OAKLAND -- The place was going nuts.Multitudes of yellow Terrible Towels teased the Black Hole. Players were gassed. The clock was ticking as a mere 103 seconds remained in regulation and the Raiders had the ball on their own 25-yard line in a tie game, one in which they had never held a lead.Madness? Insanity? You could say that.In the center of this silver and black and black and yellow churning storm, a cool, calm and collected Carson Palmer. And such was the state of the Raiders' huddle as they embarked upon what would prove to be a game-winning drive.INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders 34, Steelers 31
The rest of the world may have been going 100 mph around them, but Palmer had the Raiders on cruise control."A lot of times you play with young guys that you need to keep their focus, keep their attention because it is chaotic, especially against a team like that with multiple fronts, multiple pressures," Palmer said. "But in our group it was just very calm, just calm. You're just playing."There's no cheesy pump-up talks or bring-the-huddle-up and talk about whatever."There was just, well, Palmer and the huddle. "He was very poised," said running back Darren McFadden."He did a great job in the huddle. He always takes control in the huddle. Thats one thing I like about him. Hes very poised, and thats something he did great today.If this was not the day Raiders fans fully accepted Palmer as their quarterback, I'm not sure when that day will come.Facing an opponent as fierce as it was familiar -- Palmer had faced the Steelers 12 times previously in the regular season and was a pedestrian 4-8 -- the Raiders signal caller did not blink. Not even after misfiring on his first two pass attempts and being a wide receiver short with Darrius Heyward-Bey being knocked out of the game earlier in the fourth quarter on a non-flagged helmet-to-helmet hit by Ryan Mundy.But on third-and-10, Palmer found his security blanket Brandon Myers across the middle for 15 yards (and Myers would be knocked out with a concussion by Mundy on a helmet shot).Then there was Derek Hagan for nine yards down the right sideline before Marcel Reece had a nine-yard catch and run to get the Raiders to midfield.Palmer then found Hagan again, this time for a 17-yard pickup to the Steelers' 26-yard line and well within placekicker Sebastian Janikowski's field-goal range.Forty-eight seconds remained and the Raiders plowed McFadden into the line for a one-yard gain before Palmer scooted to the left hash mark for a one-yard loss and with three seconds remaining, Janikowski was hailed.Janikowski split the uprights, the Raiders had a 34-31 victory after being down by 10 points in the fourth quarter and Palmer had bragging rights over a familiar foe. Palmer, though, would never gloat."I thought he played outstanding," said rookie coach Dennis Allen. "He ran the no-huddle offense, got us into the right plays, and we were productive on offense. I was extremely proud and pleased with the way Carson played."RATTO: Raiders make forward progress in Allen's first win
The thing with Palmer is his cool-under-pressure persona can sometimes be taken, or mistaken, for a California cool detachment. Rarely, if ever, does he show emotion, let alone get in a teammate's face, or jump around on the field.But in running the Raiders' no-huddle offense, his body language suggests he's having fun. More than a 32-year-old with a purported tired arm is supposed to be having.In fact, he audibled into the play that resulted in McFadden's 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But there was a method to the no-huddle madness with the pure dropback passer that is Palmer."Yeah, it gets us in a rhythm, opens up some of the run game but it also tires out their big guys," said Palmer, who had a quarterback rating of 103.7 by throwing for 209 yards on 24 of 34 passing with three touchdowns and an interception."It slows them down, especially when you've got big Casey Hampton. He doesn't like play after play after play, not getting a chance to huddle up and get in the three-point stance for sometimes, 15-20 seconds. That wears you out. That gets him out of the gamehe's one of their better players."And Palmer showed he's part of the Raiders' fabric to the nonbelievers.