Texans somehow overcome the greatness that is Zach Miller, hold on to beat Raiders

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Matt Schaub  of the Houston Texans drops back to pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the NFL season opener at Reliant Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Zach Miller caught 11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough as the Texans beat the Raiders, 31-24.

Like the All-Pro tandem of Mark Sanchez and Dustin Keller, Bruce Gradkowski and Miller are starting to click. In the two games that Gradkowski has started, Miller has 15 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Miller.

What was even more impressive than Miller’s day was the fact that the Texans still racked up 31 points despite not having Andre Johnson (high ankle sprain) and Arian Foster missing the first quarter because he was being punished. (Apparently he missed a meeting last week and was late for another, so Gary Kubiak sat him.)

Apparently Foster got the message because when he finally came into the game, he rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. On top of rushing for 8.2 yards a clip, he also broke free on a 74-yard touchdown run to give Houston a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter.

Schaub was also solid, completing 16-of-29 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The key difference between him and Gradkowski was that the Oakland QB threw two interceptions along with his two touchdowns and 278 yards. Still, Gradkowski continues to provide a spark for the Raiders’ offense, which means we won’t see Jason Campbell anytime soon.

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Texans would be wise not to overlook Raiders

Sep 26, 2010; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (5), left, and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 24-23. . Photo via Newscom

The Raiders are about where everyone thought they’d be at this point in the season: sitting with a losing record.

The Titans crushed them in Week 1, they hung on to beat the Rams in Week 2 and Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds against Arizona last week that would have put them at 2-1.

But at least Al Davis’ team has shown that they have a pulse and a lot of that has to do with the spark that quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has given them. According to ESPN.com, his 10.6 yards per attempt average leads all NFL quarterbacks this season, which provides some proof that he’s throwing the ball vertically and staying aggressive in the passing game.

After Davis acquired Jason Campbell from the Redskins this offseason, not many people expected Gradkowski to be leading this team so early in the season. But he’s playing well and now has a golden opportunity to make a name for himself if he can lead Oakland to a victory over Houston this weekend.

The Texans currently rank 31st in total defense and 32nd in pass defense. They start a rookie in Kareem Jackson at one corner and a second-year player in Glover Quin at the other. There’s no need to make Gradkowski out to be Peyton Manning, but he could definitely do some damage against the young, inexperienced secondary that he’ll face this weekend.

Houston may also be depleted, as Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels have both missed practice this week with injuries. Johnson says he’ll play, but a high ankle sprain has left him sore throughout the week and Daniels is dealing with a hamstring injury (and is still recovering from knee surgery). It should go without saying that teams can’t overlook any opponent in the NFL, but that’s especially the case this Sunday for the Texans when they travel to Oakland.

Could there be an upset in the making?

Janikowski seals win for Cardinals as Gradkowski plays well again for Raiders

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Tom Cable of the Oakland Raiders watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Garrett Hartley’s best friend right now goes by the name of Sebastian Janikowski.

Just three hours after Hartley missed what would have been a game-winning 29-yard field goal for the Saints (who wound up losing to the Falcons in overtime earlier in the day), Janikowski missed his own chip shot as the Raiders fell to the Cardinals 24-23 in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

Bruce Gradkowski and Darren McFadden led the Raiders on an 11-play, 66-yard drive to the Arizona 14-yard line to set Janikowski up with what should have been a game-winning kick. But he pushed the 32-yard field goal right and the Cardinals hung on to a not-so-well-deserved victory. (They turned the ball over three times and committed seven penalties for 104 yards. This coming after turning the ball over three times and committing 10 penalties for 109 yards in a loss to the Falcons last week.)

Besides Janikowski’s miss, the story here is the continued stellar play of Gradkowski, who completed 17-of-34 pass attempts for 255 yards and a touchdown. He did throw an interception, but he led the Raiders into the red zone twice late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance to win. If anyone thought he would relinquish the starting quarterback job after snatching it from Jason Campbell last week, you were mistaken. It looks like for now, Tom Cable made the right decision to stick with Gradkowski.

Go ahead, Bruce – get down with your bad throwing-motion self.

What can we expect from Bruce Gradkowski?

Oakland Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski walks off the field after his team beat the St. Louis Rams during their NFL football game in Oakland, California, September 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Kim White (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

In case you missed it, the Raiders have benched Jason Campbell in favor of Bruce Gradkowski, who entered the Rams game at halftime and led Oakland to a much needed win. He threw for 162 yards with one TD and one interception in two quarters of play.

In his last four starts of the 2009 season, he averaged 211 yards, 1.5 TDs and 0.3 INT against Cincinnati, at Dallas, at Pittsburgh and at home against the Redskins. Those four teams ranked 6th, 20th, 16th and 8th against the pass, respectively, so it wasn’t an easy schedule to throw against. He also added an average of 19 rushing yards, so he has the ability to take off with the ball when necessary.

Gradkowski has the Cardinals this week, and if you’re in a pinch, or if you need a second QB for your two-QB league, you could do worse. His schedule — HOU, SD, @ SF, @ DEN, SEA and KC — is pretty favorable over the next seven weeks. Given the way Campbell was playing, I suspect the insertion of Gradkowski is an upgrade for the entire passing game, but most importantly for Louis Murphy and Zach Miller, who were floundering with Campbell under center. Murphy caught five of his six passes after halftime last week, while Miller was targeted three times by Gradkowski over the same span, catching one pass for 24-yards.

It’s important to temper expectations anytime the Raiders are involved because the franchise is so dysfunctional. When was the last time Oakland had a consistent fantasy stud? Just when you start to count on them, they find a way to screw up whatever good mojo they had going. Is that still the case?

I guess we’ll find out over the next month or so, but for now I’m reasonably optimistic that Gradkowski will be a capable QB2 in the short term.

Controversy already brewing in Oakland regarding quarterback position

Oakland Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable adjusts his headset during play against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on September 19, 2010. The Raiders defeated the Rams 16-14.  UPI/Terry Schmitt Photo via Newscom

Following the Raiders’ 16-14 win over the Rams on Sunday, a game in which Bruce Gradkowski gave Oakland a lift after Jason Campbell was benched in the second half, head coach Tom Cable wouldn’t commit to any quarterback for Week 3.

Here’s what he said in his post-game presser (from the Oakland Tribune):

“(I) made the switch at halftime at quarterback, basically to just give the team a lift, felt like we needed to change up a little bit and my job is to win games and do whatever it takes to do that.’’

He said the Raiders “weren’t in rhythm, weren’t in synch,’’ and when asked what it meant for the rest of the season said, “ I’ll worry about all that tomorrow, really. 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.’’

But here’s what the team said he said:

Included in the quote sheet distributed by the team was this sentence from Cable: “Today was about winning the game, it does not necessarily mean Campbell is replaced as the quarterback for the rest of the season.”

That’s not what he said, so why would the team try to pull a fast one on the media and attempt to put out a fire that hasn’t even started yet? What Cable said was fine – he didn’t want to make any decisions regarding the quarterback position for next week. And why would he? His backup just earned him a victory when his starting quarterback failed him. Why commit to anything?

Al Davis loved JaMarcus Russell, but Cable didn’t. Russell wasn’t cut sooner than he should have because Davis was protecting his investment. Now Campbell is Al’s investment (he was the one that orchestrated the trade with Washington) and once again there appears to be a conflict of interest.

It’ll be interesting to see how Cable handles the situation this week and whether or not Campbell lines up under center next Sunday in Arizona, or if it’ll be Gradkowski. Something tells me Al would prefer it to be Campbell.

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