By G. Montgomery
The Raiders opened the season with a 4-0 start, then faltered and lost the next four games. Reaching the halfway point at 4-4 and only one game ahead of last place Kansas City seemed unimaginable a month earlier.
After losing an overtime thriller to the local rival from across the bay, an eerie silence fell over the Black Hole. Raider faithful filed out of the Coliseum shaking their collective heads and wondering what next? After all they had endured consecutive home loses to the Chargers and Niners and were headed to Denver for a Monday night encounter with the dreaded Broncos. The concern seemed warranted, since the Raiders had not beaten the Broncos in the Mile High City since 1994. Opening the second half of the season at 4-5 with one loss to each divisional opponent would certainly doom any playoff hopes. Particularly with the loss of the extra wildcard spot to realignment, there are four divisional champions this season rather than three, leaving room for only one wildcard entrant.
The bleakness of the situation seemed to permeate the entire Raider locker room. Although they all towed the standard line, their faces displayed a level of concern seldom seen in Raiderland. Coach Bill Callahan was the lone positive voice, when asked what he would do to turn things around in the second half of the season, Callahan said this is a team than hasnt quit, they have a lot of fight and wont quit, it continues to play at a high level, well regroup, build our momentum through the week and get ready for Denver. This team has not thrown in the towel! In any respect, they come to work everyday and prepare and practice hard and theyll continue to do that. Callahan continued by saying that, we just need to rectify some of the things were doing on defense and I think well be right in there again.
Whether Coach Callahan is psychic or just great at delivering on his word remains to be seen, but on Monday night the Raiders did everything Callahan promised. The defense returned to early season character by putting Denver behind with a big interception. Rod Woodson, already the NFLs all-time interception return yardage leader picked off a Bryan Griese pass and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown putting Denver behind and the Raiders never looked back. Rich Gannon completed 21 consecutive passes at one point to break Kenny Andersons previous NFL high of 20. Jerry Rice continued his assault on all major receiving record by catching career touchdown 200 and 201. The Raiders completely dominated the Broncos in 34-10 victory making everyone wonder how did the four game losing streak happen. Using Monday Nights performance as a measure of this teams ability, I think the question of Can the Raiders rebound? has definitely been answered.
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