Ranking doesn't rate high with Gruden

Oakland coach says unit much better than its stats

Ravens' pass offense vs. Raiders' pass defense

January 12, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - To judge the Oakland pass defense, don't look at the statistics - at least so says Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who insists the stats don't accurately portray how good his secondary is.

Gruden said people should look more at the overall team result - a 13-4 record, AFC West championship and a berth in the conference title game.

"We've played pretty good all year," Gruden said. "People have made some yards against us passing, but I think too many people look at the statistics more than the results of the games."

The Raiders finished the season 25th against the pass (only Minnesota's No. 28 ranking is worse among remaining playoff teams).

With one of the best young cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and six-time Pro Bowl defensive back Eric Allen, 231 passing yards a game seems a bit much.

But the Raiders had to adjust to two new safeties in Anthony Dorsett and Marquez Pope, and the unit took some time to jell. Pope signed as a free agent from the Cleveland Browns, and Dorsett signed as a free agent from the Tennessee Titans.

Oakland also had to overcome safety Eric Turner's death last year.

Then there was Gruden's premise that teams have had to mostly pass against the Raiders, which is true. Oakland has outscored its opponents at home by nearly four touchdowns and often jumped out to double-digit leads in the first half.

A perfect illustration was the Nov. 5 game against Kansas City. Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac passed for more than 500 yards on 53 attempts, but the Raiders won, 49-31. Oakland had an 18-point lead at halftime.

Still, the Raiders had trouble controlling Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had more than 100 receiving yards in both games this season. Gruden said Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, of the same caliber as Gonzalez, could do the same.

Sharpe was at the center of one of the game's biggest plays last Sunday when he made a 56-yard reception on a third-and-10 early in the second quarter. It set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamal Lewis that tied the game at 7.

Seven-time Pro Bowl selection Sharpe is quarterback Trent Dilfer's favorite target. Sharpe leads the team with 114 receiving yards in the playoffs.

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