski.
Included in the quote sheet distributed by the team was this sentence from Cable: “Today was about winning the game, it does not necessarily mean Campbell is replaced as the quarterback for the rest of the season.’’
Here’s what Cable actually said:
“(I) made the switch at halftime at quarterback, basically to just give the team a lift, felt like we needed to change up a little bit and my job is to win games and do whatever it takes to do that.’’
He said the Raiders “weren’t in rhythm, weren’t in synch,’’ and when asked what it meant for the rest of the season said, “ I’ll worry about all that tomorrow, really. I want to go look at it. But today was about winning this game, what did it take to do that, that was the right choice, obviously, and it worked out, and Bruce came in and gave us a lift.’’
Nothing nearly as forceful as “it does not necessarily mean Campbell is replaced as the quarterback for the rest of the season.’’
– Campbell’s reaction: “I was surprised. We were down 7-3. We had been moving the ball. We just stalled when we got to the red zone. But at the same time, it was a decision that they made. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and just live with it and just move forward.’’
Campbell handled it the way you’d expect, considering his reputation with Washington and his comportment since joining the Raiders. He said he didn’t want to be a distraction, that it was bigger than him.
— Gradkowski’s reaction: “It’s the NFL. We’re just trying to win. It’s nothing against Jason. Coach just felt like hey, give me the second half and see what I could do. You just always have to be ready when your time gets called.”
Gradkowski said he was informed of his insertion into the game by Jackson at halftime.
“I want to be the starter. In my mind, I am the starter. But that’s how you have to approach it,’’ Gradkowski said.
–Players were careful not to choose sides. Linebacker Quentin Groves said Gradkowski provide a spark simply because the offense was moving the ball and keeping them fresh.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha had this strange reaction: “The thing is, we might have been down 7-3, it could have been 7-6. So it wasn’t like we were getting killed by the Rams, so I guess that’s why it would be surprising.
“But at the same time, it’s good that the offense didn’t let it mess up what they were doing. They were still able to run the ball, still able to move the ball with Bruce. So as long as it works out, I think everybody’s OK with it.”
As long as it didn’t mess up what they were doing?
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo: “(Gradkowski) was a good move by their coaches. Good move. He’s obviously a mobile guy and he executed the offense pretty good. They came out obviously with the intent to throw the football. They did a nice job.’’
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis: “You can’t let a guy coming into the game give a spark. You hve to say, `Hey, this guy’s coming into the game cold.’ You’ve got to give him credit because he obviously made some big plays for them.’’
— There will be plenty of discussion of how meaningless a two-point win against a team which has now lost 27 of 28 games is in the large scheme of things.
In terms of hitting and statistical dominance, the margin was much greater. The Raiders gained 404 yards, the first time in 76 games they’ve hit 400. That’s all the way back to Oct. 23, 2005, 416 yards against Buffalo, with Norv Turner as head coach.
The Rams gained 210 yards, the lowest total allowed by a Raider defense since Week 2 against Kansas City in 2008.
Running back Steven Jackson looked headed for a 200-yard day with 56 yards on eight carries in the first quarter and had only 19 yards on 11 attempts afterward.
Raiders running back Darren McFadden had a career high 30 carries for 145 yards, with 20 carries for 107 yards in the second half. It was McFadden, not Jackson, who was lowering his shoulder and driving defenders backward.
The Raiders need to play much, much better to approach anything resembling .500, but they were more physically dominant against the Rams than the score would suggest.
– Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had a career-high six receptions 80 yards, and five of those for 74 yards came with Gradkowski as quarterback in the second half.
Louis Murphy had six receptions for 91 yards, with five catches for 64 yards coming with Gradkowski in the game.
On one play, Heyward-Bey spun out of an initial tackle and gained 33 yards. There were at least two plays where Rams defenders played him physically enough there could have been a flag, but Heyward-Bey ended up giving as much as he was taking.
“Me and Louis came to play. We talked about it in the wide receiver room that we need to make plays for the team to win. It showed today. Next week we got to do it again.’’
Said Cable: “I just felt like those two guys really grew today. We went to ‘em a number of times and they answered. I just think that’s part of that confidence and that growth that you get and hopefully we’ll just continue to ascend and we’ll get more out of them as we go.’’
– The reason for Samson Satele returning to his job at starting center became clear on the third position when rookie Jared Veldheer, last week’s starter at center, went in to play left tackle for starter Mario Henderson.
Veldheer was called for holding on his first play, but alternated with Henderson throughout much of the game. In the second half, it was on a series-by-series basis.
Henderson conceded the in-and-out treatment wasn’t easy.
“Of course you’re going to be a little cold, you want to get used to a guys, especially pass rushing,’’ Henderson said. “So it’s kind of like, when I get out there, it’s, ‘Oh (bleep).’ But at the same time, regardless, gotta get the job done.”
Cable on the unorthodox tackle setup: “Just another example of finding a right group to kind of help us win football games and so, I think as a head coach, that’s my job. I’ve got to make sure I do whatever it takes to win football games and having that rotation was good for us today.’’
– Groves, Michael Huff and the just-activated Stevie Brown (Erik Pears was released) all made big special teams hits, with Groves getting in a SportsCenter special crushing rookie Mardy Gilyard on a kickoff return.
The reaction of the crowd was almost as loud the second time on the replay board as it was when it took place.
“I was out of it because everyone was slapping, high-fiving, cheering, and doing that,’’ Groves said, not having any idea he’d done much other than get off a block and deliver a decent blow.
“I saw the guard try to block me so I pressed the guard, then I saw the returner and I figured I’d take a shot,’’ Groves said.
– The Raiders came after Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford early and often to start the game, then once he began to look confused, allowed their four-man rush to get the pressure late and play coverage.
And it worked beautifully.
“The important thing for our football team is we were getting their early with a four-man rush and hitting him without sacking him,’’ Cable said.
– Thanks to everyone who took part in the live chat and sorry for the time or two when transmission was lost and I was knocked off line.
– The final attendance was annoucned at 48,396, considerably higher than the smallest home opener in history. The Raiders drew 40,545 for the home opener in 1998 against the New York Giants _ Jon Gruden’s first regular-season home game as Raiders head coach.