CLEVELAND — And so the Raiders kept faith with one more of their traditions, the 1-3 exhibition season, even if they had to rally to do it this time.
On a brisk Friday night at Municipal Stadium, Raider Coach Tom Flores let his No. 1 defense out for only one quarter. The reserves then punted Bernie Kosar around en route to a 26-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns, giving the Raiders their third straight 1-3 exhibition record.
Raider exhibition seasons are known for their--what is the right word-- informality ? The numbers to remember from this one are the following:
--Number of touchdowns allowed by the first defense in four games--one. A touchdown pass thrown by the Redskins' Joe Theismann after a 45-yard drive set up by a pass interception, on a two-minute offense. The Raider defense looks ready.
--Number of touchdowns scored by the first offense in four games--two. However, Jim Plunkett threw no interceptions and was sacked three times, twice Friday night by a Brown defense that ranked second in the NFL last season in yards allowed. The Raiders say they're at least happy they're moving the ball a little. Who knows, maybe the offense is ready, too.
Part of it has to grow up on the job, though. Rookie wide receiver Tim Moffett, making his first start, dropped two passes, including a long one from Rusty Hilger that would have been a 40-yard touchdown play.
His fellow rookie, Jessie Hester, who dropped a ball in the end zone last week, did get loose deep for a 42-yard reception from Plunkett, but that was his only catch. It came with :56 left in the first half and represented the Raiders' first completion to one of their wide receivers.
Plunkett: "I think they're feeling the pressure on them. They're starting and they didn't have one catch between them in the NFL. I think they're feeling it. They're not comfortable yet. They're not relaxed. Consequently, they're dropping some."
It was a rough night for rookies, starting with the highest-paid of them, $1 million-a-year Bernie Kosar, now running No. 2 to Gary Danielson.
Appearances notwithstanding, Cleveland reporters were predicting that Kosar would have the No. 1 job by the sixth game of the season. That was before the game. This one may have set him back a month, or a year and a month.
Kosar has had more problems than the Raiders, though. He also had the Browns to contend with, be they teammates or not. If he wasn't reconsidering the Viking offer by the end of the evening, he truly bleeds Cleveland brown.
This is how his night went:
On his first play from scrimmage, early in the third period, rookie Greg Allen fumbled. The Raiders' Dave Stalls recovered at the Cleveland 31.
On Kosar's second play, Allen fumbled again. Stalls recovered again, at the Brown 17.
Having mastered fouling up their running game, Kosar's teammates turned to the pass.
His second completion, a 10-yarder on third-and-four, was called back for holding.
He completed another pass on the next play. His line got called for holding on this one, too. Because the completion was short of the first down, it was allowed to stand.
Kosar hadn't seen anything yet.
His next pass was catchable, if with some difficulty, but then he threw it to tight end Ozzie Newsome, who catches everything. Except this one. It glanced off his hands and into those of Raider safety Stacey Toran, who ran it back 29 yards into the end zone, untouched.
In all, Kosar was 4 for 14 passing, with three interceptions, making him 18 for 54 (33%) with four interceptions and no touchdowns in his first exhibition season.
He stood up and took the rap for this one, himself.
"I'm pretty disappointed with my performance," Kosar said. "I feel miserable.
"They played some good coverages, and I was forcing the ball. I wasn't exactly throwing it well. Instead of relaxing, I tried to force things. I still, obviously, have a long way to go."
The Raiders led from start to finish. On their first possession, they started at their 38 and wound up at the 7--their 7. But on their second, Plunkett drove them 75 yards, getting the touchdown on a one-yard pass to Marcus Allen.
Thirty-one of the yards on that drive came on a pass interference penalty on Brown cornerback Frank Minniefield, who jumped on Moffett's back after Moffett beat him down the sideline. Late in the first half, the Raiders mounted one more drive, a more modest one, almost all of it on Plunkett's 42-yarder to Hester. Hester's momentum took him out of bounds behind the last Brown defender or he would have had his first score. Moments later, Chris Bahr kicked a 46-yard field goal, and the Raiders had a 10-0 halftime lead.
Every dog has his day, and so did the Dogs, which is what the Browns call their defense. On Marc Wilson's second play, he went back to pass and was flattened by 6-2, 230-pound linebacker Aaron Brown, blizing untouched from the backside.