|Palmer was the best quarterback on the field Thursday night. (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
It's been 23 days since Carson Palmer hoisted himself off his couch to resume his football career. After nine months off, the first six quarters of Palmer's comeback were highlighted by indecisiveness, incompletions, sacks and interceptions (six of them to be exact). And then against the Chargers, it clicked.
Palmer missed on his first two throws then proceeded to connect on 13 consecutive passes, including two touchdowns to rookie Denarius Moore and completions of 41, 46, 33 and 55 yards. It was as if Palmer hopped in a time machine, set course for 2005, and that guy suited up for the Raiders Thursday night against the Chargers in a game Oakland would win 24-17.
Maybe Hue Jackson really does know what he's doing.
San Diego, meanwhile, continues to flounder, although their fourth straight loss had nothing to do with quarterback Philip Rivers. One of the league's best passers, Rivers admits that he hasn't played well this season. The 14 interceptions through eight weeks are a testament to that.
Against the Raiders, it was injuries along the offensive line that doomed San Diego's chances. Left tackle Marcus McNeill went down midway through the first quarter, which prompted NFL Network color analyst Mike Mayock to predict a long evening for McNeill's replacement, Brandyn Dombrowski --and by extension, Rivers.
"All day long Dombrowski is going to have trouble if he doesn't get some help. And at halftime they gotta get that kid some help," Mayock said.
Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had three first-half sacks, all coming against Dombrowski who did little to slow him up.
Despite all that, Rivers had the Chargers in position to tie the game late. Trailing 24-17 with just over three minutes to go and the ball on the Raiders' 42-yard line, Rivers threw a ball into the end zone looking for Vincent Jackson. Except Jackson appeared to lose the ball in the air. Safety Matt Giordano (who was replacing the injured Michael Huff) had no such trouble and came up with the interception.
Two plays later, the Chargers had a chance to get the ball back. Facing third and 11, Carson From the Past calmly stood tall in the pocket, before stepping up and finding tight end Kevin Boss over the middle … for a 24-yard gain.
San Diego got the ball back for one more series, with 1:04 on the clock. Rivers drove them to midfield and then, as if scripted, Wimbley sacked him on the penultimate play and Tommy Kelly sealed the Chargers' fate with another sack a snap later.
The six sacks are a season high for Oakland, who now sit atop the AFC West at 5-4. The Chargers, losers of four straight, fall to 4-5.
It's not an exaggeration to say that Palmer put on a clinic. And while his story of redemption makes for a swell After School Special about never giving up, the best offensive player for the Raiders Thursday was running back Michael Bush.
Oakland was without Darren McFadden for the second straight game and all Bush did was rush for 157 yards and haul in another 85 yards receiving. He softened up the Chargers' defense, made the Raiders' play-action passing game effective, and perhaps most important, kept Rivers off the field. (By the way, Bush's 242 yards from scrimmage is a new team record, surpassing Bo Jackson's mark of 235, set in 1987 against the Seahawks.)
After the game, Bush sounded thankful for the opportunity.
"You know, today, I think a lot of people doubted me. Darren's hurt -- he is a big part of our offense, and I miss him just like everybody else misses him -- but today the o-line did a great job, Carson did a great job, and coach called some great plays and we got a win," Bush said.
When NFL Network's Alex Flanagan asked Bush what he proved to his doubters, he said, "That's what they get. I laugh at them. I work hard just like every back in the league and I come out here and try to have fun."
We're only midway through the season but this game is a vindication of sorts for Jackson, who staked his reputation -- and the Raiders' future -- on Palmer. It took three games but Palmer looks legit and Jackson looks like a genius. How long it lasts remains to be seen, but for now Jackson has silenced his critics.
A month ago Palmer, in his words, was "hitting up Norv (Turner) for tickets to a game -- I was going to take my son." Now he's the quarteraback of the first-place Raiders.
Cris, Phil, and Warren go into overtime to complete their set of predictions for Week Ten. Watch a web-exclusive from SHOWTIME's Inside the NFL.
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