October 24, 1999
|WR Tim Brown finished the day with 11 catches for 190 yards.|
Tight games, narrow margins of victory, intensity until the final gun – part of the game day excitement that has made the National Football League the number one sport in our country.
And since 1960, no team in the National Football League has been as successful in the very closest of games – those decided by a margin of just one point – than the Raiders.
In a 41-year span (1960 - 1999), the Raiders – in Oakland and Los Angeles – had amassed an incredible record of 24 wins against only ten losses in games decided by just one point. That’s a winning percentage of .726.
Five of the Raiders 34 one-point games had been played against the New York Jets (or New York Titans as they were known through 1962).
The game in Network Associates Coliseum on October 24, 1999 certainly did not seem like it would end up a one-point game. The New York Jets had not played a league game in Oakland since 1972 – 27 years earlier, but Jets head coach Bill Parcells had his team primed and ready for their West Coast invasion. Parcells had a record of 22-16-0 since taking charge of the Jets in 1997, including the 23-22 one-point victory over the Raiders in Giants Stadium on September 21, 1997. Overall, the Raiders led the series against the Jets 16-10-2 since the two original AFL teams first met in 1960.
The Jets came into the Coliseum after a tough 16-13 loss to the eventual AFC Eastern Division Champion Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders had battled to defeat the Bills in Buffalo the previous Sunday, 20-14.
It was a beautiful, sunny fall day in the Coliseum, with the temperature at kickoff at 63 degrees. The Jets had possession first, but the Raiders defense, led by T Russell Maryland and LB Greg Biekert forced a three-and-out situation. After the punt, the Raiders took over on their own 22. QB Rich Gannon keyed a 71-yard march with his feet. The big, mobile quarterback ran for seven on a third-and-five and later for 36 yards on a third-and-four. The drive stalled and K Michael Husted booted a 25-yard field goal to put Oakland ahead 3-0 with 8:19 played in the first quarter.
It would take nearly 36 minutes before the Raiders would score again. Just 1:31 into the second quarter the Jets scored on a 32-yard field goal after a 68 yard, 11-play drive to tie the score at 3-3. The next New York possession came to an abrupt halt when Raiders CB Eric Allen intercepted a Mirer pass at the Oakland five-yard line. But, on the very next play, the Jets recovered a controversial Raiders fumble on the nine-yard line. Raiders Head Coach John Gruden demanded an instant replay review, but the call on the field stood and it was Jets ball on the Oakland nine. It took just one play for Mirer to cover those nine yards on a quarterback draw to put the visitors from New York ahead, 10-3. The Raiders had outgained the Jets 162 yards to 156 in the first 30 minutes, but a pair of fumbles hampered the offense, leaving the Silver and Black trailing by seven heading into halftime.
The New Yorkers first possession of the second half began on their own 12-yard line. Runs by Curtis Martin for 18 and 21 yards and an end-around for 36 more yards helped put the ball just two yards away from the Oakland end zone. Mirer got the two yards and seven points on a pass to TE Eric Green. With just 5:11 gone in the third quarter the Jets were now up 17-3.
Another Raiders fumble gave the Jets the ball on the Oakland 41. The Oakland defense stiffened, with a key third down stop by Lance Johnstone, forcing New York to go the field goal route. The Jets were up by 17 points with 11:32 gone in the third quarter.
Randy Jordan returned the next kickoff 28 yards to the 33 and Rich Gannon took over. Another run for nine yards by the veteran quarterback got a key first down. A pass to young TE Jeremy Brigham and a short run by Napoleon Kaufman spotted the ball on the New York 45. Two plays later, behind solid pass protection from rookie Barry Sims, Gannon faked to wide receiver Tim Brown, then led him deep as the wily Brown went long for the 45-yard score to cut the Jets lead to ten, 20-10 with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“In this offense, everyone’s going to get labeled,” Brown explained. “I’m the short-to-intermediate guy, as much as I may beg to run out-and-ups and those kinds of things, but primarily that’s James Jett’s route. But we worked hard on it in practice this week. I told Jon Gruden earlier in the game that when we ran a similar formation that the play would be there. He called it at the right time.”
