September 10, 2000
Raiders DB Tory James intercepts a pass in the end zone in the last minute to seal the victory over the Colts. AP Photo
No team in professional football has a history of comeback victories like the Raiders do. On Sunday, September 10, 2000 the Raiders again proved their uncanny ability to stage comebacks by overcoming a 21-point deficit on the road, on artificial turf, inside a dome and against a good football team.
After opening the first season of the new millennium with a tight 9-6 victory over division rival San Diego in Network Associates Coliseum, the Silver and Black traveled east to take on the talented Indianapolis Colts in the sold out RCA Dome. The Colts had begun their season a week earlier downing the AFC Western Division Kansas City Chiefs, 27-14, in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Colts had won the AFC Eastern Division Championship in 1999 with a 13-3-0 record, the second best regular season record in the National Football League that year. The Indianapolis team had an incredibly talented offensive threesome that head coaches hope for. QB Peyton Manning, RB Edgerrin James and WR Marvin Harrison were among the league’s very best at their respective positions. All three were first round draft pick choices – Harrison the 19th pick in the first round in 1996, Manning the number one pick of the entire draft in 1998, and James the fourth pick in the first round in 1999. Manning led the AFC in passing in 1999, throwing for 4,135 yards; James was the top rusher in the entire NFL in 1999, gaining 1,553 yards on the ground, scoring 102 points on 17 touchdowns and rushing for over 100 yards in 10 of his 16 league games; and Harrison was second in the NFL in receptions in 1999, with 115 catches and first in reception yardage with 1,663 yards with nine 100-yard games.
The super-threesome led the Colts to three touchdowns on their first three possessions, building a 21-0 lead in the first 18:32 of play against Oakland. The Raiders, in five decades and 597 league games, had overcome trailing by more than 21 points only twice in their proud history – coming from a 24-0 deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers, 28-24, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Monday night, November 22, 1982 and again on Monday night, September 26, 1988, erasing a 24-0 deficit to defeat the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium, 30-27, in overtime.
Colts QB Peyton Manning is taken down by the Raiders defense.
The Raiders knew they had to chip away a huge lead one score at a time so the Raiders began the comeback with an 8-play, 63-yard march midway through the second quarter.
QB Rich Gannon scrambled for the first five yards, and then passed to WR Tim Brown for 26 more. He found TE Rickey Dudley wide open for 13 yards, but a penalty wiped out the gain. Napoleon Kaufman broke loose for a 20-yard run and a first down on the Colts 17. A Gannon run picked up 13 of the remaining yards and on third-and-goal from the three, the tough Raiders quarterback, back to pass, found a lane inside and plowed in for the touchdown. Colts 21 – Raiders 7, with 2:51 left in the first half.
The powerful Colts responded immediately, driving from their own 20 to the Oakland 9. Then with the clock running down, Indianapolis added a 31-yard field goal to go into the locker room ahead by 17 at halftime, 24-7. In the first half, Indianapolis had been dominant. They earned 21 first downs while gaining 315 yards. By contrast, Oakland had only six first downs and 124 yards on offense.
“We were off-balance in the first half…In the second half we made up our minds that we were going to rush hard and be more aggressive,” said DE Lance Johnstone.
“There was some yelling in the dressing room at halftime, but it wasn’t any finger pointing,” said LB Greg Biekert. “We were encouraging each other. We hadn’t done a good job of disguising defenses. Manning was reading what we were going to do and taking advantage of it.”
Things changed in the opening minutes of the second half. On the first play, Gannon hit Brown for 13 yards to initiate a 77-yard, eight play drive that featured a Gannon to Andre Rison pass for 13 yards, a brilliant 28-yard run by Kaufman and a Gannon to Tyrone Wheatley pass for 11 more yards. The touchdown came with rich Gannon scooting left for seven yards and seven points. With 10:56 left to play in the third quarter, the Raiders had closed to 10 points behind, 24-14.
Rickey Dudley celebrates the come-from-behind victory against the Indianapolis Colts. AP Photo
Just minutes later, S Johnnie Harris jarred the ball loose from Colts TE Ken Dilger after a short completion. Biekert pounced on the ball at the Indianapolis 15-yard line. Kaufman ripped off eight yards on first down, but the Colts defense stiffened and Raiders Head Coach John Gruden opted to go for a field goal on fourth-and-one from the six. Rookie place kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked the three-pointer from 24 yards out to bring the Silver and Black within seven, 24-17.
Four plays later, Raiders C Tory James intercepted an errant Manning pass at the Colts 40, returning it 15 yards to give Oakland a first down on the Indy 25 yard line. Gannon passed to James Jett for eight, then two plays later scampered the final six yards to tie the score at 24 with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter.
The hometown crowd had been taken out of the game. On the next Colts possession when Johnstone sacked Manning on a third-and-seven, Indy was forced to punt, which David Dunn returned 25 yards to the Oakland 46. Gannon immediately passed to Dudley for eight yards. Three plays later, Gannon found Rison open for a 34-yard gain to the Indianapolis six-yard line. Wheatley burst inside for the final six yards and the Raiders took the lead for the first time, 31-24, with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
LB William Thomas stopped Colts WR Marvin Harrison one yard short on a third-and-five, forcing another punt as the fourth quarter opened.
A masterful, balanced, time-consuming, 14-play, 77-yard march ensued, with the biggest ground-gainers being Gannon’s passes to Wheatley for 15 yards, to TE Jeremy Brigham for nine more, to Dudley for 14 and to RB Jon Ritchie for 14. Wheatley banged up inside for the final yard to put the Raiders up by 14, 38-24.
The Colts fought back, scoring quickly on a 50-yard bomb from Manning to Harrison to close in on the Raiders lead, 38-31. After the Indianapolis defense stopped Oakland’s next possession, the home team took over at their own 36, with 2:49 left on the game clock. As expected, Manning came out firing, moving his team to the Oakland 34. Three incomplete passes later, it was fourth-and-10, still on the Oakland 34. Manning scrambled to buy more time, then fired towards the end zone to Harrison. James stepped in front of the Colts wide receiver, intercepting the pass in the front of the end zone. Three kneel-downs later the Raiders emerged victorious 38 to 31.
Oakland had gained 235 yards in the second half, while limiting Indianapolis to only 145. The Raiders had kept the ball for almost 20 of the final 30 minutes of play. Behind by as many as 21 points, the Raiders had added another classic comeback to an already glorious history.