Gradkowski demonstrated in 1 game what Russell failed to do in the 9 previous games. Although his statistics don't jump out on the page (17-34, 183 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int), Ski's passion for the game of football was a beautiful elixir for Raider fans desperate for hope.
Ski put together 2 critical TD drives when the offensive unit needed him to come through the most. The first drive was before the end of the 1st half that totaled 9 plays and 71 yards and culminated in a 10 yard strike to TE Miller. This drive closed the score from 14-0 to 14-7 and gave the Raiders hope entering halftime.
The 2nd TD drive was clutch. At the end of the game, with 2:12 to go, Ski drove the Raiders 80 yards and hit WR Muphy for the tying score. Prior to Murphy's TD, Ski converted a game deciding 4th and 10 with a critical 16 yard strike to WR Schilens.
Watching Ski as the starting QB was a breath of fresh air. Here's a guy who has fought tooth and nail to get signed by countless teams (Bucs, Rams, Browns, and Raiders). He takes nothing for granted and has no sense of entitlement.
Instead he over-compensates by being well prepared and totally committed to his craft. What caught my attention was more about what Ski did on the sideline than on the field itself. When the offensive unit was off the field, Ski was animated, involved, enthusiastic, and constantly offering support and instruction to his teammates. He was COMPLETELY immersed and engaged in the moment and how to improve the results on the field and adjust to what the Bengals D was showing him. Cable's quote says it all, "great feedback today when he came off the field after each offensive series."
On the field, Ski showed all of the intangibles that a successful QB needs in the ultra competitive NFL ... command in the huddle, varying the cadence at the line of scrimmage (3 Bengals offside penalties), decisiveness when the pocket broke down, ability to read the entire field, avoiding costly sacks (0). Gallery summarized what Ski brings to the table best by saying "He's just what a QB should be. Confident. He has the trust of everybody. He know's what he's doing. He has our backs if something breaks down. Just what a QB should be."
Ski has an awesome opportunity to show his value to the team over the course of the next 6 games and his future status in 2010. It will be interesting to see if the Raiders can establish productive consistency with Ski at the helm and whether or not Russell learns any valuable lessons from the gritty, determined efforts of his colleague.