WR Tim Brown makes a key third down grab to keep the drive alive.
December 5, 1993
Big games were nothing new to the Raiders, who had been to four Super Bowls, played in 34 playoff games, and tallied over 300 league victories.
The December trip to cold, gray Buffalo was another big game on the Raiders list. The 1993 season was in the balance for the Raiders who were 6-5-0 with five games left to play. Buffalo was a tough, talented, proven opponent. They were 8-3-0 in '93 and the defending AFC Champions for the past three years. One of their rare losses had come at the hands of the Raiders the year before, 20-3, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The challenges for the Raiders were many. This was their third consecutive game on the road. The temperature hovered near the freezing mark. The field surface was artificial. Rich Stadium was sold out with a sea of Buffalo Blue and Red as 80,000 upstate New Yorkers badly wanted to destroy their California visitors.
Raider head coach Art Shell - himself a participant in so many big games in 15 seasons as a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Raiders - had his squad primed and ready.
"We know we've got to win in December if we're going to be in the playoffs, so this is just like a playoff game," said Raiders S Eddie Anderson before the contest began. "We've got to play every game left like it's the playoffs."
K Jeff Jaeger kicked four field goals against the Bills.
Buffalo had "blue chip" personnel. Eleven of their 1992 squad and gone to the Pro Bowl. They were strong on offense, defense and special teams, with no weaknesses. And at home they were invincible.
Starting the game on defense, the Raiders pressured early, forcing Buffalo to punt the ball after the minimum three plays. The Silver and Black then drove downfield, primarily on the ground, with Robinson the principal ball carrier. Buffalo's defense stiffened and a Jeff Jaeger field goal from 37 yards out put the Raiders on the scoreboard first, 3-0, midway through quarter one.
Buffalo blocked the next Jaeger field goal try early in the second quarter, then marched 80 yards to go ahead 7-3. The touchdown came on a three-yard burst inside by Thurman Thomas.
Later in the second quarter, the Raiders went 72 yards in seven plays to retake the lead, 10-7. Three of the plays were pass completions from Jeff Hostetler to wide receiver Tim Brown for 11, 19 and 37 yards. The final 11 yards and the touchdown came on a scramble to the right side by the mobile Hostetler.
The Raider lead was short-lived, however, as Buffalo QB Jim Kelly quickly took his Bills 81 yards in just four plays, with the score coming on a 65-yard pass to WR Don Beebe down the right sideline. Buffalo took a 14-10 lead to the locker room at halftime.
The Raider offense roared out of the dressing room in high gear. In 12 plays they covered 64 yards and narrowed the Buffalo lead to only one, 14-13, when Jaeger drilled a 34-yard field goal. The Bills responded immediately, moving downfield in big yardage chunks, but an intense pass rush and tight coverage by CB Terry McDaniel forced Buffalo to go the field goal route to regain a four-point lead, 17-13, with 4:28 left to play in the third quarter.
Members of the Raiders offense look up and get ready to stage a come-from-behind victory.
Hostetler rallied the Raiders, scrambling twice for 12 and 10 yards. Again, however, the Bills stopped the visiting Raiders in close and forced them to settle for a 26-yard field goal to pull within one point again, 17-16, as the third quarter came to an end.
A pass interference call provided big yardage on Buffalo's next possession, and the Bills capitalized as Thomas swept left for one yard and the touchdown to put Buffalo ahead by eight, 24-16.
CB Terry McDaniel sets up for his interception he returned for 35 yards.
The Raiders failed to move the ball, and the Bills took over on their own 40, looking to move in and score three or seven and to take valuable time off the game clock. The determined Raider defenders had other plans. The upfront crew of Howie Long, Chester McGlockton, Nolan Harrison and Greg Townsend pressured. CB Terry McDaniel intercepted a Jim Kelly pass intended for Bill Brooks and brought it back 36 yards.
The Raiders running attack had slowed by the loss earlier in the game of outstanding rookie running back Greg Robinson with a serious knee injury. Running back Napoleon McCallum was also not available, recovering from an emergency appendectomy just a week earlier. The lack of a run game, in addition to tough defense by the Bills, left Coach Shell no choice but to go for the field goal. Jaeger was good again--this time from 47 yard--to cut the Buffalo lead to just five points, 24-19, with 8:47 remaining in the battle.
The Bills, with 80,000 bundled up fans cheering them on, began to drive downfield, knowing that even a field goal would put them up by eight and provide an almost insurmountable obstacle for the Raiders.
The Raider defense met the challenge, stopping the Bills and silencing the huge crowd. Tight coverage by veteran CB Lionel Washington helped force a punt and gave the Raiders the ball.
Throughout the game, Brown had been returning to the huddle telling Hostetler, "I can get open." Hostetler knew Brown was right. "The more time Timmy and I spend together, the better we'll become," said Hostetler. "You start knowing what a guy's thinking about before he comes out of his cut."
A 15-yard punt return by Brown had put the Raiders 57 yards from the end zone. Completions to Nick Bell for 18 yards and James Jett for ten more cut that down to 29 yards. Then a Hostetler pass to Brown at the goal line on the right side got the 29 yards and a 25-24 lead, after the extra-point attempt was blocked.
QB Jeff Hostetler with C Don Mosebar set up the final drive of the game to run down the clock and seal the Raiders win.
Back came the resilient Bills, moving into field goal range to go ahead. But before that field position could be earned, DT Nolan Harrison forced a fumble by Thomas that Anderson recovered on the Raiders 36-yard line.
"I grabbed him with one arm and went for the ball with the other, like we've been working on all year," said Harrison. "I brought the hammer down!"
"The turnovers happened at a time when we needed something to get us going," pointed McDaniel.
The Raiders beat the Bill 25-24 in Buffalo.
But 2:49 was left to play--an eternity by NFL standards. The Raiders needed to move the ball--and the clock. And that's exactly what the Raiders did. Runs by Bell and then a clutch third and-five pass for eight yards from Hostetler to Brown kept the ball in Raider hands. Brown had now caught ten passes for a career-best 183 yards. The Raiders had gained nearly 400 yards and made 25 first downs on their way to a hard-fought 25-24 triumph on the road.
"This is probably the worst loss of the season as far as I'm concerned," said Buffalo All Pro defensive lineman Bruce Smith after the game. "It just doesn't add up."
It added up for the Raiders. By 1993, the Raiders record in one-point games was 20 wins against only four losses, a .833 winning percentage.