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PRO FOOTBALL : Without Bo, Raider Presence Lessened : The Los Angeles Offense Will Have to Carry Itself Against Browns Today

December 20, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Be careful what you wish for: The Raiders, who insist that their offense is more than a cast of supporting actors for the great you-know-whom, will get a chance to prove it.

Bo Jackson was placed on the inactive list Saturday and won't play in today's game against the Cleveland Browns at the Coliseum.

What difference does that make?

Try 1 1/2 points in the betting line. The Browns opened as a one-point favorite and are now up to 2 1/2.

In the two games before Kansas City, the Raiders averaged 501 yards and 35.5 points with him.

And then, on Boo Bo Day, he sprained his right ankle.

"Obviously, when he went out, it took away a little bit from our offense," Coach Tom Flores said last week.

Apparently, it was the part where someone carries the football over the goal line. Against the league's 26th-ranked defense, the Raiders amassed 400 yards but only one touchdown and lost, 16-10. Penalties? A bad case of instant replay? No Bo?

Today's game may be instructive. The Raiders will be facing the league's seventh-ranked defense--yards allowed in non-strike games. From other perspectives, it's even better. The Browns have the third-best turnover ratio and are second only to the New Orleans Saints in fewest points allowed.

Actually, the only real argument is whether Jackson makes everyone a little better, or makes a critical difference.

"There's no doubt about it," Dokie Williams said last week. "Defenses change the way they play.

"They want to shut him down from turning their corners and getting outside around the defense. They have to use their cornerbacks a lot more in the running defense. . . . They sit their cornerbacks outside and turn everything inside.

"So it definitely does open up the passing game. Then you have Bo the receiver, who can catch the ball. Add Marcus (Allen), who is a receiver. Then you add Todd (Christensen) and James (Lofton)."

This is more than idle argument since there's every chance that Jackson won't rejoin the Raiders in 1988 until the season is half over.

And Raider rebuilding plans may be heavily affected by what happens today and next week against the Chicago Bears.

Will they re-sign Marc Wilson? Flores seemed to indicate before the Kansas City game that he favors it.

Wilson, two pass attempts shy of being listed No. 1 in the conference, then threw for 339 yards--his second 300-yard game in a row--but with 3 interceptions. Was it bad breaks, or more of the same old foibles?

"I think Marc is doing an excellent job," Flores said. "I think Marc is doing a good job. He's moved the club. Obviously, the turnovers hurt us but obviously we moved the ball."

There have been reports that owner Al Davis is a harder sell, though that's been true since the 1985 season, too. Wilson has looked better recently, but insiders still question his ability to stem the tide when things are going against the Raiders, or when the rush lands on him early, as it did three times at Kansas City.

A Raider official said that Wilson was part of the problem at Kansas City, all right.

On the first interception, Wilson said he'd looked the Chiefs' free safety off. The film is said to show Wilson giving a little glance to his left before throwing right. The receiver, Christensen, has beaten his man, but the free safety comes over and intercepts.

The second interception was a bad throw, behind Lofton, to Kevin Ross who was on Lofton's back shoulder.

The third was in the final two minutes when Wilson said he expected Lofton to come back. Lofton didn't and the ball went straight to Ross.

Most of what you need to know about the Browns can be summed up in three words-- Bernie Kosar and Dogs.

Kosar is the just-turned-24, third-year quarterback with the marginal arm, funny gait and all-world poise. He's the American Football Conferences's most efficient passer, with 19 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 62% completion average and a 96.8 rating, and figures to duel it out with Dan Marino for the next decade.

Forget how spavined he looks running. Notice that he always seems to know when to start moseying this way or that, and that the rush doesn't seem to get him often.

The Dogs are the defenders, so characterized by their free-spirited cornerbacks, notably Frank Minnifield, who were searching for an identity, any identity.

But now it's getting a little old in some quarters.

"I've just come to the conclusion, when we're in the huddle, I've got better things to do than bark," said Pro Bowl nose tackle Bob Golic, laughing. "I'm trying to catch my wind. Some of those other guys, I don't know if they're in better shape or what. They bark and I just pant."

And the appeals to fans to stop throwing dog biscuits into the end zone, surely they've helped?

"You could have fooled me," Golic said. "I took a hit from a Milk Bone for a large dog last Sunday."

Raider Notes

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