Marc Wilson, frustrated and humiliated all afternoon by the opportunistic Denver Broncos, had the same look of helplessness on his face as he stood penned against his locker by a mass of reporters.
"It's not exciting to hear 90,000 people booing you," the Raiders' quarterback said with a tinge of bitterness at being hooted every time the offense took the field. "I know they want us to win, but I hope they realize I want it more than they do."
Wilson's impressive statistic sheet of 25 completions for 367 yards--good enough to win most NFL games--was offset by four interceptions and a fumbled snap that ended a Raider drive deep in Denver territory.
The Raiders completely dominated the first half, yet trailed, 7-3, and despite several opportunities in the second half came away losing, 21-10.
"The game is about points, not first downs," Wilson said, as much to himself as to his listeners.
"We moved the ball well all day long, but we just couldn't get in the end zone. I felt we played our hearts out. That's what is so discouraging, knowing we dominated a team like Denver and came up short."
Coach Tom Flores, who saw his team's five-game winning streak snapped, echoed his quarterback's sentiments.
"It was terribly disappointing, but what can I say, a loss is a loss," Flores said. "We'll just have to start another streak."
The Raiders play the Cowboys next Sunday in Dallas.
"We moved the ball well, but you can't give it up as many times as we did against a team like Denver," Flores added. "Obviously, the turnovers hurt us, but we're still alive. We're three behind with seven to go. Life goes on and we must go on."
The Broncos surprised the Raiders with a Joe Collier-designed zone defense when they were backed inside their own 20.
"We felt so good the way we moved the ball on them until we got in close and they went into a zone and our plays weren't designed to face that," Wilson explained.
One Wilson pass was intercepted in the end zone and another on the Denver one. Two were picked off by cornerback Mike Harden, one of which he returned 40 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
For Harden, it was a moment to savor. The Raiders closed the gap to 14-10 and had two minutes to play when the seven-year veteran from Michigan stepped in front of Marcus Allen and picked off Wilson's throw to make it 21-10.
"We had a coverage designed for what we expected them to do," Harden said. "They had receivers crossing on us and I don't think Wilson saw me standing there. After I caught it, I just said I was going to make sure I scored because the Raiders owed me one.
"They owed me one from last year when we went into overtime and Dokie Williams caught a simple out-route on me and broke it for a first down. They ended up kicking a field goal and that's something that has set in my craw ever since."
Wilson said it was a bad throw.
"It was second and 20 and we were running out of time so we decided to take a risk and it didn't work out," Wilson patiently explained. "It was a little high and their guy got it instead of ours."
Wilson was sacked four times, but one in particular hurt. It occured at the Broncos' seven-yard line and forced them to settle for a first-period field goal instead of a touchdown. It was third and goal when defensive end Andre Townsend and safety Tony Lilly came flying across the line of scrimmage to throw the Raider quarterback for a 14-yard loss.
"I didn't pick it up," Wilson said of the blitz. "I never saw them coming. I faked to (Frank) Hawkins, turned around and two guys were right there. I never had a chance to even throw it away."
Chris Bahr kicked a field goal to make it 3-0 and when Ken Bell fumbled the kickoff and the Raiders recovered near the goal line the huge crowd of 90,153 roared its approval.
But the ball was given back to Denver because the Raiders' Andy Parker illegally batted the ball volleyball-style when it squirted high in the air after Sam Seale tackled Bell.
"I was trying to catch it with one hand, but couldn't get up high enough for the rebound," said Parker, a former basketball star at San Dieguieto High School in Escondido. "I don't understand the ruling. I can understand not giving us the progress of the ball after I batted it, but we should have been able to keep the ball where Sam hit him."
Which would have been the Denver 18, but instead the Raiders were penalized 10 yards for Parker's swat and the Broncos kept the ball.
The Raiders' defense shut down John Elway with only 141 yards--53 on one pass to Mark Jackson to set up Denver's first touchdown--and held the Broncos without a first down for the first 21 minutes of the game, only to be losers.
Sean Jones, the big defensive end from Northeastern who had one of the two sacks on Elway, felt the defense played as well as it could.
"No defense ever plays a perfect game, but we did what we needed to do to win, only it didn't get the job done," Jones said. "It was more like a chess game out there, instead of a brawl, and I guess we were checkmated."