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Raiders Find It's Not Over Till It's Over : Pro football: Everett leads a fourth-quarter rally for New Orleans that falls short, 24-19, before 41,772. L.A. improves to 6-5.


The Raiders might have trouble putting people in the seats, but they have no trouble keeping them there.

Take Sunday's 24-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints before only 41,772 at the Coliseum, for example.

With quarterback Jeff Hostetler throwing three touchdown passes and the Saints limited to 16 yards rushing for the game, the Raiders had a comfortable 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter and, with about six minutes to play, they kicked back into cruise control.

That was a problem.

New Orleans was just kicking into high gear after a long and frustrating afternoon. Two quick touchdowns and one disastrous interception later, it was the Raiders who were on the edge, desperately trying to hang on with five seconds left and a potential winning pass from New Orleans quarterback Jim Everett in the air.

Raider defensive back Derrick Hoskins knocked the ball harmlessly to the ground, enabling the Raiders to move above .500 at 6-5 and back into the playoff picture.

As bad as it was for the Raiders, it could have been worse had New Orleans Coach Jim Mora not gambled, calling for a two-point conversion when one point would have eventually helped his team's comeback chances.

After Hostetler had connected with Tim Brown on a 30-yard scoring play, Hostetler's second touchdown pass of the game to Brown, the Saints' Tyrone Hughes returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to give New Orleans its best field position of the afternoon at the Raider 39-yard line.

Everett was making his first appearance in Los Angeles since being traded from the Rams during the off-season. Until that point, his afternoon had been as frustrating as many of those he had spent in Anaheim Stadium over his last few seasons there.

But, with the game nearly out of reach, Everett awoke with a vengeance, completing four of six passes on a quick drive that culminated in a nine-yard touchdown pass to Torrance Small, who caught eight passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

When the clock stopped after the touchdown pass, 3:49 remained. With the Raiders leading, 24-13, a conversion kick would have left New Orleans a touchdown and a field goal short.

Instead, Mora gambled on a two-point conversion and lost when Everett's two-point pass attempt to Wesley Walls was broken up by James Trapp and Patrick Bates.

"We didn't have a whole lot of time left," Mora said. "I didn't look into the future. I just tried to decrease the points we were behind. I would do it again."

Mora didn't have a monopoly on questionable plays. When Brown recovered an onside kick by New Orleans, the Raiders had the ball at the Saint 45-yard line.

Nice time to let that clock run and hold onto the ball.

Hostetler, however, tried what he thought was a safe pass to Rocket Ismail, who earlier had caught a 17-yard touchdown pass. Hostetler figured, at the worst, he would throw the ball out of bounds.

Instead, he threw it into the hands of New Orleans linebacker Winfred Tubbs.

"It went haywire," Hostetler said. "That ball should never have been thrown. I wished I had that ball back a hundred times. It was not a good play. I was trying to get it out of bounds. What happened was the opposite."

Back came Everett and the Saints' offense. Back went the Raider defense on its collective heels.

Once again Everett drove the Saints downfield, completing five of six on a 70-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Small.

Now, Mora had no choice. He had to go for two points. Again Everett went to Walls and again the Raiders broke it up.

The Saints tried another onside kick and back the ball went into Brown's secure hands.

With 1:25 to play, New Orleans regained possession at its 20-yard line after a punt. But the failure of the two-point conversion had changed the game's final moments. Instead of being able to drive inside the Raider 40-yard line, where the powerful leg of kicker Morten Andersen would have had a shot at sending the game into overtime, the Saints, down by five, needed to score a touchdown.

Everett, who completed 28 of 44 for 262 yards, made a valiant effort.

He got as far as the New Orleans 48-yard line, where a crushing sack by Nolan Harrison left Everett with only his last futile throw remaining in his arsenal.

It wouldn't have been that close if the Raider offense hadn't played as though its players were meeting one another for the first time.

Hostetler completed 22 of 28 for 310 yards, using eight receivers. Brown caught eight passes for 132. But his 12-yard touchdown catch and a 51-yard field goal by Jeff Jaeger were the only Raider points in a first half marred by one offensive penalty after another.

In all, the Raiders, who came into the game leading the NFL in penalties, did nothing to hurt their standing, committing 11 for 89 yards. Nine of those penalties were called on the offense.

That kept the game close. And, on the Raiders' first drive of the third quarter, Hostetler fumbled when hit by the Saints' Renaldo Turnbull. Hughes picked up the loose ball and raced 42 yards for a touchdown.

For a while, it appeared that would be the only time the 4-7 Saints would be heard from.

But, as those in the crowd who bothered to stay know only too well, the Saints were just getting started.

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