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NFL WEEK 3 | OAKLAND 36, ATLANTA 31

Triumphant Return for George

September 15, 1997|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Jeff George calmly endured the heckling for the entire game. As the clock ran out, though, he couldn't hold back any longer.

The Oakland Raider quarterback grabbed the football and took a victory lap, taunting the Georgia Dome fans who had booed him every time he stepped on the field. He waved at them. He pumped his arms at them. This was his moment, and he didn't want to let it go.

George, released by Atlanta a year ago after a sideline tantrum, hooked up with Rickey Dudley for a 76-yard pass play that set up Cole Ford's tie-breaking field goal with 4:24 remaining, and the Raiders defeated the Falcons, 36-31.

"There were a lot of people in the stands who have supported me through all the tough times," said George, referring to about 100 family members and friends at the game. "It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing."

But it was hard to believe George had not been envisioning this moment ever since the Falcons cut him following the sideline argument with then-Coach June Jones during a game last season. His words were dripping with vengeful satisfaction as he spoke with reporters afterward.

The Falcons (0-3) weren't amused by George's post-game antics. "I don't think I would have taken a victory lap around the field," said Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler, who was injured for the second week in a row.

George played a minor role most of the game. Napoleon Kaufman had touchdown runs of 58 and 61 yards for Oakland (1-2) and Atlanta's second-string quarterback, Billy Joe Tolliver, threw a six-yard scoring pass to Terance Mathis to tie the score, 31-31, with 7:17 left.

The Raiders took over at their eight-yard line. George, whose arm strength has never been an issue during a stormy career, lofted a pass to Dudley, who was standing alone at the Raider 40 and ran to the Falcon 16. That set up Ford's 31-yard field goal.

The Raiders added two more points when rookie Darrell Russell, who knocked Chandler out in the third quarter with a bruised sternum on a hit that drew a roughing penalty, forced Tolliver out of the end zone for a safety with 3:19 to play.

Atlanta had one final chance, driving to the Oakland 45 with a minute remaining. But Tolliver was sacked by Anthony Smith and his pass to O.J. Santiago came up two yards short of a first down on fourth-and-19.

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