If this was a hump, the Raiders got over it Sunday, although not with the majesty of eagles.
First, their defense dragged them to the top of it, then their offense kicked in and, voila , they were back in the win column.
So what if it was only the New England Patriots they beat. And so what if it was the defense that scored three of the five touchdowns. The Raiders won, 35-20, they’re 2-2 and they play the 3-1 Kansas City Chiefs in the Coliseum next week. Anything is possible.
So what if the new quarterback, Marc Wilson, threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage and left in the third period with a sprained ankle.
So what if the next new quarterback, rookie Rusty Hilger, started off with six incompletions.
This couldn’t have come as a complete surprise to anyone who had seen the previous two games. The Raider offense is trying out new quarterbacks and line combinations, but the defense is cohesive and capable of being its menacing, old self.
One of these units has to hold the fort, and it knows which one it is.
“Without a doubt, it’s up to us,” Raider Rod Martin said.
“Coach Z (assistant Bob Zeman) told the linebackers as a group to just hang in there,” Martin said. “He said things were gonna happen. Things were gonna happen we had no control over.
“When Marc threw that interception, we just said, ‘Another turnover? Let’s just go back out there and stop them.’ ”
What the Raider defense did was to go back out there and outscore them. Lester Hayes returned one interception for the first Raider touchdown. Sammy Seale returned another one for the last Raider touchdown.
And Lyle Alzado recovered a fumble in the end zone for the one in the middle, the biggest touchdown the Raiders have scored this season, the one that pulled them out of the 14-20 hole they’d gotten themselves into and in which they’d spent most of the second and third quarters.
It was the first touchdown of Alzado’s 15-year career and it caught him unprepared to do a victory dance or anything appropriate.
“Actually, I didn’t realize I was in the end zone,” Alzado said. “I just fell on the ball.
“When I got to the sideline, the guys were asking me how I felt. I said, ‘Did you notice the cutback speed I used to get upfield 30 yards? And the way I shifted into third gear, with all the speed I have?’
“How’s that sound?”
The play was one of the most hallowed of Raider traditions, the intentional fumble, which was supposedly outlawed in 1978, after Ken Stabler pulled the granddaddy of them all in San Diego.
This time it was Martin, who arrived on the ball after Brad Van Pelt had knocked it out of Craig James’ arms at the Patriot 11.
Martin picked up the ball and carried it three yards, while his teammates started celebrating. The replay showed a Raider jumping in the air, waving his right fist. Meanwhile, Martin was being tackled at the eight.
At which point Martin “fumbled.”
“You know how it was,” Martin said, laughing. “I was trying to pick the ball up and I saw their quarterback (Tony Eason) there. He went to cut me down and I threw it toward the end zone. I figured with the momentum, their offense was going the other way and we were going this way.
“Then I just prayed a black shirt would fall on it.”
One did, sort of. The next shirt to the ball was on the back of Reggie McKenzie, who reached the ball near the goal line and, rookie or not, did what a Raider does in this situation--bat the ball into the end zone.
There, three yards from the end line, Alzado finally curled up on top of it. Just like they’ve got it in the playbook. Momentum strikes again.
To that point, the Raiders had been going nowhere fast. They were coming off twin routs that had cost them their No. 1 quarterback, Jim Plunkett.
In this, their putative comeback, they’d been busy all day, trading killer mistakes with the Patriots:
--Wilson, who has had a history of big debuts, starts this one throwing an interception to Patriot cornerback Ronnie Lippett. Tony Franklin kicks a 47-yard field goal. Patriots lead, 3-0.
--Eason throws a pass for Irving Fryar, but Lester Hayes steps up, intercepts, and runs it back 27 yards into the end zone. Raiders, 7-3.
--Fryar catches a 40-yarder behind Hayes. Patriots, 10-7.
--Dokie Williams catches a 38-yarder behind Lippett. Raiders, 14-10.
--Guy drops a snap from center. The ball comes in a little high, eye-level, or about five feet lower than the one he pulled down one-handed in the 1984 Super Bowl. Guy then tries to pick the ball up on the run and misses. The Patriots’ Andre Tippett doesn’t miss and runs it back 25 yards for the score. Patriots, 20-14.
--And, of course, the James fumble. Raiders, 21-20.
Since one-point leads are less than commanding and since the Patriot defense could not be counted on to provide any more Raider points, the Raider offense set out to add to the lead.
The offense now was being run by Hilger, getting his first NFL exposure after Wilson sprained an ankle on a scramble early in the third period.
Soon thereafter, something just as significant if more unnoticed, happened. Dave Dalby went back in at center and Don Mosebar moved back to right guard for Mickey Marvin.
And suddenly, the Raiders’ running game lived. Their next seven running plays gained 7, 5, 4, 8, 6, 5, and 9 yards, all by Marcus Allen. For the game, the new offensive line blocked for 22 runs, on which the Raiders gained 97 yards. For the game, Allen got 98 yards in 21 carries, his highs for the season.
Hilger was having a little trouble hitting anything he was aiming at, but midway through the fourth quarter, Fulton Walker, the ex-Dolphin the Raiders signed last week, returned Rich Camarillo’s 38-yard punt 23 yards to the New England 23.
Four runs took the ball to the two, where the Raiders had a 3rd-and-goal. Hilger then rolled right, ran away from a linebacker and found Todd Christensen at the back of the end zone. Hilger’s pass was low, but Christensen scooped it up prettily.
The presiding official looked at it for about two seconds and finally threw his hands in the air. Hilger had his first NFL completion. The Raider offense had scored a key touchdown. Christensen slammed the football into the turf so hard it could have bounced out of the stadium.
“I overdid it, I guess,” Christensen said. “The last time I spiked one was 1982. I think I was kinda numb. We haven’t done all that much lately. I got a little emotional and busted the ball.”
A few plays later, Eason sent his receivers out on a pick play, fired toward one of them and, instead, hit Seale.
Seale had been running around before the snap, looking for a good place to line up. The one he chose worked out fine. He caught the ball and darted 38 yards down the sideline.
“We were lined up and I guess somebody called the wrong defense,” Seale said. “Someone said, ‘Hey, they called the defense, let’s play it.’
“And that’s what we did.”
Marc Wilson’s injury is a sprained right ankle. He said he could have gone back into the game. . . . The mood in the Raider dressing room at halftime? Concerned. Rod Martin: “We came back in here and everybody got a little vocal. Myself, Marcus (Allen), Howie (Long), Lyle (Alzado) said we’ve got to play right now. It was a little different. Marcus doesn’t say too much and he was saying some things.” . . . And then there was the Raiders’ trip to Boston. With Logan Airport closed in advance of Hurricane Gloria, the Raiders flew to Cleveland, stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn near the airport, practiced Saturday at Baldwin-Wallace College, the Browns’ pre-season site, and flew here Saturday afternoon. Long: “There’s nothing wrong with Holiday Inns, but the sinks were red. It just wasn’t home. Practicing there, flying here, it was just a royal pain in the rear end.” .