Broncos' blows get resilient Raiders angry, not injured

Silver and black bites back

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2001

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After Rich Gannon got clobbered, he took a long time getting back to the Oakland Raiders' sideline. Jon Gruden looked into his quarterback's eyes for a flicker of recognition.

Instead of confusion, Gruden saw anger.

With Gannon and Tim Brown leading the way, the Raiders returned all of the Denver Broncos' best shots on Monday night, beating their archrivals 38-28 in a victory that affirmed the westward shift of power in the AFC West.

In a testy game featuring plenty of the late hits, hard blows and questionable sportsmanship that always crops up when these teams get together, the Raiders ended a seven-game losing streak against the team that ruled their division for several years.

''It wasn't our Super Bowl tonight,'' Gruden said. ''At the same time, we wanted to win badly.''

Oakland (6-1) won the division last season but lost twice to Denver. Altogether, the Raiders dropped 11 of 12 meetings with the Broncos and coach Mike Shanahan, who has taken extra pleasure in repeatedly beating the team that fired him more than a decade ago.

Gruden, snarling and screaming on the sideline, got his first victory over Denver (4-4) with a game plan that relied on his resilient quarterback's communication with Brown. The veteran receiver, who was around for all of the Raiders' failures in the rivalry, had two touchdowns among his nine catches for 95 yards.

When Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy hit Gannon as he dived out of bounds in the second quarter, the Raiders were worried Gannon had a concussion. But Gruden gave Gannon a pop quiz -- naming the three potential audibles in one of the Raiders' offensive sets -- and got the answers he wanted.

After Oakland scored and got the ball back, Gannon went back in the game to complete six straight passes on another scoring drive.

''I think he got hit in the head, and he got mad,'' Gruden said. ''Some guys are like that. It shakes them into another zone.''

With the Raider Nation roaring its approval in a packed Coliseum for the first time in more than four weeks, Oakland won its fifth straight to match St. Louis and Chicago for the NFL's best record.

''We've had some success against this team in the past, and they take it personally,'' Denver running back Terrell Davis said. ''I'm sure they circled this game on their calendar. We've been a thorn in their side.''

Zack Crockett rushed for two scores, including a 3-yard plunge with 7:06 to play, while Rice caught three key passes for 47 yards. Gannon was 25-of-34 for 243 yards and three TDs.

''I thought we really had a good plan,'' Gannon said. ''Jon's approach was excellent. We got into a real rhythm on offense.''

The bad feelings between the franchises trickled down to the field on Monday night. Kennedy and Oakland's Greg Biekert delivered hard hits on the borderline of legality, while Denver's Bill Romanowski and Oakland's William Thomas got personal fouls for nasty blows.

The Broncos couldn't capitalize on the running of Davis, who looked sharp in his return to Denver's lineup after missing six games following knee surgery. Davis had 70 yards rushing on 17 attempts, and Rod Smith caught 10 passes for 91 yards and two TDs.

Brian Griese shrugged off his balky shoulder to go 22-of-32 for 221 yards, but he threw two fourth-quarter interceptions that helped Oakland clinch the win.

''I felt like we had to score every time we got the ball to win this game,'' Griese said. ''We're doing it with smoke and mirrors right now, because that's all we really have right now.''

Oakland opened the game with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended on Brown's 11-yard TD catch. The Raiders scored two more times -- the second on Jon Ritchie's 4-yard TD catch 1:10 before halftime -- to stretch the lead.

Denver kept it close in the second half on TD receptions by Smith and Desmond Clark. A 2-point conversion after Clark's catch cut the lead to 28-20 with 10:41 left.

But after Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal, Thomas intercepted Griese's first pass on the next drive, returning it 33 yards to the 3. Crockett bulled into the end zone on the next play.

Gus Frerotte replaced Griese and drove the Broncos to one last score on a 26-yard pass to Smith.

Notes: Brown passed Don Maynard for fifth place on the NFL's career list with 89 touchdown catches. ... In the first half, Oakland's defense held the Broncos to two early field goals by Jason Elam, who became the 30th player in NFL history to score 1,000 points. ... Oakland CB Charles Woodson didn't play much in the second half when his turf toe flared up. Gruden didn't expect him to return at all, but Woodson played in the Raiders' nickel defenses.

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