In the end, Scott Davis raised his right hand and stopped another John Elway comeback. And maybe saved the Raiders’ season.
Not bad for a hand. Davis presented all five digits to reporters afterward as Exhibit A, identified the spot where the ball deflected, and rejoiced his body part in the Raiders’ 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos before 74,162 at Mile Stadium.
It looked like an ordinary hand, but if Davis doesn’t stick his in the wind to block David Treadwell’s 41-yard attempt that would have sent the game to overtime with seven seconds to play, the Raiders are maybe looking for playoff handouts.
What might have been lost here after taking a 10-point lead with 4:18 left was difficult for Raiders to imagine: falling to 7-5 after 8-4 seemed a lock; wasting Bo Jackson’s 117 rushing yards and a brilliant 62-yard fourth-quarter burst to touchdown; the memories of an ensuing blocked extra-point attempt that ended up staring the Raiders in the face as the Broncos lined up for the game-tying field goal.
“All sorts of things raced through my mind,” Davis said. “How it would have affected our season. Maybe that’s what sparked us.”
As it was, Davis came through with the last amount of effort he could muster after battling a bad case of flu, a windchill factor of eight degrees, the elusive legs of Elway and mile-high altitude.
“I’d like to think I got off the ground,” Davis said.
Davis lined up to the right of center, and said he charged in behind the push of Todd Peat, who was head-up over center. Davis didn’t remember much after that. Bronco quarterback Gary Kubiak made a good placement of a high snap.
Davis: “Is that what it was, a high snap?”
Treadwell said he hit the ball square. When he kicked it, the game was tied--in his mind.
“It just never made it past the line,” he said.
Elway or no Elway, the game seemed over with 4:18 left when Jeff Jaeger’s 46-yard field goal put the Raiders up 23-13.
What else did the Broncos have left on the way to 3-9?
Plenty, it turned out. Elway drove the Broncos’ 80 yards in eight plays and 1:49, capping the drive with an eight-yard scoring pass to Michael Young with 2:29 remaining to cut the lead to three.
Elway turned back the pages on this one, completing four of five pass attempts for 47 yards and rushing two other times for 29 yards.
“He’s like the neighborhood kid,” defensive end Howie Long. “He runs 5.2 when he runs. He runs about 4.8 when he’s being chased.”
But could Denver get the ball back? They could.
The Raiders faced third and two at their own 28 with 1:47 left. Denver used its second time out. The game’s over if the Raiders convert. Quarterback Jay Schroeder, who showed no effects of a sprained knee suffered last week, threw in the left flat to tight end Ethan Horton, who came within an inch of a first down.
The Raiders broke huddle on fourth down with the first unit, but it turned out to be a ploy to draw the Bronco defense offside. Kansas City used the hard-count to draw the Raiders offsides six times last week. Too bad the Raiders weren’t going against their own defense.
Denver held strong, and the Raiders were forced to punt. The Broncos got the ball back at their own 40 with 1:29 left. They were without timeouts, but not without hope. On first down, Elway threw deep to the left sideline for Vance Johnson, who was ruled out of bounds on what would have been a 27-yard reception.
So much for the days before instant replay. Officials in the booth reviewed the play and ruled correctly that Johnson had actually made a legal catch by dragging his second foot across the sideline border.
Opinions on instant replay, of course, run strong.
“If it doesn’t go in my favor, I don’t like it,” Raider linebacker Jerry Robinson said.
Long likens instant replay to one of his favorite game shows.
“That replay thing is kind of like asking for Door No. 1 or Door No. 2.” Long said. “You open up Door No. 1 and a hammer hits you in the head. You just kind of stand there and it’s like guessing which door. Why bother. I remove myself emotionally from instant replay.”
For Denver, it was a reversal of fortune. The Broncos found themselves with first down at the 33 with 1:23 remaining. Things were going well. A game-winning touchdown beckoned, but the Broncos made it just 10 yards further in the next minute, thanks to some interesting runs to the middle of the field from the team with no time outs remaining.
But the Raiders were saved from explaining away a loss that might have cost them the season.
“We didn’t lose, so you can answer those questions,” Robinson said. “We let them back in the game. It would have been really difficult to live with had they won the football game.”
Robinson said it was a typical Raider finish. “As long as I’ve been here, the Raiders have never done things easy,” he said.
Sunday was no different. It appeared the Raiders might dominate after countering an early Denver field goal with a 13-play, 73-yard drive that ended in a four-yard scoring run by Steve Smith. The story on the march was the performance of Schroeder, who seemed a knee sprain away from being yanked from the starting lineup earlier this week. But remember that message drive in Miami, when the Raiders ran the ball eight consecutive times on their first drive?
Well, this was a message in support of Schroeder, who was six-for-six on the drive for 74 yards. With the winds swirling, the Raiders played ball control through the air and used up 9:07 in the process.
But a 7-3 was erased before halftime on a 21-yard scoring pass from Elway to Johnson.
The Raiders regained the lead in the third quarter after cornerback Terry McDaniel intercepted Elway’s pass at the Denver 28. Two plays later, Bo Jackson scored the first of two touchdowns on an 11-yard scoring run with 8:53 left in the quarter, and then he scored again with 9:08 left, breaking three Bronco tackles on his 62-yard run.
Jackson, who carried only two times in the first half, finished with 117 yards in 13 carries.
The Raiders used their last free roster move Sunday to activate tight end Mike Dyal from injured reserve. To make room, the team released defensive lineman Mike Charles. The move means that running back Greg Bell must spent the rest of the regular season on injured reserve. Bell has been on injured reserve since Oct. 20 with an ankle sprain, but he’s been ready to return for weeks. The Raiders, however, have been playing with one tight end, Ethan Horton, and Coach Art Shell decided it was too much of a gamble. “I’ve been 100% for three or four weeks,” Bell said after the game. “I’m ready to play. But I can’t be bitter. Bitter is when you’re not being treated fairly, where somebody is trying to spite you. I’m happy where I’m at.” . . . Quarterback Jay Schroeder still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 21, but he did complete 16 of 23 passes Sunday for 164 yards with no interceptions. Instead of trying to throw long, Schroeder opted for a short-passing game to Willie Gault, who had nine catches for 99 yards.
DYNAMIC DASH: The Raiders’ Bo Jackson, who turned 28 Friday, broke off a 62-yard touchdown run that he might remember into old age. C13