For the better part of a half, Jason Campbell was everything the Raiders wanted in a quarterback. He was patient but decisive, executing the offense when he got the right defensive look but unafraid to use his feet to get out of trouble.
Campbell had the Raiders in position to take a 17-14 halftime lead against the New England Patriots until ...
"No! Jace! What's he doing?" coach Hue Jackson shrieked as Campbell's second-and-goal pass from the 6-yard line went directly to New England safety Patrick Chung for a momentum-altering interception.
Jackson, wearing a microphone for an NFL Network feature, was echoing the sentiments of virtually everyone watching the game either on site or on television about the biggest play in a 31-19 loss by the Raiders on Sunday.
It was enough to shake the confidence of fans who had just begun to accept Campbell as the quarterback who could lead the Raiders to the postseason, many of whom never wanted to see Bruce Gradkowski leave town.
Campbell's second interception, when he failed to see 6-foot-2, 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork standing between the quarterback and running back Darren McFadden, caused more doubt.
"There was no pressure there, why were you going to the check-down?" Jackson inquired. Campbell said something about a matchup.
"It's not about a matchup there, baby, it's Cover 2," Jackson said, indicating there was no need for the dump-off pass against a two-deep
Later, Jackson found Campbell and said, "Can't worry about it. One game. We've got to learn from it. You grow from it, you take it, it builds your resolve."
That resolve will be tested Sunday when the Raiders visit the Houston Texans, co-leaders of the AFC South with a 3-1 record.
With a quarter of the season in the books, the Raiders will determine over the next several weeks if Campbell is the guy who completed 11 of his first 14 passes before the Chung interception, or the quarterback who went 11 for his next 21.
It's the first bump in the road for Campbell in 2011, having led the Raiders from behind twice in the fourth quarter in a Week 2 loss in Buffalo.
Jackson said he is convinced Campbell shook off the mistakes.
"That's not the first interception Jason's thrown," Jackson said. "Jason's a pro. He's been at this for a while. It didn't come up aces for him the other day. He's going to live to fight another day, and he'll learn from this experience."
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders thinks any effect the interceptions had on Campbell this week was positive.
"I know one thing. He's had two of his best days of practice," Saunders said. "I know he's excited to play the next game."
Campbell knows how it works. The two interceptions are all that matters, overshadowing an otherwise big statistical day (25 for 39, 344 yards).
"You feel like you played a good game, and then you look at one or two throws you wish you had back that changed the whole complexion," Campbell said. "The interception in the end zone, I wasn't trying to throw it. The one (Wilfork) ended up getting, our line was blocking him, and he just ended up falling into our checkoff. You put it behind you and move forward."
Unlike last season, when Gradkowski was openly competing to be the starter, Campbell is secure in the knowledge that it is his team. Kyle Boller will be the backup, and Terrelle Pryor doesn't join the roster until next week, at which time he will begin what will likely be an 11-game internship.
Campbell, 29, is a team captain and has taken a leadership role of a young receiving corps, the oldest of whom is 27-year-old Derek Hagan.
On the Chung interception, Campbell thought Darrius Heyward-Bey, entangled with a defender, would flash toward the middle of the end zone. Instead, he pivoted and ran to the corner.
"You definitely have to be patient. You have to talk more to them," Campbell said. "At the same time, I'm like a big brother to them. So my role has changed tremendously. It's about communication, us staying on the same page. That's why we meet together, so we have a feel for what we see on the field."