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NFL '97 / WEEK 1 | TENNESSEE 24, OAKLAND 21 (OT)

By George, Game Was Exciting, but Scene Was State of Confusion

September 01, 1997|From Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Eddie George, Steve McNair and Al Del Greco gave Tennessee Oiler fans a lot to shout about in the state's first NFL game Sunday.

There didn't seem to be too many Oiler fans interested in doing that, however.

George ran for 216 yards--the second-best opening-day performance--and McNair moved the Oilers into position for Del Greco's 33-yard field goal with 8:03 left in overtime as Tennessee defeated the Oakland Raiders, 24-21.

There were only 30,171 fans in the 62,300-seat Liberty Bowl to see the game, and many were rooting for the Raiders--silver and black abounded in the stands.

Even the Oilers seemed confused about where they were.

Oiler Coach Jeff Fisher emerged after the game to announce he was going to award a game ball to Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist.

"This is from the Hou--er Tennessee--Oilers' organization," Fisher stammered.

Then, laughing, he added: "I was hoping it was going to go better than this. There was some mention this week of a neutral field. This isn't a neutral field--this is our home."

It went better for Fisher and the Oilers on the field, and the crowd--such as it was--was actually more than the Oilers drew for five of their eight games last year in the Houston Astrodome, where they won only twice in an 8-8 season.

And whoever they were rooting for, the fans got their money's worth, particularly from the Georges--Eddie and Oakland quarterback Jeff, making his first start for the Raiders after a troubled seven years at Indianapolis and Atlanta.

Jeff George completed 21 of 37 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns, all to Tim Brown, who also had eight catches for 158 yards. The last one came with 22 seconds left on a fourth down at the Oiler 16--less than two minutes after Eddie George's 29-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run had given Tennessee a 21-14 lead.

George's 216 yards in 35 carries was the best total for an opening game since O.J. Simpson's 250 for Buffalo against New England in 1973.

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