Raiders bumble their way in defeat to Cowboys

It's a good thing the Raiders don't put a lot of stock into their preseason. At the current pace, Oakland's players would need a good dose of mental therapy given the way things have gone. A 52-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday was just the latest in a series of exhibition debacles to come their way this year. <BR><BR>

How bad was it? Rich Gannon's first pass of the night bounced off of receiver Jerry Rice's shoulder pads and wound up in the hands of Dallas' defender Mario Edwards, who strolled into the end zone from 24 yards out for a touchdown.

It was so bad that Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter heaved a 69-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway in the first quarter then came back on Dallas' next possession to fire a 49-yard completion. Both times the victim was Oakland cornerback Terrance Shaw, the apparent starter on the right side.

But that wasn't even the worst of it. The Raiders also had their usual plethora of problems on special teams: a fumbled kickoff by Doug Gabriel, three holding penalties that wiped out strong returns from Ronney Jenkins and Justin Fargas, a botched extra-point attempt and a 96-yard kickoff return for touchdown by the Cowboys.

''For a lot of guys it's hard to get motivated these last couple of games knowing you're going to come out of it after only a few plays,'' said cornerback Charles Woodson. ''I'm tired of the preseason, tired of it. I'm ready to get down to Tennessee and show (people) what we're all about.''

The Raiders open the regular season Sept. 7 on the road against the Titans in a rematch of last year's AFC championship game. Hopefully for Oakland's sake it will be able to shake the preseason slumber it's been in for the last four weeks.

Not that the game with the Cowboys was a good barometer. After all, the prime weapons in Oakland's offense -- Gannon, Rice and Tim Brown -- were on the sidelines calling it a day after just two series.

Even with the stars on the bench, the Raiders offense actually had one of its better outings of the preseason. Back-up quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who has struggled throughout training camp and into the exhibition schedule, had by far his best game, completing 22 of 28 passes for 198 yards while also rushing for a team-high 52 yards.

Tuiasosopo directed Oakland's only scoring drive of the first half, a 13-play, 76-yard march against the Cowboys' No. 1 defense midway through the second quarter. He also had a chance to get the Raiders more points just before halftime but tried to scramble into the end zone and was stopped shy of the goal line as time ran out.

The second half went much like the first did for the Raiders. Carter threw his second touchdown pass of the night to help the Cowboys increase their lead to 38-7 before Oakland scored on a Madre Hill 11-yard touchdown run. But Sebastian Janikowski's extra point attempt was blocked and the Raiders would never score again.

On the ensuing kickoff Dallas return man Reggie Swinton fielded Janikowski's kick at the Cowboys' 4-yard line then race back through the heart of Oakland's coverage unit, not stopping until he found the opposite end zone 96 yards later.

''We can get better,'' said Raiders head coach Bill Callahan. ''We've got nine days to get ready for Tennessee (and) we're excited about that. We've got a lot of work to do.''

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