The Oakland Raiders head to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. This will be the first time the Raiders have played on this holiday since 1970. For many players, it's a rare treat, for others, a homecoming.
When these two teams met in the first game of the preseason, the Raiders defeated the Cowboys 31-10 in Oakland. This Thursday on Thanksgiving, in front of a national television audience, the Raiders hope to duplicate the outcome. It will be the first time the Raiders will play at Cowboys Stadium and the 10th time overall the two teams face off in regular season play.
In that preseason game, starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski led all passers with 161 yards and one touchdown. After a big win against the Bengals last Sunday, Gradkowski looks to keep the momentum going against the 7 -3 Cowboys.
"I'm excited. I'm excited. I feel very blessed to be playing on Thanksgiving Day. As a kid growing up, you always dream of this day," Gradkowski explained.
Gradkowski added, "To be able to play in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving, everyone is home with their families eating turkey, it's just unbelievable. We're going to prepare hard this week, but we know we're facing a good Dallas football team and we've got to be ready."
In last week's game against the Bengals, Gradkowski led the drive to tie the game at 17. He came up big on that drive with a fourth and 10 conversion for 16 yards to WR Chaz Schilens and a 29-yard TD pass to rookie WR Louis Murphy.
"I'm definitely feeling more comfortable as I'm getting reps out there and it's just getting the feel with the guys. I think number one thing is just having confidence in each other and I believe in every guy out there that we have," Gradkowski said. "As long as we play with the heart we can and the toughness and be able to persevere through tough times, we'll be just fine."
Head Coach Tom Cable is pleased with Gradkowski's progress thus far.
"I think he just is trying to stay within himself. He's not trying to do too much. He understands what we are asking that position to do, where it fits in the whole scheme of the offense and really just going out and directing it. He's really in control," Cable explained.
After a rough start against the Bengals, the Raiders defense stepped up their performance allowing only three points in the second half after allowing the Bengals score two touchdowns in the first. One of those players was defensive end Jay Richardson who had six tackles filling in for Richard Seymour who was injured early in the game.
Richardson looks at this game as an opportunity to have all three facets of the team click for all 60 minutes.
"It's an opportunity to put everything together. To have offense, defense, and special teams finally come together and put it out there on film for everyone to see what this team really has," Richardson said.
Richardson feels that the key on defense is stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. "We have to stop the run. They have Marion (Barber) and he is an animal. They have a huge offensive line so we have to stop the run. After that we have to disrupt (Tony) Romo and get their passing routes and timing routes off," Richardson explianed.
CB Chris Johnson, who is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, attended high school in Longview, Texas, and junior college in Brenham, Texas. For Johnson, this game represents an opportunity to play against the Cowboys' talented wide receivers in front of family and friends.
"I'm looking forward to going back home and playing the Cowboys," Johnson said. "It's going to be a good game and I'm looking forward to the match-up on their wideouts."
Five players on the Raiders active roster played their major college football in the state of Texas, and many others grew up in the Lone Star state.
Watch the game on CBS 1:15 p.m. PT. Visit www.raiders.com for up to the minute updates on gameday and don't forget to follow the Raiders on Twitter.