If only Carson Palmer could have played linebacker Sunday instead of quarterback. Then he might have been able to have a greater effect on the final result against the Denver Broncos.

Also, we might have gotten a true early read on whether Palmer's trade to the Raiders last month was a good idea.

Unfortunately, Palmer only played quarterback Sunday against the Broncos -- with mixed results -- and it did not matter much at all. Although he could probably have done better at the linebacker position than the Raiders' actual linebackers did.

The Broncos, who had no business winning the game by two points, let alone two touchdowns, took advantage of the Raiders' horribly undisciplined defense and strangely underwhelming special teams to win a 38-24 decision at the O.co Coliseum that only served to muddle the answer to whether the Palmer deal will turn out to be a good one."He was okay," said Raider coach Hue Jackson when asked to assess Palmer's play in his first start with the team, the tone in his voice skewing toward mediocre "okay" rather than splended "okay."

"I'm going to be very hard on him because I know what he has in him," Jackson said, after noting: "We didn't lose the game because Carson Palmer didn't play great or good enough. We lost as a football team."

The quarterback positition, however, is the machine room of a football team's offensive power plant. So even if it's just in terms of looking ahead, Palmer's performance was ripe for analyzing. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 332 yards. He had three touchdown passes, a couple of them on some very good throws, especially for a guy who was sitting on his couch watching the NFL a month ago. But he also had three interceptions, a couple of them that made you scratch your head.

And there was this: Palmer wound up with a quarterback rating for the game (79.7) that was less than Denver quarterback Tim Tebow's rating (98.1), which cannot be considered a spectacular thing. For Palmer, anyway.

Asked to grade his own performance, Palmer declined to offer a specific letter or even a pass/fail, saying only that he had not given his team a chance to win, so it could not be considered a wonderful day.

"There's still some things that I'm off on, a little bit," Palmer said. "At the end of the day, you've got to convert."

Still, he did make several throws that were on the money and showed he still has some zip and accuracy, despite his nine-month layoff after declaring he wanted a trade from the Bengals last January. Palmer also seemed to have very good chemistry with Jacoby Ford, who caught five passes including a nice 18-yard ball for six points that gave the Raiders a 24-14 leadwith 6:41 left in the third quarter.. But after that, Palmer went flat and the Raiders never scored again. His high pass to Denarius Moore tipped off Moore's outstretched fingers and was picked off by the Broncos, leading to their tying touchdown.

"That intereception, I want back," Palmer said. "It was a miscue with the receiver."

It's a wonder there weren't more of them, given Palmer's admission that he still hasn't grasped the entire Raider offense and that he was cramming like a student for a final exam before Sunday's game. He's got four more days to cram before Thursday night's game in San Diego that will determine first place in the AFC West and set the tone for the season's final stretch.

Palmer's grade Thursday needs to be an "A," not an incomplete. Which is what Sunday was.