CB Tory James (20) set the tone for the first shut-out in Raiders playoff history with a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown to thwart a Miami scoring threat on the first possession of the game.
In 2000, The Oakland Raiders began a remarkable run of three straight AFC Western Division titles, two AFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl berth. Eleven years ago, the Raiders squared off with an old nemesis in a memorable AFC Divisional Playoff.
The 2000 edition of The Oakland Raiders stormed through the regular season with a 12-4 record and led the NFL in rushing with RB Tyrone Wheatley leading the way. Wheatley ran for 1,046 yards and found the end zone nine times. The Raiders won the AFC West and earned a bye for the first round of the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East with an 11-5 record and defeated the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in the Wild Card round.
RB Tyrone Wheatley (47) takes the handoff and looks for running room. AP Photo.
The Raiders and the Dolphins talked prior to the game about their respective running games. The Raiders pass defense made the play of the game and put Oakland on the road to a 27-0 blow-out victory over the Miami Dolphins at Network Associates Coliseum. CB Tory James' 90-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Miami looked to take control early. After forcing the Raiders into a three-and-out on their first possession, QB Jay Fiedler had the Dolphins on the move at the Raiders 16. But, James left his man and jumped a route, snagged the ball and raced down the sideline for the score prompting the radio voice of the Raiders, Greg Papa, to proclaim, "This place is off the hook!"
The Raiders outgained the Dolphins on the ground 140 yards to 40. Miami RB Lamar Smith, who rushed for 209 yards on 40 carries the week prior against Indianapolis, managed only 4 yards on 8 carries. He also fumbled at a key moment in the game. Wheatley led the way for the Raiders with 57 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. The Raiders offensive line dominated the much-heralded Dolphins defensive line. "You couldn't have asked for a better script," Wheatley said. Left tackle Barry Sims said, "I think running the ball, we did a great job. I feel like we were successful running the ball and picking up third downs...that was a big factor for us."
Raiders QB Rich Gannon completed 12 of 18 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 31 yards.
Raiders QB Rich Gannon (12) drops back to throw while LT Barry Sims protects his blindside. AP Photo.
Coming into the game, the Raiders had the 18th ranked defense in the NFL. The Raiders intercepted Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler three times and forced a fumble. Safety Eric Johnson said, "It was a personal challenge for us to go out there and do that because of the simple fact it was said that they had the best and people were saying that it couldn't be done."
"Everybody wanted to go out there and compete," Johnson added.
Special teams also played a key role in this game. Sebastian Janikowski hit two medium-range field goals early in the game, and QB Rich Gannon tossed a TD pass to WR James Jett, to help the Raiders build a 20-0 lead by halftime. Long punts got Oakland out of field position trouble and also pinned Miami deep in their own territory late in the game to squelch any thought of a Miami comeback.
The Raiders rode Wheatley's legs down the field and the big back capped a 12-play, 54-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run to give the Raiders a 27-0 lead and close out the Dolphins.
Raiders DE Tony Bryant (94) sacks Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler. AP Photo.
Another huge factor for the Raiders was time of possession. Oakland had the ball for 37:24 while Miami only had it for 22:36. RB Terry Kirby, acquired late in the season, was key in the second half in helping the Raiders run out the clock and keep the Miami offense off the field. "I am just happy that the Raiders organization actually felt that I could come in and help this team in any kind of way," Kirby said, "I know that I'm not going to get many opportunities so I just have to take advantage of it."
The Raiders advanced to the AFC Championship and a meeting with the Baltimore Ravens.