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Thomas Picks the Right Spots

September 25, 2000|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — When linebacker William Thomas played in Philadelphia, he used to joke with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden that he should be a tight end.

The pleading might begin again in Oakland after Thomas had two interceptions, including one that he ran back for a touchdown, as the Raiders defeated the Cleveland Browns, 36-10, Sunday and knocked the Browns out of a first-place tie in the AFC Central.

"He always talks about that tight-end thing," Thomas said about Gruden, now head coach of the Raiders. "But he hasn't followed through with it."

Gruden kiddingly replied: "I may have to accommodate him."

Tyrone Wheatley ran for two two-yard touchdowns and Zack Crockett added a touchdown for the Raiders (3-1). Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland's top draft pick who entered the game two for five in field-goal attempts, converted from 37 and 31 yards.

After passing for a career-high 316 yards the previous week in Cleveland's 23-20 victory over the Steelers, Tim Couch completed 16 of 29 passes for 141 yards.

His lone touchdown was a 15-yard pass to Darrin Chiaverini on the opening drive.

"I don't think they were that much better than us," said Couch, who entered the game with only one interception. "If I don't throw those interceptions, we're moving right down there and we're doing good."

Phil Dawson kicked a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter to account for the rest of Cleveland's scoring.

After Chiaverini's touchdown, the Browns' onside kick failed, putting Oakland at Cleveland's 43 for its first series.

Soon after, Wheatley scored on a two-yard run for the Raiders, who bounced back after a 33-24 home loss to the Denver Broncos.

"We had a good drive to open it up, and we were trying to keep our defense off the field as long as possible," Brown Coach Chris Palmer said about the onside kick. "We were going to try to pull out everything we could to win it, but it backfired on us this time."

The Raiders took the lead on Wheatley's second two-yard run to open the second quarter. The key play of the drive was Rich Gannon's 48-yard pass to Andre Rison, who had three receptions for 54 yards.

Wheatley finished with 21 carries for 63 yards.

Midway through the second quarter, the Browns advanced to Oakland's 33 on Errict Rhett's 42-yard run. But Dawson's 42-yard field-goal attempt went wide right.

Thomas, a 10-year veteran linebacker and two-time Pro Bowl player picked up by the Raiders in the off-season, made his first interception late in the second quarter. It led to Crockett's scoring run.

On the Browns' next possession with less than a minute left in the half, Thomas intercepted another pass by Couch, this time with a running scoop catch that he ran back 46 yards for a touchdown.

"By far, I have the best hands on the team," Thomas joked afterward.

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