“The play of the game was Tim Brown’s touchdown to make it 20-10 and shoot some life into our team,” said Coach Gruden.
“That touchdown to Tim is what got us going,” added S Anthony Newman.
DE Tony Bryant battles the NY Jets offensive lineman.
Tough, tenacious defenders in Silver and Black turned off the Jets offense and turned on the Raiders fans, forcing another three-and-out series. A booming punt and a holding penalty on the return put the Raiders back on their own 17. Rich Gannon hit three passes to Brown, two to WR Terry Mickens and one to TE Rickey Dudley to move the ball towards the end zone. RB Zack Crockett got the final six yards on two three-yard bursts inside. The Raiders now trailed by only three, 20-17, with 8:23 left to play.
“After that first touchdown we thought we could score every time we had the ball,” said Brown.
An interception set the Jets up on the Oakland 45 with only 4:41 remaining on the game clock. The Jets inched downfield, eating up the clock. But on a third-and-seven from the Raiders 22, DT Darrell Russell snuffed a Mirer quarterback draw attempt. The Jets had to settle for a 43-yard field goal to lead by six, 23-17, with just 1:55 left to play.
Another penalty on the kickoff return put the Raiders on their own 10-yard line. One minute and 49 seconds remained, with 90 yards to travel against a tough defense. The Raiders needed a touchdown in order to stay in the game and only had two time outs left.
Gannon opened the drive with a nine-yard pass to HB Randy Jordan, but followed with two incompletions. On a critical fourth-and-one from the Oakland 19, Gannon, and other Raiders on the sideline, signaled the fired-up fans for quiet. The quarterback then barked out commands, took the snap, set up and found Brown open for 17 yards to get to the Oakland 36. Then on third down, Gannon hit Mickens for 23 yards to the New York 43. Coach Gruden signaled for the time out and met with Gannon on the sideline, with 1:01 left on the game clock.
Then, on 2nd and 10, Gannon found Brown streaking downfield for 36 yards to the New York five.
“I think we proved today that we can still run the deep routes,” said Coach Gruden. “We just elongated the West Coast offense a little bit, that’s all.”
Raiders fans get loud for an exciting game that came down to the final quarter.
Finally, on second down from the five, with only 35 seconds left, Gannon dropped back looking into the end zone. The Jets coverage was tight and the rush came hard. Gannon avoided LB Mo Lewis, spun away form NT Jason Ferguson and scrambled toward the right sideline. Spotting WR James Jett working free in the back of the end zone, Gannon fired the ball to Jett, who made the catch in heavy traffic.
The score was now tied 23-23, before the extra point, at the 14:34 mark. “James is a real smart guy and he knows what to do,” Gannon explained about the touchdown play. “He pays attention and it paid off.” The PAT by Husted was good and Oakland led 24-23.
RB Jermaine Williams made the tackle on the kickoff and CB Marquis Walker intercepted Mirer’s desperation pass to bring another thrilling one-point Raider victory to a close.
“When we did get a good rush, Gannon did a good job of not taking the sack, of eluding the pressure,” pointed out Coach Parcells after the game. “We couldn’t tackle him all day. He scrambled and improvised plays right up until the last play of the game.”
“He sucked it up,” Gruden commented about Gannon in the noisy Raiders locker room postgame. “He had some adversity early, but he was brilliant making plays on the move. And we put on our quarterback to get out of some looks in the second half. That was tough on him. We used just about everything we had in our game plan today. It was a great win. It was a great win. It wasn’t always pretty, but we knew it would come down to the fourth quarter.”
And it did come down to the fourth quarter- a quarter in which Rich Gannon completed 12 passes for 190 yards. For the day, Gannon’s 352 yards passing and Tim Brown’s, 11 catches and 190 yards receiving were the top performances in the entire National Football League.
Raider T Lincoln Kennedy praised Gannon’s performance and more. “Rich has always been a leader. We’re probably the first team has given him that chance and said, ‘You’re our quarterback, now lead us to the promised land.’”
In a final reference to the tense comeback Biekert added, “I’m thirty years old and almost had a heart attack.”