Instead of confusion, Gruden saw anger.
With Gannon and Tim Brown leading the way, the Raiders returned
all of the Denver Broncos' best shots on Monday night, beating
their archrivals 38-28 in a victory that affirmed the westward
shift of power in the AFC West.
In a testy game featuring plenty of the late hits, hard blows
and questionable sportsmanship that always crops up when these
teams get together, the Raiders ended a seven-game losing streak
against the team that ruled their division for several years.
"It wasn't our Super Bowl tonight," Gruden said. "At the same
time, we wanted to win badly."
Oakland (6-1) won the division last season but lost twice to
Denver. Altogether, the Raiders dropped 11 of 12 meetings with the
Broncos and coach Mike Shanahan, who has taken extra pleasure in
repeatedly beating the team that fired him more than a decade ago.
Gruden, snarling and screaming on the sideline, got his first
victory over Denver (4-4) with a game plan that relied on his
resilient quarterback's communication with Brown. The veteran
receiver, who was around for all of the Raiders' failures in the
rivalry, had two touchdowns among his nine catches for 95 yards.
When Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy hit Gannon as he dived out of
bounds in the second quarter, the Raiders were worried Gannon had a
concussion. But Gruden gave Gannon a pop quiz -- naming the three
potential audibles in one of the Raiders' offensive sets -- and got
the answers he wanted.
After Oakland scored and got the ball back, Gannon went back in
the game to complete six straight passes on another scoring drive.
"I think he got hit in the head, and he got mad," Gruden said.
"Some guys are like that. It shakes them into another zone."
With the Raider Nation roaring its approval in a packed Coliseum
for the first time in more than four weeks, Oakland won its fifth
straight to match St. Louis and Chicago for the NFL's best record.
"We've had some success against this team in the past, and they
take it personally," Denver running back Terrell Davis said. "I'm
sure they circled this game on their calendar. We've been a thorn
in their side."
Zack Crockett rushed for two scores, including a 3-yard plunge
with 7:06 to play, while Rice caught three key passes for 47 yards.
Gannon was 25-for-34 for 243 yards and three TDs.
"I thought we really had a good plan," Gannon said. "Jon's
approach was excellent. We got into a real rhythm on offense."
The bad feelings between the franchises trickled down to the
field on Monday night. Kennedy and Oakland's Greg Biekert delivered
hard hits on the borderline of legality, while Denver's Bill
Romanowski and Oakland's William Thomas got personal fouls for
The Broncos couldn't capitalize on the running of Davis, who
looked sharp in his return to Denver's lineup after missing six
games following knee surgery. Davis had 70 yards rushing on 17
attempts, and Rod Smith caught 10 passes for 91 yards and two TDs.
Brian Griese shrugged off his balky shoulder to go 22-for-32 for
221 yards, but he threw two fourth-quarter interceptions that
helped Oakland clinch the win.
"I felt like we had to score every time we got the ball to win
this game," Griese said. "We're doing it with smoke and mirrors
right now, because that's all we really have right now."
Oakland opened the game with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended
on Brown's 11-yard TD catch. The Raiders scored two more times --
the second on Jon Ritchie's 4-yard TD catch 1:10 before halftime --
to stretch the lead.
Denver kept it close in the second half on TD receptions by
Smith and Desmond Clark. A 2-point conversion after Clark's catch
cut the lead to 28-20 with 10:41 left.
But after Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal,
Thomas intercepted Griese's first pass on the next drive, returning
it 33 yards to the 3. Crockett bulled into the end zone on the next
Gus Frerotte replaced Griese and drove the Broncos to one last
score on a 26-yard pass to Smith.
Brown passed Don Maynard for fifth place on the NFL's
career list with 89 touchdown catches. ... In the first half,
Oakland's defense held the Broncos to two early field goals by
Jason Elam, who became the 30th player in NFL history to score
1,000 points. ... Oakland CB Charles Woodson didn't play much in
the second half when his turf toe flared up. Gruden didn't expect
him to return at all, but Woodson played in the Raiders' nickel