<
>

Raiders never relinquished early lead

12/15/2003

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- When NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis faced
the Oakland Raiders' patchwork defense, it was a terrible mismatch.

Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens were thoroughly beaten -- and they
also lost their edge in the playoff race.

Question on the Ravens: Given how they played the previous three weeks, are you surprised by this outcome?
I'm surprised because the Ravens have been solid on special teams, and against the Raiders both units failed them. The Ravens seemed to get carried away and maybe a little cocky and ended up throwing a game they needed to win. For the Ravens to win, they need all three units working in unison.

Question on the Raiders: Do you see Phillip Buchanon becoming an elite cornerback?
Though he's not nearly as consistent as I'm sure his coaches would like, Buchanon has the ability to be an elite cornerback. The key is that he seems to have a nose for big plays. If he becomes more consistent as a cornerback, he'll be at the elite level.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Jerry Rice caught his second touchdown pass of the season, and
the Raiders limited Lewis to 125 meaningless yards in a 20-12
victory Sunday, snapping Baltimore's three-game winning streak.

The loss knocked the Ravens (8-6) into a tie with Cincinnati
atop the AFC North after the Bengals' win over San Francisco.
Baltimore hasn't won on the road since Oct. 12, losing four
straight -- and the Ravens never got close enough to threaten the
Raiders, who showed remarkable pride against an opponent with much
more motivation.

"We're building for next year, trying to make sure this season
doesn't taste so bad," Oakland receiver Jerry Porter said. "They
didn't give our defense any credit at all. They gave us the ball in
pretty good situations where we almost had to go score."

Zack Crockett scored on a 1-yard plunge set up by Phillip
Buchanon's interception return on the Ravens' opening drive.
Oakland (4-10) never lost that lead while snapping its three-game
losing streak, though neither team was terribly impressive in a
game dominated by defense, penalties and mistakes.

And except for a handful of impressive runs, Lewis went nowhere.

"It's shocking," Lewis said. "They did a better job than we
thought they would, and we didn't make the plays we had to make. We
weren't aggressive enough. We couldn't finish our drives and
plays."

Though Lewis ran 24 times, he couldn't get in the end zone or
spark his teammates, who seemed to sleepwalk through long stretches
of the game.

The Ravens also struggled to establish their running game
against Oakland's injury-riddled defense. Odd play-calling didn't
help: On at least two key third downs in the first half, Baltimore
coach Brian Billick called unsuccessful passes in short-yardage
situations against one of the NFL's worst run defenses.

"They probably just tried to catch us off-guard," Raiders
cornerback Charles Woodson said. "You get a little fancy sometimes
and don't go with your bread and butter. We still had to stop them,
though."

Rice caught a 21-yard slant from Rick Mirer 1:20 before
halftime. It was Rice's 194th career TD, 64 more than Cris Carter
atop the NFL career list.

After struggling on offense for most of the first three
quarters, Baltimore pulled within 17-12 on Anthony Wright's 13-yard
pass to Todd Heap late in the third period. The Ravens mounted
another strong drive on their next possession, but Lewis and Wright
fumbled their exchange at the Oakland 27 with 10:54 to play.

The Raiders drove for Sebastian Janikowski's second field goal,
and Baltimore did nothing with its final two drives. With the ball
at their 21 and 1:40 to play, the Ravens managed three
incompletions, a sack and a penalty.

"We had several opportunities to win the game, but we made
costly mistakes," Billick said. "And we gave up the control card
for ourselves in the playoffs. We spotted them a touchdown right at
the start of the game, and played catch-up the rest of the game."

Throwing sidearm and regularly missing open receivers, Mirer was
16-of-35 for 186 yards in the Ravens' first visit to the Coliseum
in three years since Baltimore won the AFC championship game 16-3
on the way to its Super Bowl victory.

Wright had led the Ravens' surge into the playoff race, but he
was no better than Mirer, going 12-of-27 for 193 yards.

Buchanon made his sixth interception of the season on the
Ravens' third play of the game. He leaned over Frank Sanders to
make the catch, somehow kept his feet and returned it to the
Baltimore 1, where Crockett scored two seconds later.

After Baltimore kicked a field goal, Doug Gabriel returned the
kickoff 71 yards. Oakland couldn't move the ball, but Janikowski
kicked a field goal -- and the Raiders had a 10-3 lead with just 1
yard of offense.

Matt Stover's streak of 21 consecutive field goals for the
Ravens ended when his 50-yard attempt fell inches short of the
crossbar in the final seconds before halftime.

Game notes
Billick repeated his criticisms of the instant-replay
system after a call went against him on a 2-point conversion
attempt in the third. "A lot of money spent on a system that
doesn't work," Billick said. ... DT Dana Stubblefield didn't play
after leaving the Raiders on Saturday night to attend to personal
business.