Fernandez Puts Moves on Everyone : Raiders: Wide receiver makes key touchdown reception in victory over Patriots.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wide receiver Mervyn Fernandez of the Raiders had beaten his man and was wide open when quarterback Steve Beuerlein launched the pass.

Fernandez reached out to make the catch and the ball bounced off his hands.

"Whenever Mervyn Fernandez drops a ball, that's the exception," Beuerlein said. "You say wait a minute, that was Merv?"

Fernandez was even more determined to have a good game after he dropped the pass.

"You don't sit down and say, 'I dropped one. I can't catch no passes today,' " Fernandez said. "You just have to keep going."

And Fernandez more than made up for his drop, catching a 13-yard touchdown pass to help the Raiders score a 24-21 win over the New England Patriots Sunday at the Coliseum.

With less than a minute left in the first half, Fernandez came across the middle on a slant route underneath the coverage. He caught the ball in front of Patriot linebacker Ed Roberts and made a nifty spin move to score, cutting back to his right and into the end zone to tie it at 14-14.

"It was just instinct," he said about the move.

It even caught his teammates by surprise.

"Fernandez faked them out of their shoes and faked us out of our shoes because we thought he was going one way and he went back the other way," Raider tailback Bo Jackson said. "That drive kept us alive because we came right back and scored after they had scored and it gave us momentum going into the second half."

Bo knows how important Fernandez is to the Raider offense.

"Mervyn Fernandez is one of the vertebrae of our team," Jackson said. "If he isn't in there, we can't function. He's the key to getting me outside and opening the running game up because teams double-cover him and it leaves the outside open for me."

Wide receiver Mike Alexander, who had two catches for 40 yards and one touchdown, agreed with Jackson.

"Mervyn is a great receiver," Alexander said. "Teams are going to double-team him as much as possible. That's what opened it up for me today because when you're keying on one person it always leaves somebody else free."

Although the Raiders say Fernandez is one of the keys to the team, he operates in relative anonymity.

While reporters besieged Jackson and Beuerlein, few sought out Fernandez after Sunday's game.

"I don't know what it is," Fernandez said. "Maybe it's my cologne. I'm the silent one, I guess. I've got all the touchdowns and the catches and the yards and I'm sitting over here by myself. That's all right though."

Although Fernandez is leading the Raider receivers in receptions, touchdowns and yards, the media seems to pay more attention to what wide receiver Willie Gault doesn't do than to what Fernandez does.

"That's true, but Willie is Willie and I'm me," Fernandez said. "As long as I get my job done on the field and keep getting into the end zone, I don't care if I get any publicity."

Fernandez is having his best season in three years with the Raiders, catching 37 passes for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I just think there's more opportunity this year," Fernandez said. "I'm playing more and getting more passes and things have been happening. I can play better than what I have and hopefully next year will be better than this."

Fernandez struggled after leaving the British Columbia Lions to join the Raiders in 1987, catching just 14 passes for 236 yards and no touchdowns. The Raiders were so unimpressed that they traded for Gault.

But Fernandez said there were mitigating circumstances during his first season.

"It wasn't the best year I've ever had because a lot of things came into play," Fernandez said. "I missed seven games because of the shoulder injury and then there was the strike. It just wasn't a good year.

"It was just a matter of time to get settled into the system and get familiar with the people and the defenses and just play like I play," Fernandez said. "There's a big difference between the NFL and the CFL. I think the players in the NFL have better talent. The field is much smaller so you have to adjust your routes. Things just happen a lot faster."

Fernandez couldn't have picked a better game to play well because his sons Joey and Johnny were watching their first Raider game of the season, having flown in from their home in San Jose for Thanksgiving.

Joey and Johnny Fernandez were the proudest kids at the Coliseum.

"Daddy, you played a great game," said Joey Fernandez, beaming with pride.

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