AFC West: Bruce Gradowski

OAKLAND -- A look at a wild Oakland's wild 35-27 victory over San Diego.

What it means: The Oakland Raiders showed a lot of guts and the San Diego Chargers blew another game they dominated. For the third time in three losses, San Diego undid itself with terrible special teams play and turnovers. The Raiders, who had the ball bounce their way all game long, snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Chargers with the win. The game was sealed when a Philip Rivers fumble was recovered by Oakland and returned for a touchdown in the final seconds. Oakland, San Diego and Denver are all tied for second place in the AFC West at 2-3. Kansas City is 3-1.

Tomorrow’s talker: Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell played well when he spelled Bruce Gradkowski. Campbell led Oakland to the lead and completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown passes. Campbell converted three big third downs in relief for Gradkowski, who has a shoulder injury. It is unknown how long Gradkowski will be out. But Campbell, who was replaced after six quarters earlier this season, showed he can lead this team.

Trending: Something is going to have to give with San Diego’s special teams. It had two blocked punts, which directly resulted in nine points for Oakland. In San Diego’s three losses, special teams has directly cost it 30 points. That is unbelievable. Plus, the Chargers had three turnovers, including two in the red zone. The Chargers are a very fine team, but these terrible miscues are ruining a good thing.

What’s next: Oakland has a Bay Area clash at San Francisco and San Diego plays at St. Louis, which was drilled by the Lions on Sunday.

While I believe Matt Leinart isn’t the perfect fit in Oakland because of its current quarterback setup, there are connections between the lame duck Arizona quarterback and the Silver and Black that shows why Oakland has considered him:

Chuck Price, one of Leinart’s agents, has long told the story of Oakland owner Al Davis calling Leinart days after the 2006 draft. Even though Davis took safety Michael Huff at No.7 (Leinart went to the Cardinals at No. 10), Price said Davis told Leinart how much he admired the quarterback and his game.

Oakland assistant Paul Hackett recruited Leinart to USC and the two have a good relationship. Perhaps a reunion would ignite Leinart.

Oakland personnel man Keith Rowan was Leinart’s first NFL offensive coordinator. Rowan picked up Leinart at the Phoenix Airport after he arrived from the NFL draft. Rowan was around Leinart when he was an ascending player and probably still believes in him, which would be important to Leinart moving forward.

Leinart grew up a Raiders’ fan in Southern California. We all know Davis loves Raiders’ fans.

If Oakland were to make a serious push for Leinart, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Arizona asked for backup Bruce Gradkowski in return because they’d need a backup. I'm not sure what Oakland would do in that case.

Here is another AFC West thought: If the Cardinals are looking for a quarterback in return for Leinart, perhaps they’d be interested in Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley coached Leinart in Arizona. Haley has been complimentary of Croyle and I don’t know if he’d find that trade prudent.

But it is clear the AFC West could play a role in Leinart because of past connections, whether it makes perfect sense or not.

UPDATE: The Raiders deny Schefter’s report. The Raiders said they are happy with their current quarterback group. This serves as a nice stance of support for Gradkowski and Boller.

How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

December, 1, 2009
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


1. Raiders’ defense: Oakland’s defense had its moments in recent weeks and it isn’t giving up as many points as it did earlier in the season. Still, there are gaping holes in the unit.

The biggest current problem on Oakland’s defense is that it is allowing way too many big plays. Dallas had five plays of 40 yards or more in a 24-7 win over the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day. Allowing those type of explosive plays just kills a defense.

2. Chiefs’ ball security: Kansas City’s offense is starting to show some progress in both the passing and running game. However, the Chiefs are shooting themselves in the foot.

Kansas City committed four turnovers in a 29-point loss at San Diego. The Chiefs are simply not good enough to overcome miscues. It has to be addressed and corrected.

3. Bruce Gradkowski, Raiders QB: The Oakland folk hero of Week 11 fell off his pedestal. Gradkowski struggled much of the game at Dallas.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
Harry How/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates hauled in seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Kansas City.
In the end, he threw for 200 yards, but Gradkowski couldn’t get much going. In his first start for Oakland -- he replaced the struggling JaMarcus Russell -- Gradkowski overcame a sluggish start and led Oakland on a game-tying, 80-yard touchdown drive in the final seconds of a win over the Bengals. In Week 12, there was no such magic provided by Gradkowski, who still gives the Raiders more energy than Russell did.


1. Denver’s playoff hopes: One win has put Denver back in fine postseason shape. Denver beat the New York Giants 26-6 on Thanksgiving night to end a four-game losing streak after a six-game winning streak to start the season.

Denver is 7-4 and it is on pace to grab the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Denver has two games remaining against Kansas City and one against Oakland (at home). If Denver can win those three winnable games, it should be able to find its way into the playoffs.

2. Antonio Gates, Chargers TE: Gates is having another fine season. He is a unique weapon and he helps make San Diego one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

He put his immense talent on display in a 29-point win over Kansas City. He had seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

It was another reminder that Gates is simply a beast and a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.

3. Denver’s defense: One of the major reasons Denver ended its losing streak is because the defense played fantastic. The defense led the team early in the season and it is clearly the club's starting point.

Denver enjoyed a strong pass rush, made key plays on defense and stopped the run after being savaged on the ground the past three weeks. Denver gave up only 56 yards rushing.