Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/7/12
What was becoming evident throughout the first half of the season is now patently obvious. As much as running back Darren McFadden was touted as the player whose success was most important to the team, it's clear the Raiders will rise or fall with quarterback Carson Palmer. Now that McFadden and backup Mike Goodson both have high ankle sprains, with their status for Sunday's road game against the Baltimore Ravens very much in doubt, the Raiders may have to rely even more on the pass. The optimist would say that gives Palmer a chance to do even more in what could be a record-setting season in terms of passing production. The pessimist would counter that it gives Palmer many more chances to make a crucial mistake with the game on the line. Raiders fans have always been hard on their quarterbacks -- they merely tolerated Rich Gannon when he was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2002 even though he set a franchise record with 4,689 passing yards -- so there is some discontent with Palmer and his 3-5 record. Some want to see Terrelle Pryor, the athletically gifted runner-passer who has been inactive for all eight games. In Palmer, Raiders coach Dennis Allen sees a quarterback who has brought the Raiders from behind in wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as helping put Oakland in position to win in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Palmer has passed for 2,355 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games. "I'm not going to sit here and put the blame on Carson Palmer," Allen said. "I think he's operated exceptionally well for us. He's one of the big reasons we've been able to win the games we've been able to win. He's a huge part of our offense." In the Raiders' 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay last week, Palmer had the Raiders within 35-32 with 2:32 to play and the ball on the Oakland 38 with two timeouts remaining. The first play was a deep sideline pass to Rod Streater that fell incomplete. On the next throw, under a heavy rush, Palmer threw in the general direction of wide receiver Denarius Moore, and Ahmad Black was there for the interception. There was an obvious miscommunication, combined with a solid rush. Palmer said he should have thrown the ball away. "There were a couple of throws in that game that he wished he had back, that maybe weren't the best decisions," Allen said. "Obviously, he was a big part of why were able to get back in the football game, too. Those are things we've got to continue to work on in the passing game. "We've got to be better in protection, we've got to be better on executing the timing of the route." Although clearly some of the issues have been receivers running wrong routes, Palmer has taken responsibility for all the mistakes. "When you play quarterback, you're the one with the ball in your hand," Palmer said. "You've got to make the right decision and make sure you're on the right page with everybody." One thing Palmer has going for him is a 9-4 record as a starter against Baltimore from his days in Cincinnati, including a 4-3 record on the road. "It's always an uphill battle," Palmer said. "Their numbers (defensively) are not what they normally are, and they've had some injuries, but they're 6-2 and still very good at home. You have to play great. You can't play OK and win. You have to put together four quarters and a complete game." Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who faced Palmer in college and in the pros -- they both were first-round draft picks in 2003 -- expects to have his hands full, and not always with Palmer's jersey. "I don't fear any quarterback, but I'm always worried when I play Carson Palmer," Suggs said. "We came from the draft class. We played him at USC when I was at Arizona State, so this guy's kind of tortured me through all my college and professional career."
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