SAN DIEGO — Do you remember where you were the last time the Raiders won a game?
It was Oct. 4, 1987. Robert Bork was a nominee for the Supreme Court. Douglas Ginsburg was just a gleam in Ed Meese's eye. The Dow Jones average was 2,640. Matt Stevens was the quarterback for the opposition. The Raider regulars were picketing the Coliseum. The Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs' strike team, 35-17, to go 3-0.
That was six weeks ago, including Sunday night, when the No Longer Suitable for Prime Time Raiders bowed, 16-14, to the San Diego Chargers, running their losing streak to six games, their longest in 25 years.
As they have in every game since the strike, the Raiders jumped out to a big deficit. They trailed the Seahawks by 28, the Patriots by 23, the Vikings by 18 and Sunday night, the Chargers by 16-0 in the fourth quarter before rallying for two late scores, the second on Marc Wilson's 47-yard touchdown pass to James Lofton with 16 seconds left.
After that, they could only squib an onside kick out of bounds, watch Dan Fouts fall on the ball and say good night.
Maybe they've just forgotten how it's done?
The Raiders weren't awful Sunday night, just bad enough. They did whatever it took to lose.
They were assessed an astounding 186 yards in penalties, and those were just the ones, 17 of them, that were accepted.
Marc Wilson, taking over for Rusty Hilger, threw an interception on his first pass--has any quarterback ever thrown as many first-pass interceptions as Marc Wilson?--leading to the lone Charger touchdown. Lionel Washington was called for defensive holding that gave the Chargers a first down on a third-and-26 to prolong the touchdown march. Washington was called for a 30-yard pass interference on the next drive, leading to a field goal. Mervyn Fernandez fumbled on the next possession, leading to another field goal. (And Dokie Williams played the second half in Fernandez's place).
"We lost a game we should have won," Marcus Allen said. "They didn't do anything special. We made too many mistakes."
There's a good reason for that, too. The Raider offense has three holdover starters from the end of last season. One of those is Allen, who lined up at a new position--fullback, alongside Bo Jackson--for half the night.
"I think that's definitely a factor," Allen said. "We've got a lot of new faces on the offensive line, two new wide receivers, now we've got another back. It's tough but nobody said it was going to be easy.
"We just self-destructed. You can't win a game when you have 200 yards in penalties. We must have set a record."
The game was fought on even terms only briefly. The Raiders held the Chargers on the first possession, forced a punt, took over at their own 19 and turned the ball over three plays later, when Wilson's pass over the middle for James Lofton went to linebacker Billy Ray Smith, instead, at the Raider 22.
"I saw (Smith)," Wilson said. "That was a hook to James. I thought James was going to keep going and hook in front of him. James stopped before he got to Billy Ray. Billy Ray caught it."
All wasn't lost quite yet. Two plays later, the Chargers had a third-and-21, but of course, the Raiders have been coughing up conversions on these recently. This time, Washington was called for holding and the Chargers had a first down at the 22 again.
This time they moved forward. On third-and-eight at the nine, Fouts hit Kellen Winslow, who was completely unguarded in the left flat. Winslow tripped daintily into the end zone. The Raiders presumably blew a coverage. Linebacker Rod Martin was the closest Raider but that wasn't very close.
Late in the first period, the Chargers went 64 yards--30 on pass interference by Washington on Gary Anderson going long--to the Raider 20 and Vince Abbott, the former Raider camper, kicked a 38-yard field goal, his sixth in a row.
"We used to make fun of him," said Howie Long.
"A fat little guy named Abbott?" Long said.
Who's laughing now?
The Raiders got the ball back. On the very first play, Wilson hit Fernandez who fumbled at the Raider 36. Five plays later, Abbott kicked a 47-yarder for No. 7.
And a few minutes later, the Chargers mounted another modest effort, driving from their 49 to the Raider 22, where upon the funny little fat man kicked No. 8, to make it 16-0.
The way the Raider offense was going, that lead looked like it would be safe until Super Sunday. Indeed, the Chargers proceeded to try to take the air out of the ball for the entire second half.
Midway through the fourth quarter, however, Fouts floated a pass over the middle, over his receiver, right to safety Eddie Anderson, the Raider replacement player who has made the regular team. Anderson accepted the gift and exploded 58 yards in the other direction, to the Charger 19. Three plays later, Wilson hit Williams for five yards and the first Raider touchdown.
The Raiders threatened no more, until Wilson hit Lofton with that pretty bomb over a sub Charger corner named Charles Romes with 16 seconds left. By then, it was too late.
Of course, for the Raiders, it's been too late for a while.
"To be honest with you," said Tom Flores, "I'm at a loss for words."
Todd Christensen was held to two catches for 38 yards, only the second time the Chargers had held him under 100 in the last nine games. . . . Marcus Allen, on the first half: "It was embarrassing. I was trying to exude that enthusiasm but sometimes it's hard. Some people are self-motivated and some people are not." . . . And Allen on playing alongside Bo Jackson: "I enjoyed it." . . . Jackson gained 45 yards in 8 carries. He now has 156 yards in 27 carries, a 5.8 average. As usual, he ducked the press.