Patriots' Test Proves the Mettle of Beuerlein : Raiders: Hobbled quarterback picks up the offensive slack in a 24-21 win over New England.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wherever the Raiders are in the '90s, they will need a quarterback, so they might long remember a cool November day in 1989 when Bo Jackson was merely mortal and the wily quarterback of the New England Patriots was using their secondary for target practice.

And the Raiders' quarterback, down to one good knee and another in a brace, pulled them through.

The Patriots sacked Steve Beuerlein four times and rolled him over onto his wounded right knee another half-dozen, but he kept getting back up and firing, long enough finally to set up Jeff Jaeger for the 32-yard field goal that beat the Patriots, 24-21, Sunday afternoon.

"The knee's still hanging on my leg so far," Beuerlein said, smiling. "So we'll keep going as long as we can."

The Raiders, who were longshots in the playoff picture a few days ago, are 6-6. They trail Houston and Miami, both 7-5, and are tied with Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, each 6-6, in the wild-card race.

Do you know whom they have to thank?

"I was talking to their (Patriot) defensive line coach, Eddie Khayat, after the game," Howie Long said.

"He told me, 'You know, that quarterback's got to be the toughest guy on your football team.'

"He made a point of going up to him and shaking Steve's hand after the game. You know, that's respect. Steve's a tough SOB."

The Raiders needed nothing less. At one point, three receivers dropped consecutive passes from Beuerlein, and more than three Patriots dropped Beuerlein.

"I felt it more this week than I did last week because a few of the hits I did take, I got twisted pretty good," Beuerlein said. "It felt a little weaker than last week.

"There's a sharp pain I get that stays for about 30 seconds to a minute. As long as I can walk it off, I'm usually all right, so. . . . "

This game started off as the Raiders intended it to. Beuerlein drove them 76 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, Jackson gaining 23 yards on his first four carries.

But on their second possession, Jackson caught a 10-yard pass and was hit hard by free safety Fred Marion. Jackson, already playing with assorted bruises and twinges that had caused him to miss practice, wobbled off. Although he kept playing, and threw a terrific block on Steve Smith's touchdown run, after Marion's hit Jackson gained 43 yards in 15 carries.

"Bo is a little nicked," said Art Shell. "This is early in the season for him (counting camp, Jackson is 12 weeks behind the others). He kept going back in and getting nicked, and going back in."

It was at this point that Beuerlein's receivers dropped three consecutive passes.

The Raiders, their offense having ground to a halt, now needed to stop the Patriots.

The Raiders contained their running game early, holding tailback John Stephens to one first-half yard--in six carries.

Nevertheless, Steve Grogan, playing in a neck brace, almost turned this one around with his 36-year-old arm.

He led an 88-yard drive for a 7-7 tie, passing one yard to Cedric Jones for the score.

Then he caught Raider Zeph Lee covering Irving Fryar and tossed Fryar a pass that went for a 49-yard scoring play. The Raiders were behind, 14-7, and facing a meaningless last month of the season.

At this point, Beuerlein and the offense took over at their 35 with 1:53 left in the half.

There was a Jackson dash for 11 yards; a 28-yard pass over the middle to Mike Alexander; and five plays later, Beuerlein's 13-yard scoring pass to Mervyn Fernandez.

Fernandez crossed the field under the Patriot secondary, caught the ball at the four-yard line, stopped and cut back on about three defenders for his eighth touchdown of the season.

"I thought we had to get one at that point to give us some momentum going into the second half," Beuerlein said. "Just to raise the level of confidence coming out for the second half."

Their confidence boosted, the Raiders took a 21-14 lead in the third period after linebacker Thomas Benson's interception and 17-yard return to the Patriot 33.

A facemask penalty on the runback moved the ball to the 18. Two plays later, Steve Smith cut right behind Jackson's block, removing cornerback Roland James, and went 11 yards to score.

"It's great to do something to help Smitty score because he's done so much this year as far as getting me in the end zone," Jackson said.

"It was just like me going 90 yards. I was that excited."

How's this for excitement?

Grogan turned right around and combined with rookie Hart Lee Dykes on a 34-yard scoring play. It was 21-21 and who were these guys, anyway?

Early in the fourth quarter, Beuerlein drove the Raiders to the Patriot 19, but there he was sacked by Kenneth Sims. The drive died and Jaeger came in to try a 45-yard field goal, which would have tied his longest of the year if he'd hit it, which he didn't.

On their next possession, with Jackson only in for half the plays and gaining seven yards in three cracks, Beuerlein drove the Raiders to the Patriot 15.

Jaeger returned and hit this one, although it carried perilously close to that left upright.

"I knew I needed to make that one," Jaeger said. "Not only for the team, for myself. I'm not sure they would have kept me around if I'd have missed that kick. I thought about it.

"I haven't had that many kicks like that, other than at Philadelphia (where he missed a late potential game-tying field goal). I'm looking at this as something positive for me now."

Something positive happened for more Raiders.

On the next-to-last Patriot possession, Terry McDaniel, the promising young corner who'd taken two interference penalties trying to contain Dykes, intercepted Grogan.

On the last, Grogan threw up a Hail Mary and hit safety Eddie Anderson instead.

Anderson caught it at the Raider 40 and blasted up the sideline, visions of his third touchdown and his end zone dance, the Fish Out of Water, jiggling in his head.

The Patriots dragged him down at their five, instead. Dance fever died for the day.

"I had it cued up but I didn't want to do it unless I got into the end zone," said Anderson. "I thought I had it until one guy came into play. I slowed down to wait for some blocking. What I should have done was to attack that one guy."

Some days, it just doesn't go the way you planned it.

Those days, only the strong survive.

Raider Notes

More revivals of Raider tradition: Marc Wilson's appearances were limited to holding for extra points, on which he was booed by what remains of the Coliseum fans. . . . "I saw Marc after the game," Howie Long said, "Marc's a good man. I told him I hear things are going good for him back there. Marc said, 'Yeah, they like me, I haven't played yet.' " . . . Long played a fine game, leading a surge that held the Patriots to 30 yards in 19 carries, after allowing an average of 151 to the last three opponents. . . . Long on criticism by NBC's Bobby Beathard, the ex-Redskin GM: "We're as responsible for Bobby Beathard being at NBC as anyone. We kick their (Redskins) butt just about every time we play them, and those are the players he scouted, drafted. We traded them everyone but Run-Run Jones (Raider equipment man), and we were about to lock that deal up when he left Washington. And that's fact. He was going to give us the right side of their offensive line, and their bookend defensive ends for Run-Run Jones. A lot of people don't know that. I'm going to let it out now."

Heartless Lee Dykes? That's what they called Hart Lee Dykes, the Patriot No. 1 pick, after some early drops this season. Sunday, he had four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, his fifth of the season, and drew two interference calls on Terry McDaniel. Let's try Heartbreaker Lee Dykes. . . . Steve Grogan passed for 179 yards and moved into No. 23 on the all-time list, passing Jim Plunkett, whom he replaced as Patriot quarterback in 1975. . . . Ex-Ram Gary Jeter, who went to New England as a Plan B free agent, recorded his sixth sack in the last six games. He has seven overall.

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