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Palmer silences his critics with win over Steelers

The SportsXchange

The day Carson Palmer officially took over as quarterback of the Raiders may well have been Sept. 23 -- the day he led the Raiders to a 34-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The future belonged to Palmer the moment the Raiders dealt first- and second-round draft picks to get him last November to replace the injured Jason Campbell.

Yet it wasn't until he led the Raiders from a 31-21 fourth-quarter deficit against a perennial playoff contender that it became clear Palmer had taken ownership of not just a team, but an offense.

There was some skepticism when the Raiders changed offensive systems from a dropback play-action pass team to a West Coast-style scheme with bootlegs and rollouts.

Palmer hadn't been on the move consistently since USC, and he had a severe knee injury in 2006. The reason former coach Hue Jackson brought him aboard was his skill as an Al Davis-style downfield thrower.

The Palmer who leads the Raiders on the road against the Denver Broncos Sunday showed the ability to complete passes from a moving pocket and convert in the red zone. He remained cool under pressure and completed four passes on the final game-winning drive for 49 yards.

The extreme elements of Raider Nation who were hoping for a look at quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the No. 3 quarterback, have been temporarily silenced.

The performance against Pittsburgh may have transformed Palmer in the eyes of Raider fans, but was no great surprise to coach Dennis Allen.

"It's the same things I've been seeing from since I've been here," Allen said. "That's why we're glad that we've got the quarterback we have. He's been through a lot of different things and he's seen a lot of different things, and he doesn't let a lot of things distract him.

"He's got a singleness of purpose and I thought he did a great job -- the whole game, and then especially there at the end of the game."

Palmer's numbers -- 24-for-34, 209 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, 103.7 passer rating -- didn't do him justice.

It was his fourth time with a passer rating over 100 in his 12 starts with the Raiders and three times has been higher.

But given that this game included a fourth-quarter comeback, in a new offense, with Palmer as the no-doubt-about-it leader, it counted for so much more.

Particularly among the receiving corps, there were some feelings bruised when Campbell, who was extremely popular with the wideouts, was injured and Palmer arrived on the scene.

Campbell wasn't going to play anyway because of a broken collarbone, but the swiftness of the transaction -- which was pushed for by Jackson -- caught some teammates by surprise.

Palmer did the best he could while arriving late to the party, but it took time, an offseason and a coaching change for him to gain true ownership of the offense.

In light of the Steelers win, there is no longer any doubt.

After the Raiders started 0-2, it was important for Palmer to deliver, and he seemed to realize the magnitude of the win.

"We kind of felt coming in that we were already written off and we know we're a good team," Palmer said. "We just had some unfortunate things happen in the first two weeks and we didn't handle our business.

"We knew we were playing a tough opponent, but we knew we were the only ones that really believed we could win."

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp put much of the game in Palmer's hands while running a no-huddle offense. The success he had -- on running plays, not just passing plays -- was noticed by his teammates.

On Darren McFadden's first run from scrimmage, Palmer saw the Steelers overload to the left, changed a running play to the right, and the result was a 64-yard touchdown bolt.

"It's a huge advantage because we know he's going to put us in the right play," center Stefen Wisniewski said. "They showed blitz on the left, so Carson says, 'Hey, let's run it right.' We run it right, we seal off the blitz on the left and it's six points."

Right tackle Willie Smith, in his first start, said, "He displayed a lot of confidence. It makes you want to go out and work hard because he believes he can go out and get it done, and he gives everyone else that same mindset."

Tight end Richard Gordon, who had his first career touchdown with a 1-yard reception, has put his faith in Palmer.

"We put the ball in Carson's hands," Gordon said. "The biggest thing with Carson is he's got a big mind and when you let him just go do what he does, you don't know what he's going to call.

"He's got a good feeling for calling out the safeties and calling out the linebackers and changing plays."
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