Rookies Give Raiders Start in Right Direction : Beuerlein and Brown Help Stop Chargers
Re-fashioning themselves daily, the Raiders opened their season in remarkable style, considering the circumstances.
They beat the San Diego Chargers, 24-13, on a broiling Sunday afternoon in front of a parboiled 39,029 in the Coliseum, but that doesn’t say much, because the Chargers were dog-awful.
It was just that the circumstances were truly extraordinary.
How about having Steve Beuerlein, your kid quarterback, who has been preparing to take his first pro snap all summer, hear on the eve of his debut that they might be bringing in some high-priced help named Jay Schroeder, and presumably not to back him up?
How about having Jim Lachey, your new prize tackle, who has just consented to be traded here instead of somewhere closer to home after a personal plea by Al Davis, learn that the Raiders have now agreed to forward him to Washington, D.C., which is no hop, skip and jump from St. Henry, Ohio, either. That was his entire Raider career Sunday. Thanks for the memories, big guy.
How about a week of having other Raiders--Tim Brown, Matt Millen, Bruce Wilkerson--hear their names in trade rumors?
How about having this be the first game for your new 36-year-old coach, Mike Shanahan, who has just put in a new offense, with new starters at six positions?
Just for good measure, why not let it be 108 degrees, so hot a Raiderette will faint and have to be carried off on a stretcher?
What happened was all the Raiders could have hoped for.
Beuerlein played creditably, completing 13 of 29 passes for 171 yards, having no interceptions.
No pass rusher got around Lachey.
Tim Brown ran the first pro kickoff he touched 97 yards for a touchdown.
Greg Townsend, returning from a month’s suspension for drug use, had 2 1/2 sacks.
Howie Long had a sack and the Raider defense had five in all, in a vintage stomping that recalled the heyday of the blackshirts.
Shanahan, the trickster, hit the Chargers with a 21-yard pass from Marcus Allen . . . to Beuerlein? That’s right, the same play the Broncos used for a John Elway touchdown in that ’86 opening day shootout in Denver. Now they know who they had to thank for that one.
This being the kid of day that it was, Shanahan was asked politely after the game if he might say if Beuerlein would remain his No. 1 quarterback for two weeks or so?
“Are you trying to imply something,” asked Shanahan, laughing.
So he was asked directly if the reports were true, that the Raiders and Redskins have reached agreement on a Schroeder-for-Lachey deal?
“If it had been made, it would have been announced,” Shanahan said. “It has not been made.”
However, Shanahan later called Lachey, who was about to leave, back into the dressing room and met with him behind a closed door in the assistants’ room.
“He said it’s not over yet,” Lachey said after the meeting. “He said he’s in there fighting for me.”
Several hours later, the Redskins finally announced the fight was over; Lachey was theirs.
Lachey has been waiting anxiously for news all week. Waiting anxiously with him was the entire offensive line, which has grown very fond of him in a hurry and was praying that it be anyone else but him.
“From an offensive linemen’s point of view, we didn’t want it to be one of ours,” Don Mosebar said.
Lachey went to a Raider official last week and asked if it was safe to rent a home. He went house hunting and found a place for Oct. 1--but didn’t put down a deposit.
When the report of an agreement came out Saturday night, Lachey heard about that, too.
“People called me,” Lachey said. “Matter of fact, Donnie Macek (Charger center) called me. He said, ‘Hey, I hear you’re traded.’
“Hey, I’m an offensive lineman. I’m used to coming in here after the game, taking my shower and getting out of here. Sure it’s agonizing. It’s different. If it’s going to be, it’s going to be. If not, I’m looking forward to playing the Oilers next week.
“I’m from a small town, St. Henry, Ohio, population 1,500. No, I haven’t been through anything like this.”
Unlike Lachey, Beuerlein wasn’t keeping abreast of the trade reports, rumors, speculation, etc. He tuned it out as best he could, seeing as how he was being asked about it about a dozen times daily, and played Sunday without hearing about any agreement.
“I don’t bother myself with it,” he said, tiring rapidly of the subject. “It’s part of the business.
“They bring people in, people leave. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just out here trying to become a better ballplayer, to try and learn from the mistakes I’m making. If they bring him in, I’ll try and learn from Jay Schroeder--but he’s going to have to beat me out first.”
Oh, the game.
The Raiders started slowly, with seven possessions netting only a missed Chris Bahr field goal from 41 yards and a Willie Gault fumble at the San Diego 31. At that point, midway through the second period, Beuerlein put together a 52-yard drive, highlighted by that 21-yard pass he caught from Allen.
Actually, Beuerlein, who had handed off and was peeling off the left side, was pretty well covered by linebacker Keith Browner--San Diego’s Al Saunders must have known The Trickster would strike--but Beuerlein made a leaping catch.
“Our defensive players couldn’t believe I went up there and ripped that sucker down,” Beuerlein said. “I think I was the only one not surprised.”
After that, Allen had runs of 6, 6 and 11 yards, the last for the touchdown, dragging two Charger defensive backs into the end zone with him. The Raiders led, 7-0.
Their next drive was easier. Brown fielded his first professional kickoff and bombed 97 yards down the left sideline, the first Raider kickoff return for a score since Derrick Jensen returned one for the Oakland Raiders in 1980. Raiders, 14-3.
It was 17-6 in the fourth quarter when the Raider defense gave up its lone touchdown. It came, improbably enough, on fourth-and-10 at the Raider 24, when Babe Laufenberg hit Jamie Holland behind Mike Haynes playing a three-deep zone. There was 3:19 left in the game and suddenly the Chargers were within 17-13.
The Chargers got the ball back, but this time the Raiders snuffed them.
First down--Laufenberg falls on a bad snap.
Second down--Laufenberg hits Quinn Early for 5.
Third down--Townsend sacks Laufenberg.
Fourth-and-20 at their own 1--Laufenberg passes incomplete.
The Raiders took over with :42 left at the San Diego 1. Beuerlein went to one knee, but then Chargers then called time out. Shanahan then designed a play, with James Lofton stationed far behind Allen in case of a fumbled handoff, and Allen plunged into the end zone. Voila , Shanahan. Beuerlein and Co. were 1-0.
If this was to be his Raider career, Lachey was asked later, what would he remember most?
“We’re undefeated,” he said.
Greg Townsend, on his 2 1/2-sack day: “I really was hoping for something like this. I think this is going to help people and help me put everything that I went through this year behind me, start out new and fresh.” . . . Howie Long, on the new offense: “It’s like an Excedrin bottle. It’s tamper-proof. I just don’t think you can screw it up.” . . . Other credits: Todd Christensen caught four passes. Mike Haynes, who barely kept his starting job, not to mention his spot on the roster, played well, intercepting a pass, playing most of the day with a bruised shoulder he got in a collision with Tim Spencer. “I gave him my world-famous forearm smash,” Haynes said. “I forgot he’s a big guy and I’m a little defensive back. Temporary insanity.” . . . Vann McElroy went out early with what was first diagnosed as a bruised calf. He was to be examined in a hospital Sunday night. . . . Matt Millen: “No disrespect to the Chargers but it’s going to be much more important to play well against Houston next week. They’re established, they’ve been around the block a few times.”