Raiders : Now, L.A. Wants to Bury Seahawks
The Flying Seahawk Fan Club--otherwise known as the Raiders on their charter flight home from Buffalo--had its first and last meeting late Sunday night and cheered its favorites to victory.
Davey Krieg? That twerp they used to enjoy chasing around the lot?
What a performance by the feisty little signal-caller!
That Kingdome they used to dream of dynamiting? A fair venue where a visitor gets as good a deal as he deserves.
Johnny L. Williams? Talk about a horse!
Cute Curt Warner? A big silver and black salute to a man’s man!
Had loving kindness and a generous spirit come to the silver and black? Was the lamb ready to lie down with the lion, the Raider with the Seahawk?
Hardly. After their loss in Buffalo, the Raiders needed a Seattle victory to maintain control of their own fate. Voila, the Seahawks came up with the expected 42-14 rout of the Broncos, so now the Raiders can play the Seattle for the AFC West title here Sunday.
But expected is one thing, and the Raiders were just a little nervous.
“Our pilot was getting the scores and announcing them,” Raider publicist Dave Houghton said. “They were calling the control towers everywhere they could.
“They had some problems in Canada. You’ve got to fly over Canada part of the way. The Canadians didn’t really care about the game, so they weren’t giving our pilots the scores. We were in the dark for a half hour or so.
“When they announced 7-0, 14-0, there was some cheering. Once it got to 21-7, everybody figured it was over.”
Are the Raiders happy, or what?
“We’re 7-8,” said an official, “and in the driver’s seat.”
Indeed, if you’re strong enough to expunge the memory of the Buffalo game . . . and the Monday nighter at Seattle 2 weeks ago . . . and the Atlanta game 3 weeks ago, the Raiders are in good shape.
That’s good shape, not great shape.
Sunday’s game doesn’t figure as a mismatch for several reasons:
--Momentum. The Seahawks, winners of 2 of their last 3, have some. The Raiders, losers of 3 of 4, don’t.
--Dave Krieg. The Seahawks seemed to be hoping that Kelly Stouffer was ready to run him off, but Stouffer wasn’t. Since Krieg’s return, the Seahawks are averaging 27 points a game.
--Form. The Seahawks aren’t that bad a road team--3-4. And the Raiders aren’t that good a home team--3-4.
--Surface. The Seahawks used to be holy terrors on artificial turf, where their quick-cutting runners lived off the extra traction, and patsies on grass.
Teams get used to their home surface and grow to hate the other. When the Raiders or Broncos have to play on artificial turf, the players wail all week. Similarly, before the Seahawks’ game here last season, they had lost 6 of their last 8 on grass, going back to the start of the 1985 season. But the Seahawks routed the Raiders that day, and are 5-2 on grass since. This season, they are 3-2.
--A key matchup. Against the Raiders, Williams and Warner became the first tandem in 2 seasons to run for 100 yards apiece. Sunday night, they did it again.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have yielded the incredible total of 492 rushing yards in their last 2 losses.
After rising from 26th in total defense after 5 games, to No. 8 after the San Francisco game, they are back down to 15th.
Their average of 140 yards rushing allowed is sixth-worst, behind the inoffensive Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins . . . and the Broncos and Seahawks.
That’s good shape the Raiders are in, not bad shape.
Glad you asked.
--Form. These teams have been mostly Jekyll-Hyde for the last month, good at home, awful on the road.
After that one-sided Seahawk Monday night destruction of the Raiders, they went to New England, where Krieg led them to 2 first downs, 65 yards of total offense and a 13-7 loss.
Meanwhile, the Raiders came home, picked their chins out of their socks, ran up a 21-0 lead on the Broncos and won the game they needed.
They knew, as long as there was no upset in Seattle, anything they did in Buffalo wouldn’t matter. This turned out to be a handy fact of life.
--Jay Schroeder. It’s a little soon to say he has taken command of the offense, but at least he’s no longer overmatched. He has just put together the first two consecutive 50% games the Raiders have had this season, and his thing has always been big games.
“Jay has come around,” Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. “I think you can feel it just being around him.
“I know it’s just statistics, but he was 14 for 24. There were 2 drops. He had 2 batted down. There were 2 busted plays where he escaped a possible sack and turned it into positive yardage. You know you’ve got a quarterback who can win the big game.”
--Howie Long? It’s too soon to list him as a factor, but Long says there’s an outside chance he can make it back this week, ahead of schedule.
After hobbling around on crutches or a cane for 3 weeks, his calf responded to the cauterization of an artery several weeks ago. Last week, he was walking normally again, and Monday he even ran.
“I’ve got a chance,” Long said. “I’m going to try. It’s pushing it a lot but if it can be done, it will be done.”
There is also a question of what he could contribute after 10 weeks off, but put it this way--if he can go, the Raiders will think of something.
--History, or if you prefer, numerology. The Seahawks this season have won 2, lost 2, won 2, lost 2, won 1, lost 1, won 1, lost 1, won 1, lost 1, won 1 . . .
And Sunday they’re here.
Only one other team has ever won a division title with a record as bad as 8-8, the ’85 Cleveland Browns, in the now-formidable AFC Central. The same year, the Broncos went 11-5, finished third in the West and missed the playoffs. Things change fast.
Bo theory of the week: Is it a coincidence that Bo Jackson turned in his 3 sub-50-yard rushing games after re-straining his hamstring at New Orleans and suffering his groin pull after the San Francisco game? In the last 2 games, he has looked strong and determined, but he hasn’t looked as inhumanly fast since he left after those game-opening sweeps of 22 and 23 yards against the Saints. The Raiders are still concerned about their line, but their line was crumbling last season, too, when Bo averaged 6.8 yards a rush behind it.