|Wednesday, November 15|
By John Clayton
|DENVER -- To this day, Mike Shanahan claims Al Davis owes him $250,000 from his abrupt ending as Raiders coach in 1988. Even if Davis never writes him a check, Shanahan's mission in life is to make Davis pay. And pay. And pay.
Monday night's last-second 27-24 victory over the Raiders was just another agonizing installment for Davis. Shanahan is 11-1 against Davis' Raiders as head coach of the Broncos. This is personal. To Davis, Raiders football is "Just win, baby." To his players, Shanahan's edict is "Don't even think about losing, baby."
"We've got great motivation anytime the Raiders come to town," Broncos linebacker John Mobley said. "You can tell he (Shanahan) wants this game more than any other game in the season. Just beat the Raiders, and it's going to be smooth sailing. If not, he's going to be rough on us."
Shanahan's rivalry with the Raiders shows in his game plans. Last week, the Raiders used four variations of a Tim Brown receiver fake reverse that set up big running plays in a 49-31 victory over the Chiefs. Sure enough, Shanahan copied his version when Terrell Davis scored a 5-yard touchdown less than four minutes into the game.
"We put that in this week, and I don't know where the coaches got it," said wide receiver Rod Smith, who duped Raiders defenders into thinking he was going to get the ball. "I'll tell you, when you have two guys running with me, that's just as good as blocking. They are following the guy who doesn't have the ball and Terrell just walks in."
Having just inserted the dagger into the Raiders, Shanahan stayed focused to see what other embarrassment he could inflict on his former boss. Shanahan-Davis and Broncos-Raiders is more than just a football rivalry. They clearly hate each other.
"We don't approach this game thinking about the past; we looked at this game as a must win," Shanahan said. "We came back and played the way we had to."
Broncos players know how "must" a Raiders game is. Quarterback Brian Griese came back from a right shoulder separation suffered in the first quarter and only missed five plays. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown.
"The attention to detail is something during a Raiders week," Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith said.
Mobley described the stern look that Shanahan displays on the practice field. Hitting intensifies. Mental mistakes aren't tolerated. Players practice in fear of their coach.
"You don't want to be around the next week if you don't win against the Raiders," Mobley said.
Fortunately for the Broncos, a generation of players haven't experienced such emotional anguish. The last Broncos loss to the Raiders was in 1997. Shanahan has won seven in a row over the Raiders, and Monday night's was every bit the torture.
"I think the Raiders are going to bounce back and play well, but we found a way to beat them at their own game," Smith said. "We found a way to come back and beat them by coming back. They've done that all season. They are usually the ones to come back."
Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon rallied his group from a 24-10 deficit with two touchdown drives in the final six minutes. His 86-yard drive was capped with a 22-yard touchdown pass to an open Brown with 1:06 remaining.
Along the sidelines, offensive players knew the drill. It's Raiders week and Shanahan overlooks nothing, particularly two-minute drills. The temperature at Mile High Stadium was 13 degrees in the second half. The wind chill registered as three degrees.
To Broncos players, it was minus-20 degrees if they blew this opportunity.
"It's a drill that we worked on for years: fourth quarter, tied, two time outs and a minute left on a clock and you've got to get a field goal," Smith said.
Despite the shoulder separation that limited his ability to throw, Griese worked the drill to perfection. From the Broncos' 33-yard line, he hit Smith with a 22-yard completion. He moved to the Raiders' 40 with a 5-yard completion to tight end Byron Chamberlain. Griese called a timeout with 41 seconds left. Next came completions of 6 yards to Ed McCaffrey and 9 yards to tight end Desmond Clark. Griese spiked the ball with 14 seconds left. He returned with a 2-yard run that set up Jason Elam's game-winning 41-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
There were a lot of little things Shanahan did Monday night to pull out the big victory that put the Broncos within two games of the 8-2 Raiders for first place in the AFC West. Like other teams, Shanahan takes advantage of the Raiders' difficulty covering tight ends.
Chamberlain, Dwayne Carswell and Desmond Clark combined for 12 of the team's 26 receptions for 125 of the 266 passing yards.
"Their safeties might be a little bit overconfident," Carswell said. "They play a lot of zone, so we do the dirty work with the underneath passes and the naked bootlegs. They pursue so well that we try to get them in position where they overpursue.
"I think the most important thing is that we believe we are going to win. They won't want to believe that, but we've (been able) to prove it to them over the years."
On special teams, coaches told rookie linebacker Ian Gold that he could break through the middle of the Raiders' line to block a punt. They didn't tell him the last time a Bronco blocked a punt and turned it into a touchdown was in 1979. Gold broke through the protection to block Shane Lechler's punt and turn it into a 12-yard touchdown and a 17-10 third-quarter lead.
"Obviously, we had a communication breakdown of some kind," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. "We'll get to the bottom of that. It was a big play in the football game. I'll take responsibility for that."
And obviously, Shanahan and his coaches deviously found something from the game tapes that made that an open play.
Shanahan enabled the Broncos to be only the second team in NFL history to defeat the Raiders in seven consecutive games. The Chiefs did it between 1993 and 1996. No team has beaten the Raiders eight times in a row.
But pity the Broncos if they don't win that eighth straight game. Shanahan wants to collect his money in victories -- and add the interest.|
ALSO SEEGriese endures pain to put hurt on Raiders
Broncos extend Raiders mastery with last-play win
Week 11 wrap-ups
VIDEOESPN's Marty Schottenheimer on the relationship between Mike Shanahan and Al Davis.
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