After another wrenching loss, Raiders need to find new credo

Week 4 In Review

September 23, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Once, the Oakland Raiders had a commitment to excellence. Now they've got a stranglehold on agonizing defeat.

They did it again Sunday, losing in unfathomable fashion to the New York Jets. This time it was a blocked field-goal attempt that was returned 72 yards for the winning touchdown.

That kick was one of five that went awry for the Raiders' Cole Ford in a numbing, 23-22 loss at the Meadowlands. In order of misses, Ford was wide left on a 44-yard field-goal try, wide right on an extra point, wide left on a 27-yarder, blocked from 35 yards, and wide left on a 47-yard kick for the go-ahead points with 3: 34 left.

In between all that scatter-shooting, he hit a 43-yard field goal and one extra point. It wasn't all his fault, though. When rookie Adam Treu wasn't short-hopping his snaps, holder Leo Araguz mishandled them. On the fateful block early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders achieved a rare trifecta of botched kicks: the snap was on the ground, the hold was clumsy and the kick was low.

The collapse of their kicking game was simply another innovative way for the Raiders to lose. They lost a 24-21 overtime decision in Tennessee this year when their rebuilt defense was shredded for 216 rushing yards by Eddie George. A week later, they lost a 28-27 thriller to the Kansas City Chiefs after a bad interception thrown by quarterback Jeff George and a last-play touchdown catch by Andre Rison.

Sunday's loss was their eighth straight in games decided by three points or less. It was more difficult to swallow because the Raiders amassed 468 yards in total offense, had only four penalties and led at halftime, 22-10.

Suddenly, a season that started with such promise -- the addition of George and kick returner Desmond Howard sparked Super Bowl talk -- has disintegrated into a 1-3 mess. Now all they can do, to paraphrase owner Al Davis, is just lose, baby.

Role reversal in Carolina

The Raiders aren't the only team in shock therapy this week. Look at what's happened to the Carolina Panthers.

A year ago, they had a dominant defense, went 9-0 at Ericsson Stadium and earned a berth in the NFC championship game.

This year, they're 0-2 at home, can't stop the run and have trouble moving the ball. They gave up 35 points in a blowout loss to the Chiefs this week, the most they've given up in their three-year existence. That included 21 points in the second half; a year ago, the Panthers allowed a total of 13 second-half points at home all season.

To make matters worse, quarterback Kerry Collins, playing in his second game since returning from a fractured jaw, committed five turnovers.

"Guys are on the field talking about, 'Let's build on something,' " said linebacker Lamar Lathon. "I'm like, 'Build on what? We're getting our butts kicked.' "

It could become a trend. The San Francisco 49ers are at Ericsson next Monday night, and they haven't forgotten their two losses to Carolina last year. For all the speculation that quarterback Dan Marino might get benched in Miami, the Dolphins appear to be leaning on him more and more this season -- just like the old days under Don Shula.

Coach Jimmy Johnson has all but abandoned the running game he endorsed so solidly a year ago. In a 31-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs Sunday, the Dolphins ran the ball 17 times and threw it 37. Part of that, of course, was having to come from behind the whole game. But the run has been non-existent in Miami.

Johnson's featured back, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, is averaging 2.7 yards a carry on 63 carries, and hasn't rushed for more than 50 yards this season. A year ago, he gained 1,116 yards.

Audibles

Ki-Jana Carter ended Cincinnati's string of 67 games without a 100-yard rusher when he gained 104 against Denver, including a 79-yard TD run. The last Bengal to gain 100 was Harold Green on Dec. 20, 1992. Cincinnati and Denver combined for 417 rushing yards and 344 net passing yards. The Minnesota Vikings had scoring drives of 80, 82 and 90 yards against the Green Bay defense, which used injured tackle Gilbert Brown only sparingly. 49ers quarterback Steve Young is 35-for-45 (77.8 percent) for 556 yards, five TDs and no picks since returning from his third concussion in 10 months. San Diego's offense had the ball inside Seattle's 25-yard line six times, but didn't reach the end zone once in a 26-22 loss. In the last three weeks, Vikings receiver Jake Reed has 27 catches for 368 yards and three touchdowns.

Best and worst

Coach of the quarter-season: Is there any doubt? Tony Dungy's 4-0 Bucs are for real. They proved that with a 31-21 rout of Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins.

Second place: Ravens' Ted Marchibroda. Three wins is three wins, no matter who they're against.

Player of the quarter-season: Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who leads the league in rushing with 526 yards, including 215 on Sunday. Davis is averaging 131.5 yards a game and 5.5 a carry.

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