For Raiders, no offense no clue, either

Week 11 in review

November 11, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

In the wake of their season-long defensive stupor, the Oakland Raiders last week denied a report that defensive coordinator Fred Whittingham was about to be fired.

This week, it could be offensive coordinator Ray Perkins' turn on the hot seat.

That's because, on losing teams, there's always a lot of blame to go around. And because, in so many words, Oakland quarterback Jeff George said the Raiders were out-coached in an abysmal, 13-10 loss to the near-destitute New Orleans Saints.

"We didn't have a clue how to attack their defense," George told reporters after the biggest upset of Week 11. "In the huddle, I was asking Timmy [Brown] and the other guys what would work.

"We lined up and they [the Saints] knew what we were doing. It wasn't hard to defend us."

George clearly second-guessed a game plan that focused on running back Napoleon Kaufman, who got the ball on first down in six of the team's first eight drives.

"We came into the week saying we were going to pound the ball," George said. "When that didn't work, we didn't have any ammunition to attack them."

Kaufman didn't seem thrilled with the execution of the game plan himself. He gained 896 yards through the first eight games of the season, but in the past two weeks has gained 30 -- including 14 yards on 15 carries Sunday. Kaufman said the Raiders didn't know whom to block when New Orleans put eight defenders near the line of scrimmage.

Said coach Joe Bugel: "We're seeing a lot of dogging and blitzing lately. The passing game has to bail you out."

George, who signed a five-year contract worth $27.5 million in the off-season, was hardly up to the task. He completed 11 of his last 32 throws (and 17 of 39 overall).

With the game on the line at the end, George pressed Bugel to make a no-huddle call on fourth-and-eight at the Oakland 46 -- then was intercepted on an underthrown pass intended for Brown.

At 3-7, the underachieving Raiders are staring at their fourth consecutive non-playoff season -- and a lot more unhappiness before it's over.

Going coast to coast

This was another big week for special teams heroics in the NFL.

Three touchdown returns on punts or kickoffs -- two by the Denver Broncos' Darrien Gordon -- helped raise to 23 the number of special teams touchdowns scored in the league through the first 12 weeks of the season. There were 18 special teams touchdowns after 12 weeks a year ago.

In the past two weeks alone, there were eight touchdowns scored by special teams.

A week ago, the San Diego Chargers' Eric Metcalf returned two punts for touchdowns. On Sunday, Gordon matched that in the first quarter, going 82 and 75 yards against the Carolina Panthers -- untouched both times. Vai Sikahema and Jack Christiansen are the only other players in NFL history who've returned two punts for touchdowns in the same quarter. Altogether, Gordon totaled 168 yards for five punt returns.

His run to daylight will cost him some cash, though. Gordon promised his blockers $100 apiece if he scored a touchdown on a return. That's a $2,000 hit -- a small price for a piece of history.

Gordon, a cornerback who signed as a free agent with Denver this year, has scored four touchdowns this season, three on punt returns and one on an interception.

The other two special teams touchdowns on Sunday belonged to the New England Patriots' Derrick Cullors, a Ravens castoff in 1996 who returned a kickoff 86 yards against the Buffalo Bills, and San Diego's Greg Jackson, who returned a fumbled punt 41 yards against the Seattle Seahawks.

Best and worst

Best fire drill: No one does the two-minute drill like the master, Dan Marino, who took the Dolphins 77 yards in 91 seconds before halftime to a go-ahead touchdown against the Jets. His smooth-as-silk, 23-yard pass to Brett Perriman deep in the end zone was just over the reach of cornerback Otis Smith. And Marino still had 5 seconds on the clock.

Worst call: Same game, fourth quarter, Jets driving for potential tying touchdown. New York quarterback Glenn Foley seemingly completed a fourth-down pass to Wayne Chrebet, who lost the ball only after he hit the ground and stretched to ensure the first down. Back judge Tom Sifferman, perhaps watching another game, ruled incomplete. And the Jets voted against instant replay last March.

Worst fall: A week ago, Carolina running back Fred Lane was a rookie sensational after rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns in a big win. This week, he's just another guy after gaining 18 yards on eight carries and fumbling at the Denver 10 in a 34-0 rout by the Broncos.

This week's Bears fiasco: Whatever slim chance the Bears had of catching the Vikings in the waning moments of a 29-22 game, undrafted receiver Fabien Bownes snuffed it. Cut twice by the Bears, Bownes took a fourth-down pass from Erik Kramer and willingly ran out of bounds at the Chicago 15 -- 2 two yards shy of the first down.

Worst loss: Does it get any worse than the Raiders' humiliating 13-10 loss to the Saints?

Best candidate to replace Joe Bugel as Raiders coach: George Seifert, rushed into unemployment by the 49ers this year, has two Super Bowl wins on his resume, if Al Davis is paying attention. And it's not a long-distance call.

Belated good-guy award: And everybody thought Buddy Ryan was an oaf. Turns out he protected wide receiver Cris Carter, a drug and alcohol abuser under Ryan in Philadelphia, by not making the problem public when he cut him in 1990. Ryan was heavily criticized for cutting Carter, who had 19 touchdown catches with the Eagles.

Pub Date: 11/11/97

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