ROOM TO BREATHE

By FRANK SCHWAB THE GAZETTE Updated: November 14, 2005 at 12:00 am • Published: November 14, 2005
OAKLAND, Calif. - Luck played a role in the Denver Broncos’ 31-17 victory against the Oakland Raiders, but the play of the game unfolded like cornerback Darrent Williams knew it would.
The Broncos led 23-0 after three quarters but for the fifth straight game let up after taking a big lead. Oakland was in Broncos territory, trailing 23-10, when Williams anticipated Oakland quarterback Kerry Collins’ throw on a short sideline route to Jerry Porter. He intercepted the pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. That sealed Denver’s seventh win in nine games, and the Broncos lead the AFC West by two games over Kansas City and San Diego. Williams said he anticipated the play because he saw it while studying tape. “They ran that about three or four times last week against Kansas City, and I just remembered the formation,” Williams said. “Like coach says, ‘When you see something, you identify something, go attack it,’ and that’s what I did.” The notoriously rowdy Raiders’ crowd of 62,779 at McAfee Coliseum had little to cheer Sunday before Oakland’s fourth-quarter rally. Denver outscored Oakland 13-0 in the second quarter and 10-0 in the third quarter, but receiver Randy Moss’ 29-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter breathed some life into the Raiders. Rod Smith fumbled on Denver’s next play, and the Broncos appeared to be losing another big lead like they did against Washington, New England, the New York Giants and Philadelphia. But the Broncos held Oakland to a field goal after Smith’s fumble. Running back Tatum Bell fumbled in Oakland territory later in the fourth quarter, but Williams’ first career touchdown squashed the comeback. “It was a big-time play,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “You could see it coming the whole way, and that’s when you got to make those plays.” The Broncos dominated the first three quarters. The defensive line pressured Collins into many bad throws. Collins had three interceptions in Oakland’s first eight games. He threw three more Sunday. Denver’s running game wasn’t great, gaining 121 yards while averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Jake Plummer completed 16 of 22 passes for 205 yards to keep the offense moving. Through three quarters, the Broncos didn’t have a turnover and kept increasing their lead. Smith had a 27-yard touchdown catch (for his 66th career touchdown), Mike Anderson had a 1-yard touchdown run, and Jason Elam had three field goals, which put the Broncos in a seemingly comfortable position. The only time the Raiders’ fans showed any emotion before the fourth quarter was when they booed Collins’ poor decisions. The Broncos were fortunate that the Raiders blew some early opportunities. Porter beat Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey deep in the first quarter and might have had a touchdown, but he dropped a pass that hit his hands. Oakland drove to Denver’s 19-yard line in the second quarter, but Ebenezer Ekuban sacked Collins for an 8-yard loss on third down. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a field goal attempt on the next play. “It’s a shame we let it go to waste like this,” Porter said. In the fourth quarter, the Raiders had a chance to make a play that could have cut Denver’s lead to six points. Plummer threw a third-down pass to Smith, but it went straight to Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison. The ball bounced off Morrison’s hands for a harmless incompletion. “I got lucky,” Plummer said. “The guy had it in his hands. He should have taken it for a touchdown, and he didn’t.” Denver couldn’t gloat about overpowering the Raiders for all four quarters, but that didn’t matter much in a happy Broncos locker room afterward. “We make plays when necessary,” Bailey said. “We hate to let them come back like that, but it’s not a problem. We got it done, and that’s all that matters. You’d like to win in a better fashion, but a win is a win in this league, and we’ll take it.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or fschwab@gazette.com
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