By Steve Corkran
Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 at 6:27 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer is quick to take blame for most anything, even when it’s obvious that he’s not at fault.
On Sunday, there was no mistaking that Palmer deserved the lion’s share of the blame for the Raiders losing to the Cleveland Browns 20-17 at the rain-soaked Coliseum.
A poorly thrown pass by Palmer early in the fourth quarter ended a promising Raiders drive and kick-started a game-clinching touchdown drive by the Browns.
“We can’t turn the ball over like that,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got all the momentum, we’re moving the ball, and we can’t have that self-inflicted wound right there. If it’s not there, we’ve got to get rid of it, but we can’t make that mistake.”
The Raiders were riding a huge wave of momentum on the heels of a blocked field-goal attempt, a 64-yard touchdown from Palmer to wide receiver Rod Streater and forcing the Browns to punt on their ensuing possession.
Palmer completed four of six passes in navigating the Raiders from their own 27-yard line to the Browns 33. The fourth completion gave the Raiders a first down and put them in Sebastian Janikowski’s field-goal range.
Yet, on a first-down play, Palmer lofted a pass for rookie receiver Juron Criner down the left sideline, with cornerback Sheldon Brown running step for step with Criner.
By the time Criner turned for the ball, Brown was in position to make the easy catch.
“I was trying to take a shot there, go for the touchdown quickly,” Palmer said, “and just didn’t put the ball in the right spot, didn’t give Juron a chance to make a play on the ball.”
That’s a play that Palmer loves to gamble on, with single coverage on the outside, having confidence in his ability to put the ball in a spot where his receiver can make a play on the ball.
It worked on the touchdown to Streater. On the pass to Criner, Palmer just didn’t get enough on the ball. Coaches stress making sure that the pass is long enough to where only the receiver can catch the ball.
Streater said he and the other receivers enjoy the fact that Palmer has the confidence in them to make plays in single coverage, even if they aren’t wide open.
“He has a lot of faith in us,” Streater said. “It feels good that he believes in us like that. We just want to come down with every ball and continue to keep that confidence in him.”
Palmer targeted Brown numerous times Sunday. In the end, it was Brown who got the better of the toe-to-toe battle.
“Carson threw a few deep balls at me today,” Brown said. “You would have to talk to him and see what he saw on tape last week when he was preparing.
“On that particular play, I had an opportunity to cover the short field. I lined up in press like I was going to stay down tight. Criner released outside, I bailed out of there. And at that point I saw Carson throwing the ball and I just became the receiver and caught it.”
Overall, Palmer completed 34 of 54 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for him and the Raiders, the pass that stood out among the 54 was the one that Brown intercepted.
Palmer is on pace to pass for 4,709 yards, which would break Rich Gannon’s franchise record for most passing yards in a single season.