Collins deserves some credit this time around

He's taken a lot of abuse for those interceptions and for a quarterback rating that was indecently low. What was supposed to be a renaissance for Kerry Collins had been a failure. So Collins deserves a few props after a Sunday on which his passing not only was accurate but for all intents and purposes most of a Raiders' offense that gave teasing hints of possibility. Which is more than you can say for the defense.

You are aware the ultimate judgment of a quarterback's performance comes from the final score. If he fumbles snaps, throws interceptions and still, somehow, brings the team home in front, well, then the man should be listed as brilliant.

Still, there are times when no matter what a QB does, and Collins did a great deal, the game is going to be lost, as was Sunday's to the San Diego Chargers, 23-17.

In what has become numbing redundancy, the Raiders neither could run (53 yards net) nor stop the run (allowing 176 yards). They thus couldn't stop the decline of a season that, with Oakland at a tidy 3-7, is beyond repair.

What it all gets down to, besides that intangible called pride, is trying to determine if Collins indeed is Raiders' quarterback of coming times, meaning next year and beyond. Is the Collins we watched Sunday, on target for the most part, the Collins we will watch in the future? Or was this the aberration?

"He played a damn good game today," said Jerry Porter, who caught five of Collins' passes. "I had two chances where I should have had touchdowns. We had a touchdown taken away. This game shouldn't have been close, and we should have won."

And they very well might have, had Ron Curry, wide open, not muffed a Collins' pass on the Chargers 17 with some 4 1/2 minutes remaining. Curry said simply, "I dropped it." And he pointed out, "Kerry played well. I think he's been playing well, even with the interceptions. I always thought he played well within the system."

The system is Norv Turner's system, and Collins, with the New York Giants the past few years, after seasons with Carolina and New Orleans, was pressed to learn it. Which he did. The hard way.

Rich Gannon was the guy on the field, No. 1. Collins was going to observe, going to refine. Then Gannon went down in the third game, out for the year, maybe out forever. Collins got the job and got the static.

What he got Sunday in arguably his best game the last two years, were 18 completions in 30 attempts, two touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 105.8, as compared to the 65.4 rating Collins carried into the game.

What he didn't get Sunday was the victory that would have allowed him to find satisfaction.

"I felt I played better today," said Collins. "I'm getting more comfortable in this offense. I feel like I'm seeing the field better. I have a better understanding on what we're trying to get done on particular plays.

"I feel good about taking care of the ball, but it's hard to feel good when you lose."

Collins wasn't perfect. He missed receivers early on, and the Raider offense in the first quarter amounted to 10 yards passing and 6 yards rushing. He threw a couple of balls Porter grabbed as he ran out of the end zone without getting the required two feet in bounds. Yet, dissimilar to games of a month ago, Kerry Collins was not the reason the Raiders didn't win.

On the contrary, he's the reason they almost won.

"Kerry can make the plays," said Turner, the coach. "But we don't have the luxury of not converting on third down when we're playing a good team. Once Kerry got going, he played well."

Collins' assessment was not much different from Turner's, and the quarterback reminded, "For us right now, the margin of error is so small."

The margin of error in choosing a quarterback is miniscule. Gannon helped lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl. Collins helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl. But is Collins the right fit for the Raiders?

"We're on the same page a lot more," Porter, the receiver, said about Collins, the quarterback. "It's hard to say what it is. I guess it comes from all the weeks of practicing together, working together."