Nor was it pleasant for Jones. While dining at a Dallas restaurant that night, he was approached by two gentlemen, one of whom bore a piece of pie, which he placed on the Joneses' table. The dessert included a note: "Jerry: A slice of humble pie. Enjoy. 49ers Fans." Jones reacted with aplomb, shaking hands with the practical jokers and saying, "I hope we give y'all a better game next time."
It was a quiet week around Valley Ranch, the Cowboy training facility. "A lot quieter than usual," said center Ray Donaldson on Friday. "The usual talkers weren't talking. You get your ass kicked like we did, there's nothing much to talk about."
A tragedy contributed to the subdued atmosphere. On Thursday, Kristopher Brown, the 10-week-old son of starting right cornerback Larry Brown, died, having been taken off life-support systems the previous day. The funeral for Kristopher, who was born prematurely in September, was Saturday. Coach Barry Switzer made it clear to Brown that he was not expected to play again until he felt like it, but Jones's private jet was left at Brown's disposal. To the Cowboys' surprise, Brown flew to Oakland on Saturday night and played Sunday, contributing five tackles.
"This was the best way for him to deal with his grief," said Campo. "It would have been one thing if he was just out there playing, but he played damn well. I can't give the kid enough credit."
The Cowboy secondary had already lost two starters: Cornerback Kevin Smith ruptured his Achilles tendon in the opener and was lost for the season. And on Nov. 3, cornerback Clayton Holmes was suspended for being a repeat violator of the league's substance abuse policy. Holmes's punishment was announced on the same day as that of defensive tackle Leon Lett, who was also suspended for a positive drug test. Though Holmes reportedly will be suspended for the rest of the season, Lett is scheduled to return from his four-game suspension on Dec. 3.
Undermanned, with their confidence shaken, the Cowboys prepared for Oakland. "I wish we could play somebody a little softer," said guard Nate Newton, "but we got the Raiders, and they're a great team."
Sunday's result proved that to be an exaggeration. Still, the Raiders are much improved, and they are, if not great, at least very good. Al Davis may be a ruthless megalomaniac who dresses each day as if for a Vegas lounge act, but he deserves credit for cleaning up a big mess (albeit, one of his own making) in a big hurry. Last season—their 13th and final one in Los Angeles—the Raiders were ill-coached, ill-disciplined and split into more factions than the field of contestants in a beauty pageant.
Since then. Davis has pushed most of the right buttons. Mike White, a dark horse at best to replace Art Shell as coach, has proved an inspired choice. With its multiple formations and balanced attack, White's offense has been a welcome replacement for the antediluvian Raider attacks of yore. The difference between the offense this season and last? "Like using the Dewey decimal system and using a computer," says guard Steve Wisniewski. "Thirty years," says Brown, who took advantage of the new and improved scheme to amass his best statistical day of the season: 12 catches, 161 yards and one touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Davis has assembled a marauding defense anchored by a superb front four. It features Chester McGlockton, a human monster truck who has emerged as one of the best all-around defensive tackles in the game, and end Pat Swilling, the Raiders' latest reclamation project, who could be this season's comeback player of the year. Convinced that Swilling was washed up, the Detroit Lions benched him midway through last season. One afternoon in the off-season, the 30-year-old Swilling took a call from a man with a familiar, raspy voice who asked, "How would you like ta be a Raiduh?"
The Lions had Swilling dropping back into pass coverage, which is comparable to welding a shovel to your Lamborghini and using it to plow snow. Swilling is brilliant at one thing—rushing the passer, and that is all the Raiders ask of him. At week's end Swilling had nine sacks, the Lions 23.