LOS ANGELES -- The new Jay Schroeder turned out to be just like the old Jay Schroeder.
Noted for struggling early in the game and then pulling it out late with a big throw when he was with the Washington Redskins, Schroeder did it again yesterday to give the Los Angeles Raiders their first playoff victory in five years.
With the score 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Schroeder, who completed only four passes in the first half and 11 in the game, made the two key throws that led the Raiders to a 20-10 divisional playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals before 92,045 fans in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Schroeder completed a 26-yard pass to Tim Brown on a third-and-20 play from the Raiders' 32 to keep the winning drive alive. Four plays later, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Horton to win the game.
The Raiders will play the Buffalo Bills in the American Football Conference title game Sunday in a rematch of an Oct. 7 game the Bills won, 38-24. It'll be the Raiders' 12th appearance in the game.
Don't remind Al Davis, the team owner who likes to talk about the "greatness of the Raiders," that they're 4-7 in the first 11.
The Raiders don't rely on Schroeder to carry them with the pass the way the Redskins did. Bo Jackson ran for 77 yards in six plays before retiring early in the third period, and Marcus Allen ran for 140 in 21 carries.
But the Raiders had seen Schroeder do what he did yesterday -- against them.
In the second game of the 1986 season, he unloaded a long pass to Clint Didier in the fourth period to help the Redskins rally from a 6-3 deficit and beat the Raiders, 10-6.
"I remember that," Schroeder said. "Clint Didier went down the sidelines. That was the big play. Any time you can hang in there, hang in there, you have to believe that sooner or later you're going to make the big play."
The Bengals hung in there most of the game.
Playing without two ailing offensive linemen, Anthony Munoz and Bruce Reimers, with quarterback Boomer Esiason fighting the flu and running back James Brooks playing with a broken thumb, the underdog Bengals tied the game, 10-10, in the fourth period on an 8-yard pass pass from Esiason to Stanford Jennings.
Bengals coach Sam Wyche said: "We had couple of real smart writers in our town who said we were faking our injuries and we didn't have people hurt. It just shows their ignorance."
The Raiders were the ones who said they weren't buying the Bengals' injury reports. They remembered the Bengals said Esiason probably wouldn't play against them in a regular-season game because of a groin injury, but he started.
Wyche was right about one thing, though.
"We had a bunch of guys banged up, some couldn't play, but we saddled it up with what we had and played the Raiders, a championship football team, a whale of a game," Wyche said.
Wyche said the game turned on two plays -- Schroeder's pass to Brown and Greg Townsend's sack of Esiason for a 15-yard loss on the next drive.
That was Townsend's third sack and forced the Bengals to punt. The Raiders then put together a five-minute drive climaxed by Jeff Jaeger's 25-yard field goal that wrapped it up.
It was Schroeder's third playoff victory and his first since he guided the Redskins over the Chicago Bears in 1986, when the Bears were defending league champions.
"I still remember," Schroeder said. "It's a lot of fun. Those feelings come back in a hurry. This is where you want to be. There's nothing better than playing in the playoffs and then coming out and winning the game."
Schroeder would like to forget the NFC title game in Giants Stadium the next week, when the Redskins were shut out, 17-0.
He now starts in both the NFC and AFC title game in a four-year span, a feat last turned in by Earl Morrall, who started for the Baltimore Colts in the 1968 NFL title game and for the Miami Dolphins in the 1972 AFC title game. Morrall's teams won both games, although he was pulled in the 1972 game for Bob Griese at halftime.
Schroeder said it's easier being a quarterback in Los Angeles than Washington.
"It's more normal, because this isn't the only game in town," he said. "I felt when I was back in Washington, even though they have the Capitals and the Bullets, the Redskins were basically the only game in town. The whole place stopped when the Redskins game was on.
"There's a lot of things going on here in L.A. There's a lot of people with a lot of different interests. Having been on both sides, it's great to have everybody behind you in Washington, but, also, it's a little bit more relaxed here. There's not as much [pressure] on."
He was traded to the Raiders at the start of the 1988 season after he lost the starting job to Doug Williams, a demotion he didn't take well.
When Schroeder was asked if he had changed, he said: "I don't think I'm anything different. That's hard to say compared to what people wrote about me a long time ago. That really doesn't matter. All I know is I have an opportunity to play football. When I was back there, we were going to drop back and throw it. That was just the philosophy. Here, it's a little different. You just adjust to what's going on. I've been very fortunate to play on two very good teams."
Schroeder was savoring yesterday's victory.
"It's sweet any time you win a playoff game," he said. "There's some guys who go their whole careers and don't get a chance to play in the playoffs. I just look forward to another opportunity."
He'll get it Sunday in Buffalo.