SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
October 01, 1990
Now 3-0 and committed to L.A., the Raiders are acting like a happy family
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October 01, 1990

Home, Sweet Home

Now 3-0 and committed to L.A., the Raiders are acting like a happy family

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Well, all right, they did try one long pass in the first half, a trick-'em throw, with Marcus Allen passing deep on a halfback option. He released the ball just as he was about to get hit by noseguard Gerald Williams, and up stepped Rod Woodson, the best cornerback in the league, to make the interception.

What L.A. had to show for the half was three points, 17 snaps, 68 yards of offense and 8:41 of possession time. The only reason the score was tied 3-3 was that the Pittsburgh offense specializes in self-destruction—long drive, screwup, long drive, screwup. The Steelers have yet to score a touchdown on offense this season, and quarterback Bubby Brister, a down-the-field thrower, has been put in a box.

Get a load of this Pittsburgh attack. Late in the third quarter, Brister had completed 18 of 20 passes, yet the Steelers had only three points and were on their own 26. They would penetrate Los Angeles territory only once more in the game.

Here were two guys, Brister and Schroeder, with live arms throwing dink passes and handing off. It was like watching two heavyweights with knockout power spending 14 rounds trading jabs. Sooner or later somebody had to throw the first right cross, and it wound up being Schroeder. After the Raiders got a field goal and Allen scored on a one-yard run, Schroeder connected on a 66-yard touchdown pass to wideout Mervyn Fernandez to put Los Angeles ahead 20-3 with 8:32 to go. That's the one that ended the fight.

In the locker room afterward, Davis was muttering that his club had not played Raider football at all: only one deep completion, nothing but take-what-they-give-you stuff. Raider football is to make the other guys take what you give them, he said, "but what the hell, we're 3-0."

Schroeder was smiling as people came by and said, "Great game, Jay." He completed nine of 19 throws for 148 yards—hardly dazzling but serviceable—and he had no turnovers. He explained that he didn't throw deep because the Steelers were laying back to protect against long passes. Then why the deep one to Fernandez? "Well," said Shroeder, "the corner-back missed the bump on him, and the free safety was late in getting over."

What he didn't say was that four seasons ago, when he went to the Pro Bowl as a bomb-throwing Redskin, he would have come out of the box firing deep against any kind of coverage. But it's a new era now, a new Schroeder. Schroeder the Raider—the name has a nice ring to it. He has a terrific defense, which will get the ball back for him in field position, and a surprisingly good offensive line. So if the coaches tell him to dink it around for a while and play trick-'em football, why, that's fine.

"There will come a time when you'll have to open up," someone told him, and he smiled again. "I can open up when I have to," he said.

That might happen sooner than he thinks. Injuries are chopping away at the defense. The Raiders lost their No. 1 draft choice for the year when pass rusher Anthony Smith tore up his right knee in the preseason. Long, who was off to his best start ever, went down in Week 2 with a dislocated toe and a broken toe. He's out for six weeks. On Sunday, Garry Lewis, the sensational rookie cornerback, broke his clavicle, which puts him out for six weeks too. Finally, the Raiders' sack-happy rookie linebacker, Aaron Wallace (he had two on Sunday), suffered a deep shoulder bruise against Pittsburgh that might keep him out of this Sunday's game against the undefeated Chicago Bears.

The injuries may affect Shell, too. The history of the NFL is filled with nice-guy coaches who were beloved by their players but were taken advantage of when tough times came. The human organism is strange indeed. "Oh yeah, it could happen," Long says, "but there are guys here who won't let it happen. I won't let it happen, and I don't care how many people think I'm an ass. Marcus Allen won't let it happen. We've got a good thing here. Nobody wants to screw it up."

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