ALAMEDA, Calif. – Carson Palmer knows he will have to have a big day to get the Oakland Raiders back on the winning track.
With a defense that has allowed 97 points the past two weeks, a running game decimated by injuries and the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense led by Drew Brees coming to town, the Raiders (3-6) will be counting on Palmer even more than usual.
"Being a quarterback you don't want to think that," Palmer said Wednesday. "You still want to go through your reads. Sometimes a sack is the best play, sometimes a punt is the best play. But you can't do it too many times against these guys. ... I don't let myself go into a game thinking 'we have to score on this drive, we have to score on this drive.' You get yourself in trouble and your team in trouble doing that. But I understand what we're up against. I understand that we have to keep up with these guys."
Palmer has carried a heavy burden in his first full season as Raiders quarterback, throwing the second-most passes in the league so far with 375 — 13 behind Detroit's Matthew Stafford. Palmer has thrown for 782 yards the past two weeks and is looking to put together three straight 300-yard games for the first time in his career.
He is on pace to set the Raiders' record for yards passing in a season, averaging more than 300 per game so far.
"He's big, he can see the field, he's got great vision," Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. "There's not a coverage that he can't throw a ball into, and there's not a coverage he hasn't seen."
The only team that has passed the ball a higher percentage of time this season than Oakland is New Orleans, with both teams calling passes on about two of every three offensive plays.
Part of that has to do with the fact that both Oakland and New Orleans have two of the worst defenses in the league. The Saints have allowed the most yards per game in the NFL, giving up more than 400 every week.
Oakland has allowed 97 points the past two weeks — the most for the franchise since 1961 — and is allowing more than 30 points per game.
But Palmer said it's important not to try to do too much to overcome a struggling defense.
"When the opposing offense is scoring fast and often it definitely puts a lot of stress on you," Palmer said. "You can't get in situations, especially early in the game, where you try to fit balls in certain spots. You could be down by seven and right before you know it if you try to do things like that you can be down by 14 or 21. You still have to go through your reads, go about the game plan. When you get to the third and fourth quarter, depending on where you're at with a team like this, things can change."
Making the task even harder for the Raiders is they may have to do it essentially without much of a running game. Starter Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson remain sidelined by sprained right ankles that forced them to leave early Nov. 4 against Tampa Bay.
Both remain in walking boots and their status for this week's game remains in question. If they are unable to play again, the Raiders will be left with fullback Marcel Reece, recently activated practice squader Jeremy Stewart and second-year speedster Taiwan Jones at halfback.
Jones had only two carries and one catch last week as he struggles to gain the trust of the coaching staff.
"He's got to prove to us that he can stay healthy, that he's got to know what to do on every single play and he's got to protect the football," coach Dennis Allen said. "We're giving him those opportunities in practice, and as he shows us he's going to be able to do that, he'll see more time."
NOTES: The Raiders signed LB Omar Gaither and placed linebacker Travis Goethel on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL in his left knee. ... RT Khalif Barnes took the majority of first-team snaps in practice and is set to return from a groin injury that sidelined him Sept. 16. ... WR Darrius Heyward-Bey tweaked his hamstring during practice and was limited. ... DT Richard Seymour remained sidelined with an injured knee and hamstring. ... SS Tyvon Branch (neck) and FS Matt Giordano (concussion) did not practice.
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