Work in Sports
OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- The Denver Broncos lost another prominent player, but finally won their first game of the season.
Despite playing without superstar running back Terrell Davis and losing perennial Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe to a broken collarbone, the Broncos squeezed out a 16-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
"I think we could have found a lot of reasons to lose this game, what with injuries and all," Griese said. "But I think this team is tired of that. There's a sense of relief now for me and the team that we can win and we can build on this."
After losing their first four games of the season with Griese at the controls, coach Mike Shanahan decided to switch to Bubby Brister to help shake the team up. But Brister suffered a rib injury in practice this week and struggled to throw the ball in warmups. As a result, Shanahan elected to start Griese and listed Brister as the emergency third quarterback.
"When Brister was warming up, he couldn't throw," Shanahan said. "That's when we made the decision about Griese. This is just a temporary setback for Bubby. Bubby's No. 1 and when he's healthy, he's back out there. The young kid came through in a tough situation and I think he can build on that."
Sharpe suffered a broken collarbone when he was hit by safety Eric Turner as he attempted to catch a pass in the third quarter. He will be sidelined at least eight weeks and becomes the latest Bronco casualty this season, joining Davis and starting weakside linebacker John Mobley. Both Davis and Mobley tore knee ligaments and are out for the season.
"I think there might be a hex on us," said Broncos defensive tackle Trevor Pryce. "Every game we go out there we lose someone."
But Griese led the Broncos on an 11-play, 63-yard drive to set up Jason Elam's game-winning 26-yard field goal with 10:18 left in the fourth quarter. Elam earlier kicked field goals of 48 and 47 yards.
An interception by Tory James in the final minute sealed the win for the Broncos, who were the only Super Bowl champion to start the next season with four losses in a non-strike year. The New York Giants began the 1987 strike season with five straight losses but the last three defeats came with replacement players.
Gannon hit Terry Mickens with a 10-yard pass over the middle to the Denver 23, but James jarred the ball loose, picked it off in the air and returned it 45 yards to the Oakland 32.
"I got hit as I caught the ball, which jarred it loose," Mickens said. "I tried to grab for it, (James) tried to grab for it. We both tried to grab for it and he got it."
"He caught the ball but it bounced up after I hit him and I grabbed for it," James said. I got lucky and I controlled it."
Denver also averted its first 0-5 start in the 40-year history of the franchise. The Broncos were 0-4 on only two previous occasions, in 1964 and 1994.
"When you're the defending Super Bowl champ and you're 0-4, everyone is embarrassed," Shanahan said. "I do mean everyone from the owner to the head coach to the other coaches to the players. Winning a game like this away from home is rewarding."
The win was especially sweet for Shanahan, who was fired by Raiders owner Al Davis 10 years ago this week. He is 8-1 against his former team.
Denver was forced to start Olandis Gary with backup running back Derek Loville nursing a hamstring injury. Gary, a fourth-round pick, had 64 yards on 20 carries.
Smith had seven catches for 79 yards and Ed McCaffrey finished with five receptions for 88 yards for the Raiders (2-3).
Elam kicked a 48-yard field goal with 6:11 left in the first quarter and added a 47-yarder with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter.
After Husted missed a 53-yard field goal with 56 seconds left, the Broncos drove 57 yards in five plays in just 40 seconds.
Griese hit Smith with a 33-yard pass to the Oakland 17. Three plays later, Griese connected with Smith for a three-yard TD with 16 seconds left in the half.
"We made too many mistakes out there and Smith just found a hole," said Raiders cornerback Eric Allen. "He kept bouncing around and found a spot that wasn't covered and made the catch."
The Raiders opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 75-yard drive. Gannon completed 5-of-6 passes for 63 yards and capped the drive with a 21-yard TD to Walker.
Husted's 47-yard field goal pulled the Raiders within 13-10 with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
Former Bronco Darrien Gordon haunted his former team with a 78-yard punt return to the Denver 4 late in the third quarter, but the Raiders were unable to put the ball in the end zone.
Tyrone Wheatley ran for two yards on the first play and Gannon gained one yard up the middle to the Denver 1. On 3rd-and-goal, Zack Crockett was stuffed up the middle for no gain by defensive ends Neil Smith and Harald Hasselbach.
With 4th-and-goal at the 1, Raiders coach Jon Gruden opted for the game-tying field goal and Husted kicked a 19-yarder three seconds into the fourth quarter.
"I felt that at 13-10, we should go for the tie and then try to parlay the momentum we got from that into the win," Gruden said.