League MVP Rich Gannon and the Raiders showed why this season
might be different from all the others since 1983 with a 30-10
playoff rout Sunday. They knew the surest road to the AFC
championship game was to stay at home and avoid tuck rules and
snowy night games in New England.
Now they get Tennessee, whom they beat 52-25 at home in
September, back at the Network Associates Coliseum for a shot at the Super
Bowl. The Raiders have not been to the big game since winning it
against Washington in 1984.
"These chances are very rare,'' veteran All-Pro safety Rod
Woodson said. "I think we are a mature team that understands what
we have here.''
What they have is the opportunity to re-establish their
"Commitment to Excellence.''
That chance has been there before -- two years ago, when they
lost at home to Baltimore for the conference title, and last
season, when Tom Brady and the controversial tuck rule did them in
at New England.
Porter caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and set up Rice's 9-yard
score with a 50-yard reception as the Raiders (12-5) made it a
clean sweep for the home teams this weekend. Gannon began going
downfield in the second half after a 10-10 tie, and it paid off.
"We didn't throw the ball deep a lot this year, so it was
exciting we were able to do some of that,'' Brown said. "At
halftime, the coaches said we were going to do what we do best, and
that's to throw.''
The Jets had the most efficient thrower in the league, Chad Pennington, but he had a miserable day. Pennington, in his first
season as a starter, had a 104.2 rating. But against Oakland he was
21-of-47 for 183 yards and a 44.9 rating.
"There's a saying that as the quarterback goes, so does the
team. I didn't go today,'' said Pennington, who threw two
interceptions -- as many as he had in the last 10 games combined --
and lost two fumbles. "I was struggling all day long. I don't know
why. It's one of those things I have to learn from, and have a
The Raiders, winners of eight of their last nine games, got
pickoffs from Tory James and Eric Barton in the second half. They
also recovered the two fumbles by Pennington in earning their
second trip to the AFC title game in three years. In the 2000
season, they lost at home to Baltimore 16-3 for the conference
"We suffered a big letdown my rookie year in the AFC
championship when Baltimore came in here,'' Porter said.
Their most painful loss came at the Patriots last January in the
infamous tuck-rule game when an apparent late fumble by quarterback
Tom Brady was later ruled an incomplete pass. New England, of
course, went on to win the Super Bowl.
Now, the Raiders think it is their turn.
"These opportunities are few and far between,'' said Gannon,
who finished 20-of-30 for 283 yards. "I am trying to seize the
moment, seize the opportunity. Of course, three other teams are
trying to do the same thing.''
Rice's catch was his 21st postseason touchdown, tying an NFL
record. The 40-year-old receiver also set a record for yards in the
playoffs with 2,133 in an 18-year career.
"I'm just happy to be playing football with a team that is very
hungry,'' Rice said.
Oakland's defense harassed the usually unflappable Pennington
and sacked him four times, twice by Rod Coleman. The Raiders beat
the Jets for the third time in four games at home in the last year.
After a strong first half, Pennington came undone, throwing
high, forcing passes and looking rattled.
"He was trying to do too much,'' Coleman said. "We were
coming, so he had to start forcing stuff.''
It was the second straight year the Raiders ended the Jets'
season here in a playoff game. These teams have had some of the
most memorable and bitter meetings in NFL history, but this game
was a lopsided Raiders celebration.
"I'm already over this one,'' Porter said. "Now, it's
The game was tied 10-10 at halftime. But after James' leaping
sideline interception at the Jets 45, Gannon went downfield. He hit
Brown for 16 yards, then found Porter streaking down the left
sideline against a zone defense. Porter caught the ball in stride
for a 29-yard touchdown.
Oakland stopped the Jets on a fourth-and-3 when wide receiver
Wayne Chrebet, who struggled all game, slipped on his pattern.
Gannon then connected with Porter over the middle for 50 yards. It
took three more plays for Gannon to hit Rice in the back of the end
Richie Anderson dropped a handoff despite not being hit on the
next series, with Pennington blamed for the fumble. But Damien
Robinson intercepted Gannon's next pass.
The Raiders returned the favor when Barton made a sideline
interception, setting up Sebastian Janikowski's 34-yard field goal.
Janikowski added a 31-yarder for the final score.
New York (10-8), which scored at least 30 points in each of its
last three games, got going early on Curtis Martin's 15-yard run
and a 20-yard pass-interference penalty against Charles Woodson.
John Hall's 38-yard field goal made it 3-0 about four minutes into
A motion penalty on fourth-and-inches at the New York 7 cost the
Raiders early, and they wound up with Janikowski's 29-yard field
goal to tie it.
Then the ball got slippery. As he scrambled, Pennington had it
knocked from his hands by Travian Smith, who recovered at the Jets
27. Two plays later, Charlie Garner bobbled a handoff, but guard
Frank Middleton fell on it when Jets defensive end John Abraham
failed to scoop up the loose ball.
It was Garner's first fumble in 387 touches, but it didn't hurt
his team. Moments later, Zack Crockett, Oakland's short-yardage
specialist, scored his 10th touchdown of the season, from the 1.
Although the Jets moved well on their next possession, they were
done in by more mistakes -- a holding penalty on a long run and a
dropped pass. Hall then missed wide right on a 49-yard field-goal
An impressive 81-yard, 7-minute drive on which Pennington was
8-of-9 for 51 yards, tied it with 22 seconds left in the half. He
converted four third downs with passes before hitting wide-open
Jerald Sowell in the flat for a 1-yard score.
Rice's 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter that gave him
2,133 postseason yards broke Thurman Thomas' NFL mark of 2,124.
Rice's 21st postseason touchdown tied him with Thomas and Emmitt
Smith. ... Janikowski missed a field goal wide left from 28 yards,
his shortest miss since failing from 27 on Oct. 20. ... The Raiders
qualified for their 14th AFC/AFL title game. They have won four.
... The Jets' nervousness showed early with two motion penalties
and two delay of games. ... Oakland kicked away from dangerous
return men Chad Morton and Santana Moss, although Morton had a late
49-yard kickoff return.
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