QB switch sparks Raiders
BY BILL COATS • Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 12:00 am

OAKLAND, Calif. • Two years ago, the Rams cut quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. On Sunday, Gradkowski sliced away the Rams' hopes for a victory.

Relieving Jason Campbell at the start of the second half, Gradkowski ignited a stuck-in-the-mud Oakland offense that produced a mere field goal in the first 30 minutes. The Raiders responded to the move dramatically, rallying past the Rams 16-14 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Going with Gradkowski "was a good move by their coaches ... good move," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "He's obviously a mobile guy, and he executed the offense pretty good. They came out obviously with intent to throw the football. They did a nice job."

Gradkowski and Brock Berlin battled for the Rams' No. 3 quarterback job during training camp in 2008, when Scott Linehan was coaching the Rams. Berlin won the job; Gradkowski caught on with Cleveland, then came to Oakland last season, when he got into seven games as JaMarcus Russell's backup.

The Raiders acquired Campbell in a trade with Washington in April, then released Russell, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, a couple of weeks later.

Campbell went the distance last week in the Raiders' season-opening 38-13 loss to Tennessee. But after a feckless first half Sunday, which produced only a 38-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal for Oakland, coach Tom Cable tossed the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Gradkowski, 27, into the fray.

"We made the switch at halftime to give the team a lift," Cable explained. "Campbell was disappointed, but I think it was the right thing to do."

The Rams led 7-3 at the half, during which Campbell completed eight of 15 passes for 87 yards, with an interception by safety James Butler. The Raiders gained just 130 total yards.

The makings of the comeback began on the Raiders' opening possession of the second half. Gradkowski connected on his first three passes, the third a 26-yard strike down the middle to wide receiver Louis Murphy to the Rams' 24. The drive stalled at the 23, but Janikowski hit from 41 yards.

Gradkowski "came in and he made some good reads, threw the ball around pretty well," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "But you can't let a guy just coming in be a spark. We've got to have a fire about us that says, 'Hey, this guy's coming in cold, so we've got to be able to step it up.'"

But Gradkowski started hot and stayed that way.

"We came out in the second half and we brought some fire, intensity and some energy," Gradkowski said. "Our guys were playing hard."

The Raiders took the lead on their next opportunity. Gradkowski was three for three on a seven-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown toss to Murphy in the right side of the end zone.

"When (Gradkowski) comes in the game, he poses an entirely different threat," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "He made some nifty plays and kept them in it, and eventually won the game for them."

That made it 13-7, and the Raiders forged a two-possession advantage on their first series of the fourth quarter.

Oakland moved from its 43-yard line to the Rams' 4. After Gradkowski failed to hook up with Murphy in the end zone, Janikowski's 22-yard boot gave the Raiders a nine-point cushion.

They'd need that: A 17-yard pass from Rams quarterback Sam Bradford to wideout Mark Clayton trimmed the Oakland edge to 16-14 with 3 minutes, 18 seconds to go. But by then, the Raiders had established control on offense, and they never relinquished possession thereafter.

Oakland's second-half dominance was profound, including running back Darren McFadden collecting 107 of his 145 rushing yards. The Raiders also:

• Gained 274 of their 404 total yards.

• Ran 47 plays to just 19 for the Rams.

• Had a time-of-possession edge of 15:56.

Gradkowski finished 11 of 22 for 162 yards a touchdown, with one interception.

"We didn't deserve to win that game," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "That's two weeks in a row we let one slip through our hands, so obviously we're still learning how to win. We need to hurry up and figure that out."

The Rams, 17-13 losers to Arizona in the season-opener, merit no credit for the close calls, Bartell emphasized.

"This is a black-and-white business; there's no shades of gray. Either you win or you lose," he said. "And right now, we've lost."

This time to a former Rams reject, no less.