Raiders Trail at Half, 24-0, and Win : Bahr's 2 Field Goals Climax 30-27 Overtime Victory in Denver

Times Staff Writer

For the Denver Broncos, it was sudden death.

But for the Raiders, it meant sudden life.

Sudden life for a team seemingly going nowhere because of a bad mix of new personnel, never-ending injuries and a last-minute quarterback trade.

Sudden life for a club embarrassed in the first half by one of the worst 30-minute demonstrations ever staged by players wearing the silver and black.

Sudden life for a quarterback who came 3,000 miles seeking redemption, only to find himself in the middle of another budding quarterback controversy.

Sudden life for a reserve defensive back who hadn't played a previous down all night.

Sudden life for a kicker who may have been on the verge of kicking himself out of a job.

They all came together Monday night at Mile High Stadium to equal the biggest comeback in Raider history with a 30-27 overtime victory, won with just 2:25 remaining in the extra period on a 35-yard field goal by Chris Bahr.

"I hit the ball good," Bahr said. "What the heck. It was nice to get some kicks. I needed a game like this."

That he did. The 13-year veteran had made just 2 of 6 attempts this season before Monday, but he came through on three occasions against the Broncos.

First, he hit a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Then with his club trailing, 27-24, and time running out, the Raiders drove down to the Bronco 27. Just 8 seconds remained.

It would take a 44-yard kick to tie the game. Bahr's longest this year had been a 29-yard boot.

No problem.

He put the ball through with plenty of room and 4 seconds to spare, creating the overtime he would eventually win.

Great story?

Here's a better one.

Zeph Lee used to be a running back, who was switched to the secondary when it became obvious that he wasn't going to get into a backfield that already has Marcus Allen and, soon, Bo Jackson.

But even on defense, Lee has been used sparingly. Not at all Monday night, except on special teams.

Until late in the overtime when starting safety Stacey Toran was knocked out with a knee injury.

Enter Lee for his first play of the night, a third-and-11 situation for Denver at its own 46. Quarterback John Elway, facing heavy pressure from Bill Pickel, backpedaled, averted a diving Pickel, looked desperately for a receiver, dodged Pickel again, saw additional pressure coming his way and threw a desperation heave.

Right into the arms of Lee.

"My job was to stay in the middle," Lee said. "So I free-lanced and watched Elway. I was surprised when the ball came my way. I've watched the Raiders and the Broncos on Monday Night Football for so long. And now, it was my turn."

Not a bad turn: One play turned into a game-deciding interception.

It was the fourth interception thrown by Elway on a night when he completed 14 of 28 for 220 yards and a touchdown.

But if you get the idea this was a great Raider night, you don't know the half of it.

The biggest prior comeback in the team's history came in 1982, when the Raiders, trailing the San Diego Chargers, 24-0, near the end of the first half, scored once before intermission and went on to win, 28-24.

This went that comeback one better. The Raiders failed to score in the first half, leaving the field behind, 24-0.

It wasn't just how much, but how bad they looked. The Raiders managed just 41 yards to Denver's 289.

Jay Schroeder, in his long-awaited debut as the Raider quarterback following his arrival 3 weeks ago from the Washington Redskins in a trade for offensive lineman Jim Lachey, hit just 2 of 8 attempts for 26 yards and had a pass intercepted.

On the other side of the line, the Broncos could do no wrong.

Tony Dorsett scored twice on 1-yard runs, Elway hit Steve Sewell with a 7-yard scoring pass, and Rich Karlis added a 39-yard field goal.

One almost got the feeling that when the Raiders ran from the field at halftime, they were heading for Stapleton Airport rather than the locker room.

"When we came in at halftime," Raider Coach Mike Shanahan said, "I wish I could say that I gave some Knute Rockne speech. I said I was embarrassed and there was a lot of pride at stake. We just have to play one play at a time, I told the team."

Whatever else he said, it was a different team that emerged.

Raider defensive back Eddie Anderson picked off an Elway pass early in the third quarter and, on the first play from scrimmage, Schroeder silenced a lot of doubters with a 40-yard scoring pass to Steve Smith. Schroeder rolled right, hit Smith with a short throw, and he took it the rest of the way.

That worked so well that the next time the Raiders got the ball, they tried it again, this time on the other side.

With the same results: Schroeder to Smith for 42 yards and another score.

When Bahr made his first field goal to cut the margin to 24-17, the Raiders incredibly were back in a game that seemed beyond reach.

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the Broncos' Ken Bell when he was hit by Reggie McKenzie. Steve Strachan fell on it, and suddenly the Raiders were driving for a tie from the Denver 17. They got it from the 4 when Allen took a handoff, raced through a hole at left guard, met defensive back Jeremiah Castille and literally hurdled him at the goal line. The game was tied.

Allen finished as the Raiders' leading ballcarrier with 56 yards in 22 carries. Schroeder recovered from his disastrous first half to finish with 13 completions in 35 attempts for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Lost in all the comeback was Dorsett's 6-yard run in overtime that enabled him to pass Jim Brown and become the NFL's No. 2 all-time rusher. Dorsett finished with 119 yards in 32 carries, giving him a career total of 12,335 yards. Brown finished with 12,312.

And one other statistic of note: By winning, the Raiders, despite owning just a 2-2 record, moved into a three-way tie for first in the AFC West with Seattle and San Diego.

Now that is sudden life.

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