The Raiders took the field for their first home game since the passing of Al Davis. The stage was set with a long list of Raider legends on hand to honor the team’s late owner. And in the end, the team didn’t disappoint as they ground out a win over the visiting Browns.
Prior to the game, the Raiders showed a short video to honor Al Davis as well as to celebrate their emotional win last week in Houston just a day after the team had lost Davis. Afterward, former Raider Henry Laurence sang the national anthem as all three flags, Raiders, American, and California state, hung at half-mast.
The Raiders came out the gates in dominating fashion. After the defense stopped the Browns for a three and out, the offense drove the ball 88 yards for a touchdown. On that first drive they had five first downs including converting on four third downs. The long sustained drive took 7:48 off the clock and put the Raiders up 7-0 to start the game.
“Awesome drive,” said Jared Veldheer. “They had to make a lot of adjustments after that, and they had to go and play a defense not how they want to obviously play. They wanted to stay in the front that they came out in and when we were able to come out with a 15-play drive, you have to make some kind of an adjustment. That’s huge to have happen right away because it takes them out of a comfort zone.”
On the next Raider drive, Jason Campbell would trip on a scramble and fumble the ball away to the Browns near midfield. They would use the short field to drive for a touchdown to tie the game. The drive looked to be stalled with a three and out. But Tommy Kelly was called for an offsides penalty and the drive continued. The next play went for 23 yards and three plays later, the Browns scored on a touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to tight end Alex Smith.
The tie game would last all of :14 seconds because Jacoby Ford took the ensuing kickoff back 101 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown gave the Raiders the lead back 14-7 and that would stand into halftime.
However, before the first half was over, the Raiders would lose their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Jason Campbell scrambled looking for the first down marker and landed on his shoulder. The hard landing resulted in a broken collarbone.
Kyle Boller entered the game knowing it was now up to him to lead this team to a win.
“I’m not going to let this football team blink,” said Hue Jackson. “We’ll miss Jason for a little while. I have no idea how long it will take. I don’t know. We’ll see as we go. I know obviously he won’t be here next week or anything like that. We’ll continue to press forward and get better.”
“You know it’s unfortunate that Jason got hurt,” said Boller. “I feel for him, I really do. I’ve been in here before, I’ve been in that situation and it sucks. There’s nothing good about it. As a backup quarterback you know that there’s going to be an opportunity in today’s game, to go in there… now it’s my responsibility to take over and to lead this offense to scoring points.”
With the Raiders in the locker room facing the fact that they lost their starting quarterback, the halftime ceremony to honor Al Davis was happening. Among those in attendance were:
Eddie Anderson, George Atkinson, Jeff Barnes, Morris Bradshaw, Cliff Branch, Willie Brown, Sean Jones, Jerry Robinson, Raymond Chester, Clem Daniels, Anthony Dorsett, Ken Hurlock, Napoleon Kaufman, Henry Laurence, Ted Hendricks, Rod Martin, Bob Moore, Jim Plunkett, Bill Romanowski, Mervyn Fernandez, Dave Casper, Robert Jenkins, Vance Mueller, Greg Townsend, Art Thoms, Tom Flores, Rich Gannon, Steve Wisniewski, Greg Biekert, and Rod Woodson.
They lined the shield in center of the field. After they were all introduced, eyes turned to John Madden who was on the Southeast concourse for the lighting of the eternal flame.
With the halftime tribute completed, the task of winning this game was to commence.
The Raider offense took the field with Kyle Boller as their new signal caller and a seven point lead. His Raider teammates rallied around him.
“You could see the confidence in him when he came in the huddle,” said Darren McFadden. “Just being in there with him. I feel like he’s going to do a great job.”
Said Boller: “I’ve never been a really nervous guy…. I guess it’s more of just going in there and just slowing my feet down. I guess my feet can get a little quick sometimes. So I just really tried to slow those down and kinda let the game come to me versus feeling like I needed to do everything.
“I felt very, very comfortable towards the end. Obviously there’s some throws that I want back. I’m not going to usually miss those. You know that will be, with getting timing in practice with the receivers. I haven’t taken very many reps with those guys in six weeks so I wish I had some of those back, but I definitely felt like I got more comfortable as the game went on.”
The offense moved the ball well under Boller at first though not enough to get into the endzone. But thanks to a well designed play that gave Jacoby Ford 27 yards of open field through which to run, the Raiders were able to set up Janikowski for a 48 yard field goal to add to their lead 17-7.
The Browns would get back for all of two plays before new Raider Aaron Curry shot into the backfield to disrupt a handoff and force a fumble. Curry spoke of his new team after the game:
“It’s been a while since I had this type of feeling, just this comfortable happiness. Winning the game helps but even still going out and playing on this defense and getting exactly what I saw on film just felt great.”
The Raiders offense would take over at the Browns 25 yard line off the turnover. The offense stalled for a three and out, but Hue had another trick up his sleeve. With Janikowski lined up for a field goal, the fake was on. Raiders punter and emergency third string quarterback, Shane Lechler, took the snap and threw a perfect pass to Kevin Boss who rumbled 27 yards for a touchdown. It gave the Raiders a commanding 24-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Kevin Boss spoke of the play after the game:
“It’s pretty memorable, special, to catch a pass thrown by one of the greatest punters of all time. So it was fun… once we got the play from the sideline and they gave us the right play when we lined up, we knew… Really, it’s just taking advantage of what the defense is doing. It’s a pretty simple pass and a pretty simple catch. I think all the credit goes to Coach Fassel for being able to recognize it’s something we should take advantage of. And to Coach Jackson for having the guts to call the play.”
As the fourth quarter began, the Browns got the ball needing to respond with a score of their own to stay in the game. And they did get a score though it was just a field goal to put them within two touchdowns at 24-10.
The Raiders got the ball back and went back to grinding down the field and running out the clock. But sitting at the six yard line, they were unable to pick up the first down on third and two. Staring at fourth and one from the five yard line, Hue Jackson called for the Raiders to go for it. The Michael Bush run play that came after was stuffed for a loss and the Raiders came away with nothing on the drive.
The decision to go for it on that play drew a lot of criticism as a field goal would have put the Raiders up by three scores. Plus it wasn’t exactly a fourth and goal from the one. It was a fourth and one from the five. That is field goal territory.
Not going for the field goal immediately came back to bite Hue Jackson and the Raiders as the Browns took the ball 95 yards for a touchdown to bring them within one score of the tie with plenty of time left on the clock.
All the Browns needed to do was recover an onsides kick to have a chance to take it to overtime. And they did just that, recovering their onsides kick inside Raider territory with just over a minute remaining in the game.
The Raider defense would need to stiffen up to clinch the win. After a seven yard completion on first down, the Raider defense forced three straight incompletions to seal the victory. Routt had the final pass defended to end it.
“We knew that we were going to have to go in and close this game out,” said Routt. “Even with a 14-point lead, we still knew it was going to come down to us.”
At 4-2, the Raiders are now two games over .500 for the first time in nine years.
Jacoby Ford’s kick return touchdown makes him the Raiders’ all-time leader in kick returns just 22 games into his career. The 101 yarder ties him for third with himself on the Raiders’ all-time list. The longest ever was 104 yards by Ira Matthews in 1979.
|Cleveland Browns (2-3-0)||Oakland Raiders (4-2-0)|
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