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Raiders Aren't Done Yet

Oakland's 34-10 victory at Denver ends losing streak and gives playoff chances a boost.

November 12, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Score one for the old guys.

OK, the Silver and Black has gone gray. So what?

Three of the oldest guys on Oakland's roster proved to be the difference Monday night, as the Raiders stunned the Broncos, 34-10, winning at Denver for the first time since 1994 and taking a step toward salvaging their playoff hopes.

How fitting that this Veterans Day game was decided by three of the NFL's most seasoned veterans -- receiver Jerry Rice, safety Rod Woodson and quarterback Rich Gannon -- who have been in the league for a combined 48 seasons.

Compared with that, "Monday Night Football" is a just-launched pilot. While ABC was celebrating its 500th broadcast, the Raiders were toasting another number, their one-game winning streak. They won their first four games, lost their next four, and were in serious jeopardy of sliding into irrelevance. By beating Denver for the first time in eight tries, they not only stayed alive in the AFC West but got a mile-high morale boost.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 14, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 13 inches; 496 words Type of Material: Correction
Oakland Raiders -- The Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos on Monday for the first time in eight games at Denver, not the first time in eight games between the teams as reported in a Sports story Tuesday.

"We needed this," Raider defensive end Trace Armstrong said. "We needed this for the season, we needed this for this organization. We've had a long run of not playing our best here, so this is big for us in so many ways. We really just bought ourselves one more week."

Rice, 40, and Woodson, 37, are the team's oldest players, and both came up with huge plays. The first came on Denver's opening drive, when the Broncos marched to the Raider four, only to have Woodson intercept a Brian Griese pass and return it 98 yards for a touchdown.

Woodson's breath puffed into the sub-freezing air like locomotive steam as he dashed down the Denver sideline and was tackled from behind by receiver Rod Smith just as he reached the goal line. The two tumbled into the end zone.

"I'm just glad it wasn't 101 yards because I was out of gas," confessed Woodson, who has 12 interception returns for touchdowns, more than anyone else in league history.

The guy who knows a bit about league history is Rice, who has collected more records than he can count. Here's one: Playing in his 40th Monday night game, No. 80 surpassed the 200-touchdown mark and extended his consecutive-games-with-a-reception streak to 250.

Gannon, 36, the team's fourth-oldest player, looked pretty spry himself. He also carved out a spot in league history by completing 21 consecutive passes, a single-game record. San Francisco's Joe Montana completed 22 in a row during the 1987 season, but that was over a two-game stretch.

Informed he set a record, Gannon was typically low-key.

"Is that right?" he said. "That'll do."

Gannon's white jersey was pristine for most of the game as his offensive line sealed off Denver's pass rush throughout. The Broncos sacked him once in the fourth quarter, but otherwise barely touched him.

It might have been Veteran's Day, but, as far as the Broncos were concerned, it wasn't D-Day.

"He played extremely well and took exactly what the defense gave him," Denver Coach Mike Shanahan said of Gannon, who completed 34 of 38 passes for 352 yards with three touchdowns and an astronomical quarterback rating of 131.6. "He's a top-notch player. I give him a lot of credit. When we had them covered, he did a great job of scrambling for first downs, getting out of the pocket and making some big plays downfield."

Two of those touchdown passes went to Rice, who finished with a game-high nine catches for 103 yards. So masterful was Rice's performance that fellow receiver Jerry Porter decided to wear the legend's jersey for a TV interview. Porter, who also had a touchdown reception in the game, later walked back out to the empty field to soak things in one last time.

He then patted the No. 80 on the sweat-stained jersey.

"With 200 and 201 touchdowns, I just feel privileged to put this on," Porter said.

For years, the Raiders would have given the shirts off their back for this feeling. Denver owned them at Mile High Stadium for most of the 1990s, and Oakland's last three losses here were especially painful.

Last season, Kenoy Kennedy intercepted a Gannon pass in the end zone with seven seconds to play to preserve a 23-17 win.

Two years ago, in the final Monday night game at Mile High Stadium, Jason Elam kicked a 41-yard field goal on the game's final play. The Broncos won, 27-24.

And, in 1999, the Broncos tied the score in regulation with a 53-yard field goal by Elam, then won when Gannon fumbled in overtime and Olandis Gary tore off a 24-yard touchdown run on the next play.

"Tonight was big," said receiver Tim Brown, one of two current Raiders around when the team last won in Denver. "This was a long time coming."

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