Raider Nation enjoys big weekend despite loss
Updated: Monday January 15, 2001 3:09 AM
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Despite the outcome of the AFC Championship Game, it was a great weekend to be a Raiders fan.
Oakland's loss to Baltimore was a disappointing ending to a celebratory time in the Bay Area, which normally maintains a sophisticated, laid-back attitude toward its sports teams -- except the Raiders, that is. The team's famously frenzied supporters took over the town for Oakland's first conference title game since 1976.
The parties and gatherings for Sunday's game began Friday, with many East Bay businesses allowing employees to wear Raiders gear to work. Radio stations giving away tickets were besieged by thousands of calls.
Fans started gathering for the game on Saturday. Traffic on the Nimitz Freeway next to the Coliseum was slowed and disrupted by gawkers more than 24 hours before the game started.
Shortly after the gates opened, the stadium parking lots were full of fans barbecuing, drinking and shouting. Thousands more rode the BART trains to the Coliseum and made their way past dozens of scalpers. The stadium was sold out for the fifth time in 10 regular-season and playoff games.
"It's been a long time since Raiders fans got to do this, so I wanted to make sure I didn't miss it," said Dave Carter of Pleasanton, who rode the train with his 8-year-old son Jason. Both wore Charles Woodson jerseys, and Jason's face was painted silver and black by his mother back at home.
Inside the stadium, the fans didn't wait until the game began to give Oakland its home advantage. Connie Stevens sang the national anthem, but everything after "the rockets' red glare" was drowned out by raucous cheering and fireworks.
Though the Raiders' slow start gave them little to celebrate, the fans cheered Shane Lechler's booming punts, and bandwagon fans exchanged high-fives with die-hards when Baltimore was called for an offensive holding penalty.
When Shannon Sharpe taunted the crowd at the end of his 96-yard reception, the Black Hole responded by throwing ice and beer cups at him.
"We have the best home-field advantage in football," said Taz Nunez of Concord. "There's no place like Oakland, baby!"
But the Coliseum gradually grew quiet as the Ravens' 16-3 victory became more certain. There were scattered boos for Oakland's inept offense, and several thousand fans headed to the exits early.
Those who remained were in a bad mood. They booed as Baltimore accepted the trophy at midfield, and they booed even more loudly when Art Modell took the microphone. Oakland considers itself a blue-collar town -- just like Cleveland, the other NFL city whose heart Modell's team has broken.
Brown denied Super shot
Last week, Oakland receiver Tim Brown said he wouldn't get excited about the Raiders' season until they were headed to the Super Bowl.
Brown will still be waiting next fall. After 13 seasons, the most prolific receiver in Oakland's history is still waiting to play in his first Super Bowl.
"Obviously, I don't have 10 years to get back up and do this again," Brown said.
Only Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson has played longer without making it to football's biggest game. Giants lineman Lomas Brown was second on the list before New York beat the Vikings on Sunday.
Even more frustrating to Brown was his inability to help the Raiders' offense. He led the team with five catches for 48 yards, but couldn't get in the end zone on a second-half catch in the middle of the field.
"You have to give them credit for holding us back, but the way we played offense today, we could not have beaten anybody," Brown said.
Hoying struggles in place of Gannon
Bobby Hoying had even less first-half success against the Ravens' vaunted defense than Rich Gannon.
Gannon, who threw for 3,430 yards and 28 TDs during the regular season, was ineffective early. He completed 5-of-8 passes in the first half, but they went for just 31 yards.
But Gannon, who played nearly every snap of the regular season, was briefly knocked out of the game late in the first half after massive Baltimore defensive lineman Tony Siragusa landed on him. Gannon suffered a bruised left shoulder.
Hoying, who hadn't thrown a pass since the closing minutes of a blowout victory over Cleveland on Sept. 24, took over for three series. On his second play from scrimmage, he missed James Jett and was intercepted by Duane Starks, setting up a Baltimore field goal.
Hoying finished the half with two completions for nine yards. Gannon returned in the second half.
Sharpe contribution amounts to one play a day
If his contribution was measured in receptions alone, Shannon Sharpe would be having a lousy postseason for the Baltimore Ravens.
For the second consecutive game Sunday, Sharpe caught one only pass. For the second game in a row, his timing couldn't have been better.
Sharpe's 96-yard catch and run proved to be the only touchdown in the Ravens' 16-3 victory against Oakland in the AFC championship game. One week earlier, he caught a 56-yarder to set up a key touchdown in Baltimore's 24-10 upset of Tennessee.
"They got me to make one play a game and get us through the next game," Sharpe said with a wide grin.
The play significantly lowered the volume of the Raiders fans, who take pride in saying that all visitors to Network Associates Coliseum enter a Black Hole.
"When we scored that touchdown, I just took a shovel and covered up the black hole," Sharpe said.
No offense is no big deal
Oakland found out Sunday what many other teams learned earlier this year: Baltimore has an outstanding defense.
Or, was it that the Raiders were just so bad?
"They are a good defense, and you have to tip your hat to them," said Raiders receiver Tim Brown, who had five catches for 48 yards. "But the way we played offense today, we could not have beaten anybody."
Five turnovers proved fatal for the Raiders, who blamed themselves for the miscues.
"I thought we had a very good game plan, but we just did not execute early," Brown said.
"We were not able to hold the football very well at all," quarterback Rich Gannon said. "It was just very frustrating."
Mulitalo leaves after getting woozy
Ravens offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo was sidelined by a concussion in the first half and did not return. But he said he would be ready to practice when Baltimore begins preparation for the Super Bowl on Thursday.
When it first happened, Mulitalo didn't even know his name.
"I know my name now and I know how to get home," he said, long after the game. "I know we won, also. I guess it could be worse."
Low moment for Woodson
Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson apparently missed the significance of Oakland winning the AFC West title and making its first playoff appearance since 1993.
"It's the lowest I've ever felt as an athlete," Woodson said. "To get this far, you know what I mean? We might as well have been 3-13, to come out here and do this."
Baltimore became the third No. 4 AFC playoff seed to advance to the Super Bowl in four years, joining Denver in 1997-98 and Tennessee last year. ... The Ravens put SS Kim Herring (ankle) and LB Cornell Brown (hamstring) on the inactive list. Corey Harris started for Herring. ... The Raiders were denied their 23rd playoff win, the most of any AFC team. ... The Ravens became the third No. 4 seed in four years to advance to the Super Bowl, joining Denver and Tennessee. ... Baltimore improved to 8-2 on the road. ... The Raiders appeared in the championship game for the first time since 1990, when they lost 51-3 to the Buffalo Bills. ... Sharpe knows something about winning playoff football. Entering Sunday, his teams had won seven consecutive postseason games. He was a member of both of Denver's Super Bowl-winning teams. ... The Ravens and Raiders hadn't met since Nov. 8, 1998. Baltimore won 13-10, with Matt Stover kicking a game-winning field goal and Rod Woodson scoring the Ravens' only TD on an 18-yard interception return. ... The elaborate halftime show featured the unusual musical pairing of '80s rap supergroup Run DMC and Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins, whose first name was misspelled as "Stephen" on the Coliseum scoreboard.