What's left for Raider fans to say at season's end?
Thanks for the memories?
On behalf of the players, Todd Christensen said it all with a little dying-swan wave of disgust, after he got open deep and Marc Wilson's late fourth-down pass failed to clear the hand of Chicago's Vestee Jackson, dooming the Raiders to a 6-3 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday and a 5-10 record, their worst in 25 years, or since Al Davis arrived.
"You made a little gesture as if to say, 'We came up short one more time,' " suggested some microphone-wielding reporter.
"That's not what that necessarily meant," Christensen said. "I wish he'd (put) a little bit of arch on it. It looked like I could have gone the distance."
Last week Christensen also said that Wilson had been "competent in some games," which is known as damning with faint praise. If you think the Raider players, now barred from saying anything really controversial about their old signal callers, aren't hoping for the cavalry to ride to the rescue--Doug Williams? Kelly Stouffer?--think again.
Wilson, who performed creditably but led an offense that got no touchdowns in the last game of his contract, dressed and beat the press out the dressing room. Anyone who thinks the Raider offense has trouble moving has never watched it after losses.
Well, it's the Raider off-season now. Let the speculation begin in earnest.
By the time they took the field Sunday, the Raiders had been reduced to foils in the Bears' traveling circus, with only two questions of their own left to answer:
1. Could the Raiders gather their fallen spirits enough to exit as gracefully as circumstances permitted?
2. Could they put together an offense without injured Bo Jackson?
The answers were:
2. Not so you could tell.
"We had a little meeting before we went out there," Rod Martin said. "We decided we had to let it all hang out."
They did. They weren't routed. They continued to be inept offensively--in the last three games without Bo, the offense scored two touchdowns--and lost.
The Bears, who had sacked them nine times in their last meeting in 1984, hit them for another nine Sunday. Richard Dent, who had carved himself a niche in Mike Ditka's heart akin to Rin Tin Tin, got 3 1/2 sacks himself to go with the 9 it had taken him 11 games to accumulate.
The only progress the Raiders made was in survival. At Chicago three years ago, Wilson and David Humm both got knocked out of the game and Ray Guy was warming up when Wilson returned to finish. Sunday, Wilson went all the way, himself.
Play-by-play on this turkey is going to be a little brief, there having been no touchdowns and only two drives to the opponent's 20-yard line by either combatant. The Bears had both. The Raiders never got closer than the Chicago 22.
First period--The Raiders drove 43 yards to the Chicago 31. Chris Bahr's 48-yard field goal try flew like a duck ferrying an armored car but it went through. Raiders, 3-0.
Second period--The Bears drove 65 yards to the Raider 20 on the next possession. Kevin Butler kicked a 38-yarder and it was 3-3.
Third period--The Raiders took the kickoff and drove 44 yards to the Bear 22. Wilson was thrown back to the 27 on a sack by guess who? (Dent). Bahr's try for a 44-yard field goal was blocked. It was still 3-3.
The Bears drove 72 yards to the Raider one. There Ditka, who had a home playoff game riding on the outcome, dared to go for it. What, him worry?
Did he run Walter Payton, his retiring superstar pile-vaulter? Nope, it was reserve quarterback Jim Harbaugh who rolled right and was stopped. It was still 3-3.
Fourth period--The Raiders took the ball at the 1 and drove 77 yards, as Wilson hit Christensen for 21 yards and Lofton for 25. At the Bear 22, Wilson was sacked by guess who? (Wrong, it's Steve McMichael.) Bahr tried a 48-yarder, which was blocked, and it was still 3-3.
The Bears took over and drove 50 yards to the Raider 12, as Payton ran four times for 19 yards and Mike Tomczak hit Ron Morris over the middle with a 17-yard pass to the Raider 19. Butler kicked a 30-yard field goal and it wasn't 3-3 any longer.
The Raiders got a reprieve in the closing seconds when Payton, waving the football in vintage Walter fashion, fumbled at midfield. Wilson hit Christensen for 18 yards to the Bear 32 but was then sacked by . . . Dent!
Wilson also threw three incompletions, including that line drive that Jackson knocked down on fourth and 15, and the Raiders are on vacation.
OK, exit any way you can.
"I don't know how pretty it was," Ditka said. "I really don't care.
"We'll probably go into the playoffs as the weak sisters, and we'll let people think what they want about us.