SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2008
RALPH WILSON STADIUM
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK
1:00 PM EDT
CBS / CBS HD
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Don Criqui
COLOR ANALYST: Dan Fouts
DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket:
Channel 705 / Channel 705-1 (HD)
Buffalo Bills Radio Network
PLAY-BY-PLAY: John Murphy
COLOR ANALYST: Mark Kelso
SIDELINE REPORTER: Paul Peck
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Greg Papa
COLOR ANALYST: Tom Flores
Sirius Sunday Drive:
Channel 130 (Buffalo feed), Channel 123 (Oakland feed)
REGULAR-SEASON SERIES RECORD: Raiders lead, 19-15, and have won the last four games, but are just 7-10 in Buffalo (4-5 at Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium).
PLAYOFF RECORD: Bills 2, Raiders 0.
The Raiders were 1-4, sported one of the worst rushing games in the league, and Rich Gannon – the architect of the previous three Oakland wins in the series – was in the broadcast booth instead of on the field.
So, naturally, the Bills made LaMont Jordan look like the second coming of Jim Brown. Curtis Martin’s former caddy with the Jets, who came into the week averaging barely 60 yards per game, shredded the Buffalo defense for double that amount (122 yards on 28 carries) and three touchdowns. The Raiders finished the game with 162 rushing yards, their highest output in more than a calendar year, and also set season highs for points and total yardage.
But while those numbers may have been out of the ordinary for Oakland, they were anything but that for the Bills. A unit that had proclaimed itself among the all-time greats back in August, albeit before Takeo Spikes’ season-ending injury, allowed its fourth 100-yard rusher in six weeks. (Warrick Dunn and Ronnie Brown could only muster 97 apiece in the other two games, the slackers.)
The Bills led early, cashing in on their opening drive when Kelly Holcomb hit Lee Evans for a five-yard touchdown. However, by the time they managed another first down, Oakland had scored twice to take a 10-7 lead. Holcomb put together another efficient drive, setting up fourth-and-goal at the 1, when offensive coordinator Tom Clements made a curious call. Fullback Daimon Shelton – he of one career rushing touchdown, and no carries since the 2000 season – got the ball, but went nowhere, and the Raiders took over on downs. (Aside: that was Shelton’s only carry in a Bills uniform, and his last in the league.) A Rian Lindell field goal tied the game a couple of minutes later, but Jordan’s 1-yard plunge made the score 17-10 Raiders at the break.
Jordan struck again on the first possession of the second half, bursting through the middle of the line for his second touchdown to put Oakland up by 14. Holcomb found Josh Reed in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to bring Buffalo back within striking distance, but that was as close as they’d get. Grinding down the Bills’ defensive line with a steady diet of Jordan and fullback Zack Crockett, the Raiders held the ball for all but 1:29 of the final period. Jordan tied the franchise single-game record with his third rushing touchdown at the 8:53 mark; then, following a quick three-and-out by Buffalo, it was Crockett’s turn to pile up some yardage and get into the end zone as the game ended.
NOTES: Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins was both efficient and effective, completing 19 of 27 passes for 261 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown to Randy Moss ... Holcomb also finished the game 19-27, but for only 159 yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception, but each lost a fumble ... Doug Gabriel was Collins’ primary target, pulling in 5 catches for 101 yards ... Sadly, Buffalo’s 126 net passing yards were nowhere near their season low; in fact, after seven games, the Bills had yet to hit 200 yards in that category ... Willis McGahee managed just 50 yards on 16 carries ... The Bills, who had evened their record at .500 with a win over the Jets the week before, fell to 3-4. They’d win just two games the rest of the season, paving the way for the end of the Tom Donahoe/Mike Mularkey era.
LAST TIME IN BUFFALO: October 6, 2002 – Raiders 49, Bills 31
On a gorgeous fall afternoon in Orchard Park, two Pro Bowl quarterbacks treated a sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium to a highly entertaining, AFL-style shootout. Drew Bledsoe continued his white-hot start in Buffalo by completing 32 of 53 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns – his second 400-yard performance of the year, sparking talk of a run at Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record.
However, Rich Gannon was even better. The Oakland signal-caller didn’t pile up quite as many yards (23-38-357), but he tossed touchdown passes to three different receivers and ran for another score ... and more important in a track meet like this one, threw zero interceptions to Bledsoe’s three.
“We scored some points, but we’re going to have to avoid the mistakes where we give the other team points,” the Bills quarterback admitted afterward. “Two interceptions resulted directly in 14 points for their team. Playing somebody as good as the Raiders, you can’t spot them 14 points with turnovers and expect to have a chance.”
The game began with the two teams trading punts for most of the first quarter, before Gannon drew first blood with a 29-yard pass to Jerry Porter. The next time either punter would see the field (for anything other than holding for extra points), the scoreboard read 21-14 Oakland, with touchdown runs by Gannon and Charlie Garner matching Dave Moore’s and Peerless Price’s scores for Buffalo. Larry Centers would tie the game on a 5-yard run just before halftime, and both teams went to the locker room looking for answers on defense.
They didn’t find many. The Bills used a 30-yard field goal from Mike Hollis to take their first lead of the game, then traded touchdowns with Oakland to hold a slim 31-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Enter Garner, for his second big play of the afternoon. “We knew coming in that Charlie Garner was a dangerous matchup,” Bills coach Gregg Williams said in his postgame press conference. “You see people every week on film misjudging his speed, and we made that a point of emphasis in practice.”
They apparently didn’t emphasize it enough. Garner, who torched the Buffalo defense for a combined 177 yards, put the Raiders ahead to stay when he caught a pass near midfield, eluded several tacklers, and went the distance to complete a 69-yard touchdown play.
Trailing 35-31, Bledsoe went to work, swiftly moving the Bills back inside the Oakland 30. He caught a break when rookie cornerback Phillip Buchanon dropped a sure interception on a pass meant for Peerless Price, but when he tried to make the same throw again on the next down, he wasn’t as fortunate. Buchanon again read the play correctly and held on to this one, sprinting 81 yards to the end zone to give the Raiders a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The fired-up Oakland defense dumped Bledsoe twice on the next series, forcing a punt, and Gannon picked the Bills apart once more, needing just four plays to complete a 68-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Jerry Rice. Tory James ended Buffalo’s last possession with his second interception, and the Raiders left Western New York as the league’s only unbeaten team.
NOTES: After five games, the Bills defense had yet to intercept a pass. That underwhelming streak would last until Game 7, when Miami quarterback Ray Lucas graciously came to their rescue by tossing four picks ... Price (7-126, 1 TD) and Eric Moulds (8-112) both topped the 100-yard mark, the second time in four games two Bills receivers would accomplish the feat ... The Raiders improved to 4-0 with the victory. They would go on to win the AFC Championship behind Gannon’s MVP season before crashing against Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII ... The Bills fell to 2-3, but rebounded to win their next three games before the ‘Bledsoe Bowl’ loss to New England started a tailspin that knocked them out of playoff contention. They finished the season 8-8.
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