Stillers 21, Raiders 20 ��. Dec. 3, 2000 Game #13
Stillers-Raiders Post Game Analysis & Grades:
Raidas-Stillers. A dogfight fought to the bitter end. What else would you expect? A few crazy referee calls; a Raider spitting in the face of a Steeler; several big plays; and a see-saw battle that epitomizes some of the classic battles between these two franchises. On a day where it seemed the Stillers would mimic their rollover-and-play-dead routine of two weeks ago versus Jax, the Stillers instead responded with inspired play on both sides of the ball. It was readily apparent that the Stillers purely wanted this game more than the Raidas, and in the end, the Stillers hung on for victory rather than blowing the game as they had so often done this season.
1. Stewart hits Shaw on a flag route on 3rd & 11 for 19-yard TD on the game's first series.
2. Gordon returns a 1st qtr. punt 32 yards, setting up Oakland with good field position on a drive that netted a FG.
3. Graham's first pass is picked off and returned 27 yards for a TD by Eric Allen.
4. Wheatley fumbles away the ball late in 2nd quarter.
5. On a 2nd & 16 early in the 3rd quarter, Stewart is stripped in the pocket around his own 7 yard line, but avoids disaster by picking up the ball, and then eluding 3 defenders en route to a key 18-yard gain. The offense went on to score a big TD to creep back into the game.
6. Wheatley again fumbles away the ball, in the 3rd qtr., blowing up another decent Raider drive.
7. Stewart dashes 17-yard on QB draw for what turns out to be game-winning TD.
8. Janikowski misses go-ahead field goal with about 4 minutes left in the game.
9. Kimo reads and bats Gannon's pass on 3rd down at the end of Raiders' last-gasp drive.
QB: Stewart started out the game like a house on fire, crisply marching the team for a TD. He was tentative and took a sack on 2nd down late in that drive, but then responded the next play on 3rd and 11 with a perfectly thrown ball to Shaw on the flag for a key TD. He apparently hurt his knee at some point in time in the 2nd quarter, though he never really showed any signs of gimpiness or torturous pain. Graham replaced him early in the 2nd qtr, and on his first play, threw a 1-yard out that was INT'd and returned for a TD. Graham played the rest of the 2nd qtr, and was thoroughly ineffective, completing just 1 of 3 and getting sacked 3 times while rigidly standing in the pocket like a wooden mannequin. Stewart returned from his horrific injury to start the 2nd half, and led the team on a methodical, clutch 16-play, 9-minute drive that culminated in a TD pass to Bruener. Stewart saved himself and the team from disaster by recovering his own fumble at his 7-yard line, and sprinted 18 yards for a key first down that sparked the drive and rallied the team. Stew culminated a 4-play drive in the 4th quarter with a 17-yard TD run on a QB draw. His throwing was, at times, spotty and off-target (including at least 2 passes that could have easily been INT'd), but his leadership and inspiration were impressive. Stewart, B+. Graham, D-.
RB: Bettis rumbled over the Raider defense like a boulder rolling downhill, gaining 128 yards and averaging a tremendous 5.3 yds/crack. He even had a few longish runs, including a 30-yarder. His plowing for extra yardage was pretty impressive, too. Hunt had a couple token carries, but chipped in a big 19-yard reception on a 3rd down & 6 play that set up Breuner's TD two plays later. Bus also had a huge block on Stewart's 17-yard TD run, and Hunt had a couple bone-jarring blocks as well. A+.
FB: Kreider opened the game by ripping off a 22-yard gain on a quick opener up the gut past a stunned Raider defense. Kreider led Bettis on many good gainers with good, hard-nosed blocking at the point of attack. A.
WR: This crew didn't produce much in the way of numbers, but they made all the clutch grabs on 3rd down plays. Bobby "All he does is make clutch plays on 3rd down" Shaw caught a couple 3rd down passes, including the TD. Ward had 4 grabs. Hawkins had one grab, on a sliding 7-yard slant in which no Raiders touched him, and he alertly got up and ran for another 10. Troy played little, and was thrown just one pass, a deep lob that was nearly INT'd. B+.
TE: Bruener had a huge TD on a play in which he was hit and initially stopped -- and even driven back -- by Calvin Branch to about the 4-yard line, but kept churning and grinding and eventually plowed into the end zone. He caught the 2 passes thrown to him. He and Cushing provided good blocking in support of the running game. A.
OL: Facing a pretty tenacious Raider front-four, the OL did a fairly decent job. The pass protection was sloppy at times. Graham got sacked once when Duffy got bullied and shoved all the way from the LOS to deep in the pocket, and Graham was sacked another time on a terribly feeble effort by Tylski. But, they did give Stew some decent time in the 2nd half. The run blocking were rock solid nearly the entire day. Bettis ripped thru some holes that literally could have accommodated a beer truck. B+.
DL: The line helped bottle up the vaunted Raider rushing offense, limiting Wheat and Kaufman to under 4 yards per carry. Based on the tentative scheme that Lewis wanted to use today, the line generated no pressure or pocket push the entire day. Henry had a batted pass and forced one of Wheatley's fumbles, and Smith chipped in to stuff a few running plays. Kimo held his own in the middle, and had a very alert and adroit batted-pass near the end of the game, on the late 3rd down. B.
