Gradkowski steps in, leads Raiders past Rams 16-14
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)
The question after Gradkowski sparked a comeback win in the home opener for Oakland is whether coach Tom Cable and the organization agree.
Gradkowski replaced an ineffective Campbell after halftime and led Oakland to three scoring drives and a 16-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
The fans began calling for Gradkowski in the first half and chants of ''Bruuuuce!'' echoed throughout the Coliseum for most of the second half.
''They called my number and I just said I'm just going to do my thing, go out and have fun,'' Gradkowski said. ''We did that the second half. ... It was exciting to get a win.''
The fact that Cable was willing to pull his starting quarterback just six quarters into the season is a sign of how desperate the Raiders (1-1) were for a win.
But Cable is not yet ready to anoint Gradkowski as the starter going ahead.
''I'll worry about all that tomorrow, really,'' Cable said. ''I want to go look at it. But today was about winning this game, what did it take to do that, that was the right choice, obviously, and it worked out, and Bruce came in and gave us a lift.''
Gradkowski threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy, Darren McFadden ran for 145 yards on a career-high 30 carries and Sebastian Janikowski kicked three field goals to give Oakland its first win in a home opener since 2004.
Sam Bradford threw two touchdown passes to Mark Clayton but was unable to get the offense moving for much of the second half as the Rams (0-2) lost for the 27th time in 28 games.
''In this football league, you have to play a full game,'' Bradford said. ''You can't come out and play a half and expect to win.''
Gradkowski breathed life into Oakland's inept offense a year ago, leading the team to victories over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before being sidelined by a knee injury.
Gradkowski never got the chance to win the job this season as Oakland traded for Campbell and made him the starter. Gradkowski tore a pectoral muscle in the offseason and injured his groin early in training camp.
He played well in two exhibition games but Campbell opened the season as the starter, even drawing comparisons to two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim Plunkett from owner Al Davis.
Campbell struggled in a 38-13 season-opening loss at Tennessee and was pulled at halftime of this game. He was 8 for 15 for 87 yards and an interception on his final pass as Oakland trailed 7-3.
''I was surprised,'' Campbell said. ''We were down 7-3. We had been moving the ball. We just stalled when we got to the red zone. But at the same time, it was a decision that they made.''
Taking the field to elongated chants of his name, Gradkowski completed his first three passes. His 26-yard completion to Murphy set up a 41-yard field goal by Janikowski that made it 7-6.
After the Raiders stopped the Rams on a three-and-out the next possession, Gradkowski drove Oakland 83 yards to a score on the floater to Murphy.
The offensive success appeared to give a boost to a defense that struggled to slow down Steven Jackson in the first half. St. Louis gained only 17 yards and one first down - on a personal foul by Tommy Kelly - in the first 26 minutes of the second half.
Bradford finally got the Rams moving after Jerome Murphy intercepted a pass with just over 4 minutes remaining and the Rams trailing 16-7. Just 47 seconds later, Bradford hit Clayton on a 17-yard TD pass to make it 16-14.
A personal foul on Fred Robbins, the fourth of the game by the Rams, and a 13-yard pass from Gradkowski to Murphy on third-and-7 helped Oakland run out the clock.
''You have to play a little bit smarter,'' Robbins said. ''We were killing ourselves. We had a few penalties on a few big drives, and it hurt us.''