One week after a 10-point, 16-punt game was hailed by some as the greatest game in Monday night memory, the Raiders and Detroit Lions redefined the terms at the Silverdome, running and shooting their way into households with an offensive display that can best be described in degrees of bedlam and havoc.
It was Barry and Bo and a whole lot more, but in the end, it was the Raiders who barely escaped a Mouse Davis trap and fled the scene with a 38-31 victory over the Lions before 72,190.
The Raiders said all along that they didn’t like the run-and-shoot offense. Now you know why. The Lions scored on their first five possessions and threatened to run away with the game as fast as Barry Sanders could fly, but enough dignity was restored in the second half to cool Detroit’s wheels and get out of town at 9-4.
The teams needed cooling after the first quarter, during which the Raiders and Lions combined for 35 points--the second-highest total in NFL history. They surpassed the final point total to last week’s “classic” between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers with 12:25 left . . . in the first quarter.
“I thought there were going to be 100 points scored,” Raider Coach Art Shell said later.
Sure, the Raiders made some adjustments to control the Sanders-and-shoot in the second half. Sanders had 122 yards in 16 carries in two quarters. The Lions were leading, 24-21. Who wouldn’t adjust?
But the Raiders proved the best defense against the Lions is a conventional, time-consuming offense. The Raiders open the second half with a 67-yard drive that took 6:40. They took the lead for good with 8:11 left in the quarter on a 10-yard scoring pass from Jay Schroeder to Mervyn Fernandez.
On defense, the Raiders added rookie linebacker Aaron Wallace to a defensive mix that had not been mixing up the Lions previously.
“In the first half, they mainly played with two linebackers, and played more with six defensive backs,” Detroit quarterback Rodney Peete said. “They changed it up.”
Wallace sacked Peete on second down. Linebacker Jerry Robinson sacked Peete on third down.
On their next drive, the Raiders moved patiently again from the Detroit 49. Schroeder found Willie Gault for 18 yards on third and 13. From the 31, Bo Jackson raced 21 yards around the right side to the 10. On third and goal at the three, Schroeder threw left for Tim Brown, who made a spinning, one-handed catch for touchdown to put the Raiders ahead, 35-24, with 1:51 to play in the quarter.
The Raiders took a deep breath, but the Lions snatched it back from them. Things were going well until Schroeder’s pass was intercepted by Victor Jones near midfield with 12:34 left. Sanders broke loose for runs of 13, 12, seven, and five yards. Before you knew it, Peete had scrambled six yards for a touchdown with 8:36 left. The Raider lead was cut to four.
But the Raiders couldn’t launch another drive. Marcus Allen gained 12 yards on a third-down reception. He needed 13. The Raiders punted it back. The crowd began chanting, “Barry, Barry,” before Sanders stuck his head in the huddle with his team at the 39 and 6:08 remaining. An eternity.
But soon first and 10 became third and 10, and Peete scrambled upfield and seemed a cinch for the first down--until cornerback Garry Lewis crushed him two yards short with a great open-field tackle.
The Lions sent on their punt team. The crowd booed. Lion Coach Wayne Fontes sized up his future and called time out. The Lions changed their minds and sent the offense back in. Fourth and two at their 47, with 4:30 left.
“If we punted, and got the ball back, we’d still need a touchdown,” Fontes explained. “We needed a TD. A field goal can’t win. I’d make the call again.”
Peete, the former USC star, broke across midfield on a scramble for an apparent first down, but defensive end Greg Townsend stripped the ball from behind. It bounded backward in a chaotic scene that saw tackle Harvey Salem try to swipe at the ball while flat on his back. It wasn’t a first down anymore. The Raiders had survived. From the Detroit 39, they drove deep enough to escape with the cushion of a 37-yard field goal by Jeff Jaeger.
At that point, there was no life left in the run-and-shoot. The Lions took over at their 20 with 1:49 to play needing a touchdown to tie, but never escaped the shadow of their goal posts.
The Lions dropped to 4-9 with the loss. But no one was calling them boring afterward.
In the battle of the backs, Sanders finished with 176 yards in 25 carries, but was held to 54 after intermission. Jackson finished with 129 yards in 18 carries and appears to be pushing Allen out of the Raider backfield.
Allen started the game, but Jackson took the first run from scrimmage, not Allen. Allen finished with 18 yards in seven carries. Shell abandoned his usual tailback rotation.
“I just have a feeling,” Shell said. “Give me Bo here, give me Marcus there. A lot of people think I have a master plan for this, but I don’t. I just go with the hot guy.”
The second half was a snooze compared to the first.
It was this kind of half:
The Lions didn’t punt until the two-minute warning. They needed six plays to score their first two touchdowns, on Sanders’ runs of 35 and five yards. The Raiders needed a fish net to control Sanders. Mel Gray’s first two kickoffs returns for Detroit went for 49 and 41 yards, both leading to touchdowns. On kickoff No. 3, the Raiders booted the ball out of bounds.
Back and forth it went. The Lions needed two minutes to go ahead, 7-0. The Raiders needed 15 seconds to tie it. On their first play from scrimmage, Jay Schroeder completed a 68-yard scoring pass play to Gault. Gault made the catch and skidded to the ground because of forward momentum. It appeared safety Bennie Blades had made contact with Gault at the 18, but Gault didn’t think so. He got up off the rug and ran in for a touchdown. After an instant replay review, the play stood.
The Lions needed two plays to score again, with Peete setting up Sanders’ run with a 51-yard strike to Jeff Campbell to the Raider five.
What was wrong with this picture? The Lions led, 14-7, before Jackson touched the ball. No one upstages Bo. He finished the half with 73 yards in six carries and cut the lead to 24-21 on a 55-yard dash run around left end.
Mistakes? They made a few. In the first quarter, Raider corner Terry McDaniel intercepted a pass from Peete and returned it 15 yards to the Detroit six. Two plays later, Allen scored on a two-yard run to make it 14-14. Peete had a seven-yard scoring pass of his own in the half. Kicker Eddie Murray had a 47-yard field goal.
The half was a game in itself. It even included two touchdowns that were reviewed by instant replay and upheld after the usual delays and further reviews. The passes kept coming, the whistles kept blowing. Sanders kept running, the Raiders kept missing.
Other than that, it was three yards and a cloud of dust.
The Raiders activated tight end Rich Bartlewski from their practice squad for Monday night’s game, releasing receiver Keith McDonald. . . . Quarterback Steve Beuerlein and tackle James FitzPatrick were not activated for the game. . . . With his 11-yard reception in the first quarter, Marcus Allen became the first running back in AFC history to record 400 catches. Five NFC backs have accomplished the feat.
Jay Schroeder’s 68-yard scoring pass play to Willie Gault in the first quarter was his first since Oct. 21, covering a span of 20 quarters. . . . With a 22-yard run in the second quarter, Barry Sanders surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season. . . . Schroeder completed 12 of 19 passes for 195 yards. He threw for three touchdowns and had two passes intercepted.