Oakland's only defense for off-day is Ravens

League-leading offense on ground grinds to halt

Ravens 16, Raiders 3

Ravens Extra

January 15, 2001|By Mark Gomez | Mark Gomez,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OAKLAND, Calif. - In the aftermath of the Ravens' 16-3 victory over Oakland in the AFC championship game yesterday, one word described the feeling in the Raiders' locker room: frustration.

The Raiders' league-leading rushing attack was held to 24 yards on 17 carries. Their veteran quarterback, Rich Gannon, was knocked out of the game in the first half, only to return and get knocked out again in the second half.

Oakland committed five turnovers.

"I think we were all frustrated, there's no question," Oakland coach Jon Gruden said. "We're accustomed to enjoying a little more success than we did today. But again, sometimes in this league, you've got to tip your hat to the other guy. The bottom line is the Ravens had a lot to do with what happened today."

The Raiders, who averaged 154.4 rushing yards this season, ran into a Baltimore defense that led the league in rushing defense and points allowed. Oakland was frustrated from the start, gaining just 38 yards and one first down in the first half.

Oakland punter Shane Lechler booted six punts in the first half.

"We tried to run," Gruden said. "We used different formations. We used different personnel groupings. We were unable to get it going today."

Tyrone Wheatley, Oakland's leading rusher for the season, gained just 7 yards on 12 carries. Gannon, known for his scrambling ability (he led AFC quarterbacks with 529 rushing yards), rushed just once for 2 yards before leaving the game for good.

"We just didn't play the game we're capable of playing," Wheatley said before hurriedly departing.

The Raiders had perhaps the most-balanced offense of the four remaining playoff teams, and with home-field advantage, were a six-point favorite over the Ravens.

Oakland's passing game suffered a blow in the first half when Gannon injured his shoulder during the game's opening series on a sack by Michael McCrary. Gannon aggravated the injury in the second quarter when defensive tackle Tony Siragusa knocked Gannon down and fell on top of the quarterback following an incomplete pass.

"I don't know if I would have been healthy it would have made a difference," said Gannon, who was replaced in both halves by Bobby Hoying. "It was just very frustrating. They pretty much shut us down and we did not play very well."

Even when the Raiders' defense made a big play, the offense couldn't capitalize. After Oakland safety Johnnie Harris intercepted Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer to begin the second half, the Raiders drove to the Baltimore 2. The Raiders had three opportunities to find the end zone and were denied, settling for a Sebastian Janikowski 24-yard field goal.

"We felt we had some people to make some plays," Gruden said. "For whatever reason, we didn't come up with [the] football. Anytime you get in the red zone and have an opportunity to get seven and get turned away with three, we're always very disappointed."

For an Oakland offense that outscored its past two opponents (Carolina and Miami) 79-9, its three-point effort yesterday was excruciating.

"It's the lowest I've ever felt as an athlete," Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson said. "We might as well have been 3-13 to come out here and do this."

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