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MIKE DOWNEY

Raiders Gift-Wrapped This One for the Browns

September 20, 1993|MIKE DOWNEY

Andrew Glover caught the first one.

Andrew Glover dropped the last one.

That was the ballgame, right there. Please do not blame the whole thing on Andrew, because more than one Raider was responsible for this colossal Coliseum collapse. But sometimes the truth hurts, and the truth of Sunday's 19-16 gift to the Cleveland Browns is that young Mr. Glover, after scoring the only Raider touchdown, had this game slip right through his hands.

There was 1:55 remaining when Jeff Hostetler dropped back from his own 10 on third down. Down and out toward the left sideline broke Glover, the rambling tight end from Grambling who has caught only two passes all season--including a two-yard touchdown pass on the Raiders' first possession of the game.

Pepper Johnson gave chase. It was a 248-pound linebacker in hot pursuit of a 245-pound tight end. Directly in front of the home team's bench, Glover looked over his shoulder and saw Hostetler lob the football in his direction, high and far. Johnson saw it, too.

"It was like slow-motion," Johnson said. "I saw his eyes look up for the ball. I thought, 'Please don't let him catch it! Please, please, please!'

"Then he bobbled it, just a little. And that's all I needed."

As the football began to trickle from the third-year receiver's grasp, he was assaulted by Pepper. There was enough sudden contact that Glover could not recover, and all that he and Coach Art Shell and every other eyewitness could do was follow the bouncing ball, from what would have been a game-preserving play of at least 30 yards, as it wobbled along the ground.

Hostetler punched the air in anger and clutched his helmet with his hands. His pass had been perfect. After a savage day at the office during which he had taken terrible punishment, the limping quarterback believed that he had gained the first down necessary to save the Raiders' six-point edge. Now, instead, they had to punt.

Bruce Gossett took a safety, free-kicked into Eric Metcalf's hands and had to bump Metcalf out of bounds himself to keep Cleveland from winning the game even sooner. Didn't matter. Metcalf won it anyway, with two seconds to play. And the unbeaten Browns celebrated while the beaten Raiders reeled.

"To let a team come back like that and beat us is just uncalled-for," Raider defensive tackle Nolan Harrison put it.

Uncalled for. Good way to sum it up. There are games that you should lose and games that you shouldn't lose, and this one was (B). Nothing during the first 11 1/2 quarters of this NFL season prepared anyone for what occurred in the final minutes of Sunday's game, when the Raiders' immobility on offense finally wore down their defense.

Only their opening drive of the day had been impressive. Against an opponent working on five days' rest, the Raiders stampeded 80 yards without much trouble, except for a painful sack that Hostetler took when linebacker Mike Johnson came crashing into him.

Out one play, Hostetler took the team two yards from paydirt, then called a play for Glover, the spare tight end, whose only previous catch of the season had gone for seven yards.

Glover found paydirt, all right. And he paid for it. Eric Turner, showing why the Browns made the UCLA safety a wealthy first-round draft choice, decided not to permit Glover to enjoy his touchdown in the end zone. He laid into the Raider with everything he had.

Turner said: "I tried to hit him and make him remember."

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Something made that football slip from Glover's fingertips three quarters later, with the game on the line. Maybe he heard Johnson's footsteps. Or maybe he merely dropped it. Drops happen. But Turner couldn't resist crowing a little, saying: "I'll tell you one thing. If anybody'd hit me like I hit him, man, I'd remember it."

Other games will be won by the Raiders this season and Andrew Glover will contribute. Remember that.

This one, though, is one that will be difficult to forget. It is one that had ashen-faced lineman Howie Long saying, "I absolutely can't believe we're not 3-0 right now." It is one that the Raiders must agonize over not for another week but for two more weeks, until they run smack dab into Joe Montana.

It is one that had head-shaking linebacker Winston Moss saying, "We have to look at the film and make sure it doesn't happen again."

They can stop the film with two minutes left. They know how it ends.

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