In his first start in the black and silver, Gradkowski hit on 17 of 34 passing for two touchdowns--equaling, in a span of sixty minutes, Russell's season total--and an interception, in a shocking 20-17 upset of the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. A little momentum can be a dangerous thing for opposing teams, and that's exactly what the quarterback change delivered last Sunday for Al Davis's boys.
"I think they've got a lot of momentum after last week and I think they're going to come in and give us a good test," said cornerback Terence Newman. "They just came off beating Cincinnati, who is a good football team as well. You definitely can't take a team lightly. Both of us are going to be a little behind the eight-ball with the short week, so we'll just see what happens when we go in on Thursday."
On Tuesday, visiting former coach Jimmy Johnson echoed this sentiment, saying the team shouldn't look past Oakland--as he looked past Oakland to the December 6 game in New York against the Giants. Ah, but retired football coaches are afforded such opportunities to be presumptive; active and, lately, underachieving football teams are not.
"Well, I think [the Cowboys] are right there, on the verge,'' Johnson said, while visiting Valley Ranch on Tuesday. "You can't overlook Oakland here Thursday, especially with the change at quarterback. They have got a tougher task now that (Oakland's) JaMarcus Russell is on the bench."
This is true; and while, as Johnson discovered, it's tough not to look ahead to what should be a huge game--the first in that lately-forgettable month of December--Cowboys fans have learned the hard way that in the NFL, assumed wins can turn into shocking losses quicker than you can say "Chiefs 27, Steelers 24."