Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan, the outsider who was fired after 20 games for failing to deliver Raider-like football, embarrassed Al Davis' team Monday night by inducing Oakland to revert to recent-year form.
The Raiders, who had courted respectability by cutting down on penalties while stomping opponents with the league's leading offense, were buried under an avalanche of penalties and botched plays in a 27-0 loss to the Denver Broncos before 75,491 in Mile High Stadium.
"This one was special for Mike," said John Elway, Denver quarterback. "That's why the team gave him the game ball."
The Raiders (5-2) were shut out for only the 11th time in franchise history--the second time by Denver (the first was in 1981). The Broncos (4-3) climbed back into the AFC West Division race.
"To be honest with you it's a little special, obviously, with my situation there before," said Shanahan, who was 8-12 as Raider coach in 1988 and four games into 1989. "But it wasn't me against Al Davis. It was our football team against the Raiders."
And it was no contest. Davis is 0-2 this season against former head coaches, Shanahan and Art Shell.
"Being a head coach for Al Davis is like being an actor and trying to make it in New York," said Broderick Thompson, Denver offensive tackle. "If you don't make it right away, it's a struggle.
"Remember, the guy was like 35 when Al Davis hired him. He's got some time under his belt now, and this guy is so focused, he's probably already thinking five games down the road. It's that kind of focus--that move forward--that lifts this whole team. Forget about the past."
The Raiders had defeated Denver in 11 of their last 12 meetings, and a year ago, after the Raiders had trashed the Broncos, 48-16, fans in the South Stands were heaping garbage on coach Wade Phillips and chanting, "Wade must go."
Owner Pat Bowlen, who listened to the cry, pounced on Shanahan, who had been calling the plays for San Francisco in Super Bowl XXVI. Shanahan's 49ers thrashed the Raiders, 44-14, to open the 1994 season, and during his tenure as offensive coordinator for the Broncos in the mid-'80s, Denver had a 6-2 advantage on Davis' team.
"The secret to beating a good team is playing as a team for 60 minutes," Shanahan said. "Obviously the players deserve all the credit for this. They stayed right there with the Raiders throughout the game."
The Raiders, who had scored 129 points in dominating their last three opponents, were limited to 169 yards of offense.
"We felt we were ready for today's game," said Mike White, Raider coach. "We had some turnovers, which is uncharacteristic for us. I saw us dropping passes, and we were not a smooth functioning team. We'll have to work hard to regain our composure.
"We were challenged with our first good game, and we didn't react well to it."
From the outset it was ugly, yellow-hanky football, the kind of football the Raiders took pride in while winning in Oakland and losing in Los Angeles. The hiring of White and the emphasis on collecting fewer penalties, while running past opponents with a San Francisco-like offense, had worked until Denver's defense made like the Raiders of old.
Oakland absorbed nine penalties, lost two fumbles and had two passes intercepted. Starting quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who was 14 for 31 for 111 yards with one interception, left the game in the second half because of a throat injury. Starting tackle Greg Skrepenak was knocked out with a knee injury, and cornerback Albert Lewis left with a thigh injury.
Lewis' backups, Najee Mustafaa and James Trapp, were quickly targeted by the Broncos. Elway, who completed 23 of 46 passes for 324 yards, repeatedly sent wide receiver Anthony Miller racing toward Mustafaa and Trapp.
Miller, a disappointment this season because of muscle injuries that have kept him from practicing consistently, caught seven passes for 149 yards, including touchdown catches of 33 and 36 yards.
"We caught them off balance," Miller said. "We didn't think it would be a game like this--it's just unbelievable."