DE'RANGED - DE'ORANGE

Denver blows an eleven point fourth quarter lead as the Oakland Raiders come from behind for a 25-24 victory.

A surprisingly upbeat and decidedly orange crowd of fans came to make oatmeal of Oakland. Four inches of snow and temperatures in the teens had the fans up on their feet, clapping hands and shouting at their favorite team to hate.

Orange Sunday; the weekend following Thanksgiving was only the second time the Broncos have donned the orange jerseys. To compliment the orange color today, fans were handed orange pom-poms as they entered the stadium. The other noticeable color being worn by fans were the black "Raider Hater" T-shirts.

By the end of the first quarter most of the seats were filled despite a slow and protracted drive into Invesco Field at Mile High due to the inclement weather. Cars were sliding on both sides of the I-25 freeway exchange, and into each other. The normal 45 minute commute from the town of Castle Rock, just south of the city was a two hour exercise in patience. With fingers crossed, I passed more than three accidents on the south corridor heading into the stadium. I thought I'd be greeted with empty stands and a muted crowd. I was wrong. Once again Bronco fans bled orange while hands and feet turned blue. Chanting "RAIDERS S**K" seemed to satisfy the fans, despite the empty scoreboard.

Five minutes before the half the Broncos started to click. Running first to the left and than to the right, Reuben Droughns made steady progress in 5 successive carries. Topped-off by a 19 yard pass to Darious Watts; the Bronco's were finally in striking distance for a 32 yard field goal by Jason Elam despite a slippery snap. With less than a minute of play in the half, Jake Plummer threw the longest pass of his career for an 85 yard touchdown to Rod Smith. Not to be outdone with 15 seconds on the clock, the Raiders completed a scoring drive of 51 yards which brought the score at half to 10-7 Broncos. The crowd quickly headed inside to the beer stands to re-arm and re-warm during the break.

Seats stayed filled during the third quarter, most frozen in place I'm sure. Denver was slow to complete a drive. Still the fans stayed-the-course as the snow continued to fall. A Jake Plummer interception and a punt dropped and recovered by Rod Smith, demonstrated to all watching this game in the frozen slush, the extent of the slipperiness of the ball as players stumbled and fell trying their best to maintain some semblance of control. At this point it was a chilly 8 degrees and still snowing.

One minute into the fourth quarter things changed dramatically. Ashley Lelie caught a 58- yard pass and Reuben Droughns completed the drive for a touchdown. The Broncos were up 17-13 and the fans exploded with approval. One minute later, Ellis Johnson intercepted a pass and ran 32 yards for another Bronco touchdown. How many fumbles later? John Lynch intercepts a third incomplete Kerry Colins pass and the Broncos have the ball once again with the score holding 24-13.

Not for long…on the next Raider possession wide receiver Ronald Curry makes an awesome one-handed snag, bound for the ESPN highlight reel and the Raiders are back in it again. Looking around the stands, no one is leaving and it's suddenly very quiet.

The Two minute warning sounds and suddenly the Raiders are facing third and goal on the five yard line. A Kerry Colins completed pass to wide receiver Jerry Porter AND THE RAIDERS ARE UP 25-24!

In a little over one minute, Denver brings the ball downfield to within 25 yards of their rnd zone and Jason Elam is brought in to save-the-day.

Unfortunately a block by Raider tackle Langston Walker seals the Broncos fate and a deranged, dethroned and deeply disappointed Bronco crowd disperses into the storm.

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