How low could they go?
Not that low.
With the basement beckoning, the Raiders pulled themselves together long enough to beat the woeful Kansas City Chiefs, 27-17, Sunday, thus avoiding the loss that would have given them their worst start in 24 seasons.
You could argue about who their deliverer was:
In vintage Bo style, he arrived Wednesday and became the franchise by Sunday, averaging 5.2 yards a carry in the first half as the Raiders took a 14-0 lead.
The Raiders can give thanks to the Chief bomb squadder who handed Stefon Adams that fumbled punt at the Kansas City 11-yard line in the fourth quarter, after the Chiefs had narrowed the score to 14-10.
Now we’re talking. When Jay Schroeder cooled, Coach Mike Shanahan yanked him for the first time. Beuerlein, responding impressively, completed 4 of 7 passes, 2 for touchdowns, and suddenly the Raiders are faced with a dread you-know-what-kind of controversy.
Who’s No. 1?
“Jay will be our quarterback,” Shanahan said. “We will try not to have the controversy (that) people try to have every time you put a quarterback in.
“We’re not going to rotate quarterbacks as soon as someone throws a few incomplete passes. It’s got to be a gut decision, and this was my gut decision today.”
The Raider situation being somewhat volatile, there are a lot of tough calls these days.
Jackson, the halfback who arrived Wednesday didn’t start--as Shanahan had promised. He didn’t get in until the Raiders’ second play.
Of course, he knew only a limited number of plays, but the offense promptly turned into this:
--Bo sweeps right for 8 yards.
--Bo goes left for 3 and a first down.
--Bo goes left for 6.
--Bo must be tired, right? Who cares? Bo goes out for a pass, and Schroeder hits him for 5.
-- Bo gets a play off. Marcus Allen runs for 1.
--Bo gains 5.
Hey, when you’ve been where the Raiders have been, you don’t look down your nose at a 230-pounder with 4.2-second speed and a 6.8-yard career rushing average.
That first Raider drive died at midfield, but the second, a little 27-yarder set up by Tim Brown’s 20-yard punt return, ended with Allen’s disputed 1-yard dive into the end zone. The dispute was lodged by defensive end Aaron Pearson, who thought that Allen had been stopped. Pearson tore off his helmet and slung it through the end zone to make his point--and was hit with a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
The Chief return men then ran into each other trying to field the kickoff, resulting in a fumble and field position at their own 7.
Once again, the Raiders held the Chiefs and mounted another baby drive, a 45-yarder, into the end zone. Jackson had runs of 6 and 11 yards; Steve Smith went the final yard, and it was 14-0.
At this point, it was all Raiders. Of the game’s first 38 plays, 34 began in Chief territory. Schroeder started 5 for 5 with his passes.
But the offense stalled, and the Raider secondary coughed up an easy touchdown, letting Paul Palmer turn an 8-yard pass over the middle into a 48-yard touchdown play in the second period, making the score 14-7.
Just before the first half ended, the Chiefs got within Nick Lowery’s prodigious range but decided to take a gift proffered by the Raider defense, which called a timeout with 20 seconds left and the Kansas City field-goal unit momentarily on the field.
Good decision, bad execution. With an almost sure 3 points in his hip pocket, Chief quarterback Steve DeBerg first tried to force a pass into the end zone, and Vann McElroy made a diving interception, eliminating a possible last-play field-goal try by Kansas City.
With the Raiders moribund--maybe the Chiefs had figured out Bo’s repertoire?--Lowery finally got his chance on the first play of the fourth period. He nailed a 43-yarder, and it was 14-10.
Shanahan removed Schroeder, who had completed only 2 of his last 12 passes, replacing him with Beuerlein.
The Chiefs held. Jeff Gossett punted to Taylor, who bobbled the ball up in the air, right into the hands of the fast-closing Raider cover man, Adams. Result: A Raider first down at the Chief 11.
Three plays later, Beuerlein hit Trey Junkin in the end zone for the touchdown that broke up the game. For good measure, Beuerlein later hooked up with Mervyn Fernandez on a 35-yard pass to the Kansas City 1, setting up Jackson’s dive, and it was 27-10.
OK, now to sort out this quarterback thing.
Beuerlein, the veteran--that is, he has now dressed for 7 pro games--says he has no illusions or regrets.
“Jay Schroeder is the quarterback,” he said cheerfully. “I’m learning each and every day, each and every week, to try to get myself ready to one day be a starter.”
“You never want to get pulled,” Schroeder said. “But hey, it’s a fact of life. Sooner or later, you’re not going to be playing well for one reason or another. You’ve just got to bounce back.
“I think it was a little bit of a surprise, but I can live with it.
“It’s going to be a struggle every week. just for the fact that I haven’t been here 7 months with this group. But I knew that going in. The coaches knew that going in.”
Nobody promised them a rose garden, either, but Sunday they had the Chiefs, the next best thing.
Vann McElroy, returning to the lineup after his injury in the opener, intercepted 2 passes. The Raiders are hoping to get Stacey Toran and Terry McDaniel back this week and assemble their first-string secondary for the first time since the opener. . . . Marcus Allen, wearing a cast on his broken left wrist, started and played bravely but was forced out of the game in the second half by the pain. “I’m sorry, fellas,” he said afterward, “I’m hurting.” . . . And the list gets longer: Wide receiver Willie Gault, who has had a bruised right shoulder, took another hit on it and was knocked out of the game. X-rays were negative. . . . Stefon Adams has already been waived once this season and he was thought to be a candidate to go again to make room for Bo Jackson. Instead, safety David Greenwood was cut, and Adams collected Kittrick Taylor’s fumble.