Since being acquired in October, Carson Palmer has shown flashes of brilliance offset by moments of mediocrity.
Since Palmer became the starter at quarterback on Nov. 6 – following the season-ending injury to Jason Campbell – the Raiders are 4-4 and he’s thrown 11 touchdown passes vs. 12 interceptions. Some games he’s looked like the game-changing QB head coach Hue Jackson said he was getting, the one who would push the Raiders over the top and into the playoffs.
At other times, Palmer has looked like an interception machine.
Now the Raiders face a must-win game Sunday at O.co Coliseum against the Chargers. Oakland, 8-7, must beat the Chargers and hope the Broncos lose to the Chiefs in order to win the AFC West. Or, the Raiders must beat San Diego and hope for some help in order to earn a wild-card spot.
Either way, the Raiders will need the “good” Palmer to show up against the Chargers, the one who completed 14-of-20 passes for 299 yards and two TDs in a 24-17 victory in San Diego on Nov. 20.
Not the Palmer who threw four picks in a loss to Green Bay, or the one who threw three in a loss to the Broncos. Or the one who threw two first-half picks vs. Kansas City this past Saturday.
This week, Jackson said Palmer’s value came through on a 61-yard TD pass to Denarius Moore and a 53-yarder to Darrius Heyward-Bey in overtime of a victory over the Chiefs on Christmas Eve day.
“How about that pass to Denarius Moore? Have you guys seen a prettier long ball than that? No,” Jackson told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “How about the one to Darrius Heyward-Bey in overtime? Look, I have great expectations of Carson, but he’s human just like the rest of us and every now and then, things do happen.
“But the guy is playing good enough football for us to win and that’s what matters. I’ll shape him up and get him to where he needs to be here in the next week so that we can play good.”
Jackson says Palmer sometimes forces throws into coverage while trying to make a play. Jackson told Corkran he’s trying to convince Palmer to just throw the ball away in some situations where there isn’t a play, or to take a sack and try again the next play.
“Our opportunity to win a championship is tied to our ability to take care of the ball to get turnovers,” Jackson told Corkran. “That’s what we have to do.”
Palmer this season has completed 60 percent of his throws (171-of-285) for 2,336 yards and 11 TDs against 15 interceptions – three of those coming when he came off the bench just days after signing to relieve Kyle Boller in a 28-0 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 23.
Jackson of course believes his team can win Sunday and get into the postseason. That’s been his stated goal all season, and he’s remaining optimistic. And he believes Palmer can lead his team.
“We were good enough in times that mattered to get it done,” he told the Chronicle, referring to some key wins this season, “and I think that’s what matters.”