Raider Nation descends on Coliseum
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Raider Nation was out in full force for the first NFL playoff game in Oakland in more than 20 years.
Both teams said the screaming capacity crowd of the Raiders' uniquely fanatical fans were an important factor in Oakland's 27-0 victory Saturday.
"We walked into the Black Hole, but we just couldn't find our way out of it," Miami defensive tackle Daryl Gardener said.
The Coliseum was sold out for the fourth time this season, and its parking lots were filled with fans several hours before game time. Hundreds camped overnight outside the parking lot fences in a dicey area of Oakland, which hadn't been host of a postseason NFL game since Dec. 28, 1980.
The Raiders' most fanatical, loyal fans didn't take kindly to the team's influx of supporters now that Oakland is headed to the AFC Championship Game. One large sign in the north parking lot read "Welcome Bandwagon Fans!" above a drawing of a mildly obscene gesture.
While the parking lots were at their most "Halloweenish," as Oakland head coach Jon Gruden describes them, the stands were just as frenzied.
No more than a handful of Dolphins fans could be spotted in the sea of silver and black in the stands, and the crowd featured hundreds of elaborately costumed Oakland fans -- all of them screaming their lungs out.
"The fans were huge. That was a major advantage for us," Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "It was deafening on the sidelines. It was hurting my ears, it was that loud."
Dozens of fans also carried the newest Raiders accessory. It's a "Chucky" doll similar to the ones popularized by the Child's Play series of horror movies. Because of Gruden's resemblance to the character, the doll has added features: blond hair and a headset.
One week ago, Lamar Smith rushed for a team-record 209 yards in Miami's wild-card victory against Indianapolis. Against the Raiders, Smith struggled early and disappeared late.
His first five rushes went for minus-5 net yards. His sixth went for 11 yards, but Tory James stripped the ball from him and Charles Woodson recovered. The mistake set up Oakland's first TD drive and put the Dolphins behind 20-0.
Miami spent the entire second half in an uncharacteristically desperate passing offense to try to catch up, and Smith got just two carries after halftime. He finished with eight rushes for 4 yards -- an ignominious end to a season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,139 yards.
"We cannot fault Lamar Smith," offensive guard Mark Dixon said. "It happens up front. The front is the key for Lamar. We did not get it done [Saturday]."
While the Dolphins' offensive linemen blamed themselves for Smith's troubles. Oakland's defense, fifth overall against the run in the regular season, was eager to take credit as well.
"We just stopped their run, and everything else fell into place from there," defensive lineman Darrell Russell said. "Our defense is one of the best against the run, but once we stopped them, you could tell they were really tired from playing last week. It wore them out, I think."
Oakland RB Napoleon Kaufman left the game before the end of the first half. He reaggravated a knee and thigh injury that he first suffered in the Raiders' win against the Jets on Dec. 10. ... The last time the Raiders faced the Dolphins in the playoffs, Oakland emerged with a 28-26 victory on the famous "Sea of Hands" play. With 26 seconds left, Ken Stabler hit Clarence Davis with a 6-yard pass in the end zone. Three defenders surrounding Davis also reached for the ball -- hence the play's nickname. ... The Raiders' last victory against the Dolphins in Oakland was a 17-7 win Dec. 1, 1996. ... Miami went 6-3 on the road this season. ... The last touchdown the Raiders allowed at the Coliseum was in their win over the Jets.