One for the aging
Raiders fly by Jets as Rice closes on playoff TD recordPosted: Saturday January 12, 2002 11:17 PM
Updated: Sunday January 13, 2002 2:32 AM
Rice caught nine passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, and Charlie Garner ran 80 yards for a score with 1:27 left as the Raiders pulled out of their late-season nosedive with a 38-24 wild-card playoff victory against the New York Jets on Saturday night.
With every significant receiving record already in his possession, the 39-year-old Rice joined the Raiders last summer for an opportunity to add to his postseason legacy. His vintage night was the catalyst for a win by the revitalized Raiders, who regained some of the potency that made them an early Super Bowl favorite.
"I had fun [Saturday], and that's why I came here," said Rice, who became the oldest player to score a postseason touchdown. "I wanted to be a factor, and I wanted to win a championship. ... You've got to save your best performances for when they matter the most."
The Raiders (11-6) advanced to face New England (11-5) next Saturday in Foxboro. By closing the season with three consecutive losses, Oakland handed a bye and home-field advantage to the Patriots.
Six days after the Jets beat Oakland 24-22 in the teams' regular-season finale, the Raiders emphatically turned the tables with their best performance in two months. A roster of veterans assembled specifically for the postseason got it together just in time -- and Rice led the way.
"He thrives in this type of atmosphere," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "The bigger the game, and the more you ask of him, the more he loves it. He did something very impressive."
It was Rice's 24th career postseason game, but his first with the Raiders after 16 record-setting seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
Rice caught a 21-yard TD pass from Rich Gannon with 5:53 left, giving the Raiders a 31-17 lead. Jackie Smith was a month shy of his 39th birthday when he scored for Dallas in the 1978 playoffs.
"This is the time of year we live for," Rice said. "I want to play my best football. I really wanted to show my teammates what it's all about."
It also was his 20th playoff TD, moving him one behind Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith for the NFL record.
"He seemed to come to life," Gannon said of Rice. "We've got Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. I'm spoiled, no doubt about it, and I'm going to ride those horses as far as I can."
Gannon, the AFC Pro Bowl starter, finished 23-of-29 for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jets pulled within seven points on Vinny Testaverde's second TD pass to Wayne Chrebet with 1:52 left. After the Raiders forced New York to use its final two timeouts, Garner sprinted down Oakland's sideline on third-and-11 for the clinching score. Garner finished with 158 yards rushing.
"It was a volleyball match at the end," first-year Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. "If we could have held them to a field goal on one of those last drives, it would have been a different game. But I'm proud of this team. We never stopped trying to come back, even when it looked impossible."
On the 33-year anniversary of the Jets' only Super Bowl victory, New York played well, but couldn't contain Rice, even with double coverage. After winning three of their final four regular-season games to sneak into the playoffs, the Jets failed to earn just their second playoff victory since 1986.
After losing four games during a six-week slide that cost Oakland a first-round playoff bye and threatened its once-promising season, the Raiders snapped back into form.
Sebastian Janikowski, a week after sitting out a game with a foot infection, was perfect on three field goals.
Zack Crockett's 2-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter was set up by a 47-yard catch by Rice, who became the oldest player in NFL history with a 100-yard receiving game in the playoffs. It was the eighth such game of Rice's postseason career.
After the Jets (10-7) closed to 24-17 on Richie Anderson's 3-yard TD reception with 10:18 left, Rice again took charge. He made a key 21-yard catch before scoring all alone in front of the Black Hole.
"He has always amazed me," Chrebet said. "He showed up in a big game. He's the best ever. There will probably never be another one like him."
Janikowski missed last week's meeting with the Jets after spending three days in the hospital. He grimaced after each kick, but Janikowski made field goals from 21, 41 and 45 yards in the first half.
John Hall, whose 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds left won it for New York againt the Raiders last week, missed a 45-yard kick in the first quarter. Anthony Dorsett blocked Hall's 41-yard attempt shortly before halftime -- the first blocked field goal in New York's playoff history.
The Raiders moved the ball consistently, but couldn't get into the end zone until their final drive of the first half. Brown caught a 2-yard TD pass from Gannon 22 seconds before halftime, making it 16-3.
But the Jets cut Oakland's lead with a 72-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Chrebet, who made a spectacular diving catch to keep the drive alive, scored easily on a 17-yard pass from Testaverde.
Notes: Laveranues Coles had his second consecutive big game against the Raiders, catching eight passes for 123 yards. ... Raiders left guard Steve Wisniewski, who plans to retire after the season, was the final player introduced before the game. He got a thunderous ovation. ... It wasn't the biggest playoff game of Rice's career. He caught 11 passes for 215 yards in the 1988 Super Bowl.