Jaeger's FG gets Raiders to playoffs

January 03, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- It was 4:36 yesterday afternoon at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It is normally a time when the Los Angeles Raiders, win or lose, have finished playing for the day and a calm has settled over the empty seats.

But not this Sunday.

Every seat was still filled, it was anything but calm and the Raiders were still out there, fighting to find new life in the postseason by beating the Denver Broncos.

Every eye in the Coliseum was on Jeff Jaeger, who already had kicked three field goals yesterday and a team-record 34 this season, who already had beaten the Broncos once this season with a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds and now was preparing to do the same again from 47 yards away.

It was so quiet in the Coliseum, you could almost hear the Broncos' hearts drop. Jaeger connected, getting his full foot into a ball that sailed smoothly between the uprights, enabling the Raiders to rise again and return to the playoffs after missing out last season.

Even before Jaeger's kick had bounced off the protective screen, the noise returned, the noise of celebration, as Jaeger disappeared in a sea of silver and black.

With an improbable, 33-30 victory before a sellout crowd of 66,904, the Raiders (10-6) not only won a playoff spot, but also the right to play host to their first game. They again will face the Broncos (9-7) next Sunday at the Coliseum in a first-round, wild-card game.

In the locker room afterward, many of the Raiders exuded confidence. They had appeared out of it so many times this season and so many times yesterday alone, but they seemed to feel nothing would stop them from beating Denver.

The Raiders forced the overtime by scoring a touchdown on the final play of the fourth quarter, capping a 17-point comeback.

"There were a lot of great comebacks in the Raiders' history, and I was involved in a lot of them as a player," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "This has to stack up there with a lot of those great victories."

Jaeger had kicked his third field goal with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter to cut Denver's lead to 30-23.

Then came a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Hostetler to Alexander Wright as time ran out in regulation. There were eight seconds left before Hostetler found Wright.

"I got great protection," said Hostetler, who looked in several different directions before finding Wright. "He came back out of a cut, and I hit him. The thing I like is nobody panicked."

The Raiders survived despite a victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the day. Had the Steelers lost, the Raiders automatically would have qualified for the playoffs.

The Raiders also survived injuries earlier in the game to receiver/kick returner Rocket Ismail, running back Randy Jordan and defensive lineman Nolan Harrison. Only Harrison returned.

Then the Broncos won the coin toss in overtime, and the Raiders had to survive an opportunity for a game-winning field goal by the Broncos' Jason Elam. But Elam was wide left was 40 yards out.

"Today, we busted it, we left everything on the field," Raiders safety Eddie Anderson said. "I just hate to think we must come right back and do it again. They are tough, here or in Denver."

"Jaeger seems to be our nemesis, obviously," Broncos coach Wade Phillips said. "We know we can beat anybody, and I think we have showed it. I know we can beat this team."

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