LB: The LB crew also helped stuff the Raider running attack. Holmes led the way with 5 solos and a few critical stuffs of Wheatley that really helped put the damper on the Raiders' plans to pound the ball. The rest of the LB crew was a bit quiet, with Kirkland even having a smallish effect on the defense's success. Porter was not used as much in the pass rush today, but he had a couple hurries that forced poor throws by Gannon. The "budding Pro Bowler" Gildon had no impact whatsoever the entire game. Gildon whiffed on one cover-sack, allowing Gannon to scamper away for 10 yards on a 3rd & 7. Gildon did have harassment on Gannon on the intentional grounding, but this was a play in which Dudley briefly solo-blocked Gildon and then spun out into the flat for a pass. Otherwise, Gildon never once sniffed Gannon the entire day. Gildon was also left standing in no-man's land -- neither harassing the QB nor covering the back -- on Jordan's 21-yard TD off a short dumpoff right near Big Jason. B+.
DB: Brent Alex led the way with 6 solos, including a key stuff of Wheat on 3rd & 1 in 2d qtr, forcing Oakland to punt while in Stiller territory. Brent did miss a tackle on the one long Wheatley run, but otherwise had a strong game. Flowers also had 6 solos. Chad Scott, who'd spent the past month moping and playing as soft as a baby's bottom, responded with perhaps his best coverage game of the season. Chad gave up a few short completions, but was blanketing the receiver every time. DeWayne also had a solid game. The Raiders did help the cause by dropping at least 5 passes during the day. But, the best tribute to this crew is that Gannon, throughout the ENTIRE game, had an eternity in the pocket, yet still was having trouble finding an open receiver. A.
Spec Teams: Other than giving up a 32-yard punt return by Gordon late in the 1st qtr, the spec teams had a really strong game. The kickoff and punt coverage was good. Townsend made a tremendous "save" of a punt heading into the EZ, and we were able to down it at the 2. The margin of error for winning this game was thin, and the spec teams did their share by shutting down Oakland and not making any hideous blunders. A-.
Off Coord: After 12 weeks of assorted non-sense and falling asleep at the wheel, Kevin Gaypride seems to have awoken from his slumber with some half-decent playcalls and schemes. The game's first play -- the 22-yard quick opener by Kreider -- was obviously borne from some film study that strongly hinted the Raiders were susceptible to this play. The TD play to Shaw was pure poetry to watch. Sure, it was a play that high school teams run with regularity, but for fans used to seeing a 4-yard hitch or a screen pass on 3rd and 11 from the 19-yard line, it was both stunning and spectacular to see a playcall that involved no algebraic calculations by the QB nor the WR, and, remarkably enough, was designed to hit a man in the END ZONE, of all places. How 'bout the 3rd and 6 playcall that netted the 19-yard reception by Huntley, setting up Bruener's TD? Kordell faked the plunge to Hunt, and then faked the end around. This FROZE the LBs (imagine that concept), and Huntley slipped by and was WIDE OPEN some 8 yards downfield for the huge gainer. Morons like Stan Savran will claim that we just happened to execute better today, but anyone who thinks the offensive scheme we saw today is anything similar to the scheme we saw in Sept. and Oct. has worse vision than Ray Charles. Of course, Gaypride was certainly not without fault in this one. We send in Graham as we embark on a drive at our own 27 in the early part of the 2d quarter. Graham is stone cold, and Bettis was tearing apart the Raiders by gaining like 6 yards a crack. So, Gaypride, of course, eschews the run and calls for a pass on the very first play, on a play in which Hines Ward, the secondary receiver, was all of 1 yard downfield on a piddlyassed, worthless out pattern. Allen picks off the pass and run it in for a TD. B+.
Def Coord: Lewis went into the game with a flaccid, softee approach that over-emphasized having the DL and LBs wait for Gannon's running. The result was an absurd amount of time given to Gannon on nearly every pass play. Yes, we won the game. But Gannon passed for nearly 300 yards; he was never sacked, and only rarely harassed or hit. We were fortunate that his receivers dropped several passes, that Wheatley fumbled twice, and that our offense was effective enough to chew a lot of clock (32 to 28 minute advantage in T.O.P.). C+.
Head Coach: Give credit to Cowher for instilling a wanton desire to win this game, which was apparent that the Stillers possessed and the Raiders did not. Three plays epitomized this want: 1.) Hawk slides and catches a short slant, and then pops up and runs for 10 more while the Raider defenders stood around like they were at a bus stop. 2.) Bruener's TD, in which he kept churning, while nobody from the Raiders felt, despite the line of scrimmage of the 6-yard line that allowed every Raider to be reasonably close, it worthwhile enough to mosey over and help Branch, who fought off Bruener for a good 4 seconds before succumbing. 3.) Stewart's 17-yard TD run, in which Dorsett made a half-hearted attempt, and then 2 other Raiders meekly waved at Stewart as he ran by for the TD. Unlike the collapses of the last two seasons, and the pitiful collapse 2 weeks ago versus Jax, this team scratched and clawed and simply wanted the win more than the Raidas. A-.
Any win over the Raiders tastes better than a cold beer on a hot summer day. Knocking off the Raiders in our 2nd-to-last game at 3RS, and perhaps knocking the Raiders out of a home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, makes this one even sweeter. A wild card spot is still a long shot, but at least this Stiller team can play another meaningful game next week, and probably the week after. The concern is that we not suffer a letdown next week in New Jersey when we play a tough, playoff-minded team in the Giants, who themselves are fighting for a playoff spot and are playing some steady, solid football.
The Still Mill