Raider running back Bo Jackson has a new hero.
“Barry Sanders is my new idol,” Jackson said. “I love the way the guy runs. When I grow up, I want to be just like him.”
Although Sanders outran Jackson in the battle of former Heisman winners Monday night, the Raiders neutralized Sanders in the second half and rallied for a 38-31 victory at the Silverdome.
With Eric Dickerson, the NFL’s best running back of the 1980s, watching from the sidelines, Sanders and Jackson, who perhaps will be the best runners of the 1990s, ran wild.
“They were great tonight,” Dickerson said of Sanders and Jackson. “Me being a running back, I like to watch other running backs play. It was quite a show for both players.”
Dickerson said Sanders’ quickness helps him elude defenders.
“He’s quick and he’s very, very strong,” Dickerson said. “That’s what makes him great.”
Asked to assess Jackson, Dickerson said: “He doesn’t move laterally as well as Barry does, but he has great moves and that’s what makes him great. They’re different type runners, but they’re both great runners.”
Sanders rushed for a season-high 176 yards in 25 carries, only eight yards shy of his career high, and scored two touchdowns on runs of 35 and five yards.
Despite sharing time with Marcus Allen, Jackson rushed for 129 yards in 18 carries, including a 55-yard touchdown run. Jackson had 113 yards in 13 carries in the first half.
“Of the four Heisman winners in the game (Tim Brown, Allen, Sanders and Jackson) we all scored, but Barry had to go and show off because he scored twice,” Jackson said.
Jackson and Sanders talked as they walked off the field.
“I just told him he’s like a little water bug out there,” Jackson said. “I told him to keep his head up because good things are going to happen down the road to him and the Lions. They’re the best 4-9 team we’ve faced.”
A fan hung a banner from the Silverdome railing that read: “Barry Rules.”
The assessment was correct as Sanders rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to stake the Lions to a 24-21 lead at intermission.
Sanders had an edge against the Raider defense, which employed only three down linemen on first down. Running against a defense that included three linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs, Sanders put the run in the Lions’ run-and-shoot offense.
“I’d like to see Barry Sanders in a Rams’ type of offense,” Raider defensive end Howie Long said. “The guy might rewrite every NFL record if he stays healthy.
“He’s not tough to bring down if you hit him. But he’s hard to get a hit on. The only time you’re really going to get a clean hit on him is from behind or from the side when he’s (faking) two or three guys out.”
Sanders, the NFL’s leading rusher with 905 yards entering the game, gained 22 yards on a delay with four minutes left in the second quarter. Sanders had compiled 1,027 yards this season by the end of the first half. He had 1,081 yards by the end of the game.
Sanders credited his offensive line.
“We just blocked well,” Sanders said. “We were really geared up for the game and our guys created a lot of holes and that was probably the underlying factor in my success.”
Sanders outran safety Eddie Anderson on a 35-yard touchdown run on his second carry of the game. Although Anderson had a chance to tackle Sanders at the 18, Sanders spun around Anderson and raced into the end zone.
“I had him, but Terry (McDaniel) came over and knocked me off him,” Anderson said. “He’s a great back, but I think I would have gotten him if Terry hadn’t knocked me off him.
“I think Sanders is one of the best I’ve faced. He’s powerful and cuts so fast that he’s hard to catch.”
What adjustments did the Raiders make to stop Sanders in the second half?
“We settled down and understood what they were trying to do,” Raider Coach Art Shell said. “We started closing lanes down to keep him from hitting the cracks. We just did a better job in the second half.”