American underdog vs. America's Team

IRVING, Texas -- America loves an underdog. But will America’s Team afford Matt McGloin the same sentiment on Thanksgiving Day?

No doubt taking on the Dallas Cowboys in a nationally televised game on a national holiday will be the biggest stage yet for the Oakland Raiders' undrafted rookie quarterback out of Penn State. So you have to wonder if the moment will be too big for him.

Unless, of course, your name is Matt McGloin.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” he said Monday night. “I’m sure everybody has grown up watching that game with their families, and to be a part of it is something special. We’re all looking forward to it. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a tough atmosphere for football, but we’ll handle it, we’ll work on it the next couple of days and we’ll be prepared.”

In two starts, a win at the Houston Texans and a last-second loss to the Tennessee Titans, McGloin has thrown for a combined 457 yards and four touchdowns on 37-of-64 passing (57.8 percent), with one interception.

And while Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said he has yet to see McGloin play -- he must have tuned out in the preseason -- Romo does share a lineage with him, so to speak. Romo’s phone also remained silent during an NFL draft.

“I always root for the undrafted kids that come up and then have a chance to play and play pretty well,” Romo said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Tuesday. “I think that’s always exciting and good for the league, and I wish him the best.”

Except for this week, of course.

Because, really, with Romo and his weapons of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin -- Dallas has the NFL’s No. 12-ranked passing offense -- McGloin and the Raiders are going to have to match the high-scoring Cowboys’ pace. Not to mention, defensive end DeMarcus Ware seems to be rounding into shape in an injury-filled year.

“They’re a good defense,” McGloin said. “A lot of good players on that defense. We’re definitely aware of all those guys.

“Regardless of who you’re playing, the objective is to score points when you get in the red zone and we didn't do too good of a job on that Sunday, so that’s something we have to work on the next few days, especially against Dallas. That offense has been doing some good things this year, so it’s crucial when we get in the red zone we have to score touchdowns.”

Against Tennessee, the Raiders settled for six field-goal attempts (Sebastian Janikowski missed two) and scored one touchdown in a 23-19 defeat. But that one touchdown was textbook tough-guy, with McGloin holding onto the ball until the last possible moment before unleashing a perfectly placed ball to Marcel Reece down the left sideline for a 27-yard score.

McGloin was positively clobbered on the play.

“I saw the celebration,” McGloin said with a grin. “That’s a play we've been running for a long time there and Marcel is a guy you can trust is going to be there and you know he’s going to run a good route and sometimes you have to give them an opportunity and go up and make a play. He made a great play.

“Sometimes you've got to stand there and take that hit. I’ll take that hit every time for a touchdown.”

Alas, McGloin could stand to improve on converting third downs. The Raiders made it on their first three in Houston and then went 2-for-15. Against the Titans they converted their first two and then went 1-for-8. McGloin completed his first two third-down passes against the Titans before missing on his last seven throws on third down.

“Just keep at it, keep improving, watch more film if we have to,” he said. “Continue to work the routes, the reads, communicate with guys. Just more of the things we’re already doing. Just continuing to preach it and work on it. Obviously it’s not a lot of things that are difficult there, but like I said, we’re right there, we just have to work out the kinks.

“We’re that close. As frustrating as it is, it’s good to see how close we are. … It’s only a matter of time before we break out and have a big game.”

Underdog or not.