PONTIAC, Mich. -- The Los Angeles Raiders, who share the patent on power football, will bear their souls tonight to a national audience (9 p.m., Ch. 13) when they tackle the Detroit Lions' mysterious run-and-shoot, a hybrid, high-scoring offense that has no place in a Raiders' glossary.
A loss to the strategic contraption of Mouse Davis' invention might set the Raiders' mystique back for years. Truth is, you can curse what the run-and-shoot has done to football, dismiss it as a passing fad, poke holes in its premise. But can you stop it?
The Raiders would sooner dress Steve Beuerlein for a game than acknowledge an offense with no tight ends and four, pint-sized receivers running like gnats to a night lamp. On the dinner plate of life, the Raiders are meat and potatoes; the Lions carrots and parsley.
But can the Raiders beat it? Thanksgiving Day, the Lions rolled up 421 yards in a 40-27 victory over the Denver Broncos, defending American Football Conference champions. Last week, the Raiders needed a blocked field goal with seconds remaining to beat the same Broncos.
TTC In the weeks before the Lions came up on the schedule, Raiders coach Art Shell said an offense like Detroit's could not win consistently. Shell's point might be reflected in the Lions' 4-8 record.
But for one game, the run-and-shoot can send shivers down your coverages. The Raiders were concerned enough to burn the midnight oil this week, thanking the schedule makers for allowing an extra day to prepare for the unknown.
"It remains to be seen whether you can win a Super Bowl with it," Shell said of the run-and-shoot. "But the guy [Davis] believes what he's doing, and you have to respect him for that."
As quarterbacks and receivers coach, Davis pulls the strings on the run-and-shoot. From a marketing standpoint, Lions coach Wayne Fontes maintains the franchise had nothing to lose by taking a gamble with the offense. Detroit has averaged 22.5 points this season and is on a pace for the second-highest point total in team history.
"In the past, the offense of the Lions has been very, very poor," Fontes said. "It was very unexciting, it wasn't generating points, it wasn't moving the ball. We took a look at what we had and thought this was the quickest way to open up the game, make it exciting, and have a chance to win."
What is surprising to some is how close the Lions have come to a winning record this season. Two of their losses have come in overtime. Last week, the Lions would have defeated the Chicago Bears if kicker Eddie Murray had not missed a 35-yard field goal in overtime. Two other Detroit losses were by three points.