They Had to Go a Long Way to Come Back

Well, here I am leaving the L.A. Coliseum, fixer-upper rental property of the Raiders.

Now here I am outside our lovable old mile-low stadium, uprooting that FOR SALE OR RENT: INQUIRE WITHIN sign.

Because:

I came away from Sunday's 14-9 Raider cookout, where it was so hot Denver got turned into an omelet, with three very definite, very vivid, very positive impressions.

1. We will be back.

It is my strong belief that the Raiders are extremely close to sealing a deal to stay put at the Coliseum, to the point that we might be hearing some news later today.

Which is good news, because:

2. The Raiders are back.

The "old" Raiders. The ones who hit first and ask questions later. The ones who scowl, growl and prowl. The ones who stunt, grunt and hunt. The ones who hurt you but don't desert you.

Which is better news, because:

3. The Broncos aren't back.

Any organization that reached three of the last four Super Bowls should be taken seriously, but honestly, if this is the best Denver can do, the Raiders are going to have to worry about the Chargers and Chiefs in their division, not these guys.

Unduly optimistic?

Hey, I've been called worse.

I can't help it. I like the look of this year's Raiders. They look tough enough to wear black patches over 20-20 eyes. Los Angeles left John Elway suffering from heat prostration, but the Raiders left the other Broncos suffering from hit prostration.

Denver's running backs got hit so hard and so often, they must have thought this game had a Roman numeral after it.

Yeah, the 1990 Raiders have some hitters. They can stick, so I hope they'll stick around.

Greg Townsend came after Elway like a landlord. Howie Long stripped Elway of the ball and then ran with it, almost getting the cuckoo knocked out of his clock. Jerry Robinson intercepted a pass and ran for a touchdown, huffing and puffing five yards that "felt more like 200." Tom Benson and Riki Ellison tag-teamed on so many collisions, they may be invited to appear at "Wrestlemania VII" at the Coliseum next March, wearing masks.

The secondary also was a primary factor. Terry McDaniel returned a fumble for six points. Mike Harden hit hard and harder. Lionel Washington came on like a train. Eddie Anderson knocked assorted Broncos halfway to Rochester. Dan (La-La) Land made several of them forget what town they were in.

And Garry Lewis made such an encouraging rookie debut at left cornerback, the Raiders should have left the field singing "This Diamond Ring." The little oak from Alcorn State stepped right up and made seven solo tackles. No man on either side made more.

Unduly optimistic?

OK, so sue us. (Although anybody who sides against the Raiders in a lawsuit is asking for trouble.)

In the voice-of-reason department, we give you:

Robinson, who said: "Remember, one game does not one season make."

And McDaniel, who said: "It means we're 1-0, so we know we're on top, but it's not like we've won the Super Bowl or the playoffs yet."

And Long, who said: "Back in '83-'84-'85, we won a lot of games with defense. We'd like to not make a habit of it. We'd like for the offense to come around."

But in the ray-of-hope department, we give you:

Townsend, who said: "What are our chances of being a playoff team? Hmmm. I would have to say 100%."

And Harden, who said: "Did you see the way this defense went after people? This team definitely has possibilities. Serious possibilities."

And even Denver Coach Dan Reeves, who said: "Give the Raiders credit. We had some people open . . . and they knocked them down."

So, go ahead. Call me crazy. Call me it's-only-one-win nutso. Call me unduly . . . you know, the O word.

Hey, I even liked the offense.

Jay Schroeder pitched a complete game. Put the ball on people's fingertips. Threw a little too late at times, yes. Didn't impress much throwing on the run, yes. But stood his ground, kept his poise, hit half his targets and saw Tim Brown and Willie Gault juggle catchable balls.

The running attack sprinkled Steve Smith with Napoleon McCallum with Greg Bell with Marcus Allen with Vance Mueller with mixed success, but let us not forget that soon euthanasia will come to the Kansas City Royals and back to the show will come The Bo.

Ah, they could truly look like the "old" Raiders again. May they stay in L.A.

Linebacker Robinson, while speaking of an ill-advised Elway screen pass from the end zone that he intercepted and returned for a touchdown, said later: "You know how somebody's about to do something, but you can't believe they're actually going to do it? That's what this was like."

Well, you know how you thought the Raiders were leaving Los Angeles, and you didn't much care because they weren't going to be much good anyhow?

The way I see it, even though they never left, I think they're back.

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