Published October 14, 2012
ATLANTA – Quarterback Carson Palmer didn't want to hear that the Oakland Raiders nearly came back to beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The Raiders lost 23-20 after Matt Bryant's last-second, 55-yard field goal, and Palmer put all of the blame on himself.
Palmer believes his lone interception, which Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel returned 79 yards late in the fourth quarter, was the game's turning point.
"We fought hard all game," he said. "We had a great game plan, and I let the team down. I let our fans down. Making the mistake I made was crucial, and that's on me. That's my fault."
Beginning the game with a 1-3 record for the sixth time in eight years, the Raiders had used their bye week to design a solid game plan that flustered Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan into a season-worst 59.4 passer rating while Oakland's offense up 474 yards.
Darren McFadden had 70 of the Raiders' 149 yards rushing and Denarius Moore caught five passes for 104 yards as both players accounted for a touchdown, but Oakland still made too many costly mistakes.
Palmer and McFadden each lost fumbles, and the Raiders, who controlled the ball nearly 13 minutes longer than the Falcons, were whistled 12 times for penalties for 110 yards.
"I thought we came out here and competed today," coach Dennis Allen said. "I thought we played extremely hard. Offensively, I thought we were able to move the ball. We just weren't able to finish things off."
The Raiders' defense flustered Ryan into three interceptions, the second of which cornerback Michael Huff grabbed after diving in front of Julio Jones at the 2-yard line. The ball flew 37 yards before Huff picked it off.
On the ensuing drive, Oakland took a 3-0 lead on Sebastian Janikowski's 52-yard field goal.
Atlanta running back Michael Turner managed just 33 yards on 11 carries, and tight end Tony Gonzalez had just two receptions before he hooked up with Ryan twice on the winning drive.
"I think we were a little bit better in coverage today and I think we were able to get to the quarterback a few times," Allen said. "I think one of those interceptions we were able to hit him and the ball kind of fluttered up a little bit, so those things work hand in hand."
But it seemed Oakland had almost no solution to block Atlanta defensive end John Abraham, the four-time Pro Bowl who finished with three sacks, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
The Falcons had Abraham bringing pressure from both end positions. Right tackle Willie Smith, starting in place of the injured Khalif Barnes, struggled all day with the NFL's active career sacks leader.
"We had our hands full with him," Allen said. "We had some plays where we tried to chip him, but obviously whenever he got singled up he was able to get some pressure on the quarterback."
Samuel's pick nearly crushed Palmer, who had moved Oakland 62 yards to face a third-and-6 from the Atlanta 28.
Looking to his right for Moore, Palmer instead threw to Samuel, who jumped the route and ran down the left sideline to give the Falcons a 20-13 lead with 2:40 remaining.
Making matters worse, Palmer dove for Samuel's feet near the Raiders 20, only to watch him run untouched into the end zone.
"You have to give him credit," Palmer said. "He made a good play, but I can't put us in that position. I need to at least make the tackle. But it's a mistake I can't make and it's a mistake I made that cost us the game. It can't that happen."
Palmer put the disappointment behind him quickly, driving the Raiders 80 yards in eight plays and make it 20-20 on McFadden's 2-yard run with 40 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for Oakland, Ryan overcame the nine hits and one sack he absorbed to push the Raiders' defense back 43 yards and put Bryant in position to kick the winner.
"That's the hardest part," Palmer said after completing 23 of 33 passes for 353 yards and finishing with a 102.2 rating. "We believed we would win this game. Coaches prepared us and were on us all week. We came too far and played too hard for me to make the mistake I did."
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