Raiders can't get by Seahawks

SEATTLE -- The Raiders had a chance to run away from the rest of the AFC West pack Sunday night in Seattle. Instead, they spent the night chasing the Seahawks' Shaun Alexander and never could quite catch up.

Alexander, Seattle's second-year running back who is only in a starting role due to an injury to Ricky Watters, left his size 12 footprint all over the Raiders. Alexander rushed for a career-high and franchise record 266 yards, 192 of them coming in the second half when the Seahawks throttled Oakland for three touchdowns on the way to a 34-27 win at Husky Stadium.

''Shaun Alexander was magnificent but a lot of that was on us,'' said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, after seeing the Seahawks rush for 319 yards overall. ''We missed some tackles and our run-fill assignments weren't nearly acceptable for the type of team we want to be. But Shaun was great. I don't know if it was Alexander or Jim Brown out there.''

Alexander's big night came at the Raiders expense and kept Oakland from capitalizing on an opportunity to distance itself from the rest of the AFC West. In falling to 6-2, the Raiders saw their lead in the division dip to 1 1/2 games over Denver and San Diego. Seattle (4-4), which would have been all but buried with a loss, also kept alive its slim playoff hopes and pulled to within two games of the Raiders. ''It was Seattle's day,'' said Oakland running back Randy Jordan.

 ''We have a very good team and it's just disappointing because we felt going in we could win this game. We feel that way every game but against Seattle we thought we could get it done. We didn't.'' More to the point, the Raiders defense didn't get it done. Alexander, who had looked extremely ordinary with just 18 yards on 10 carries when Oakland thumped the Seahawks 38-14 earlier this season, was an all-star Sunday, ravaging the Raiders for big gains almost every time he touched the ball. Seattle's offense offered no resistance to the Raiders in the loss in Oakland on Sept. 30, falling behind 38-0 and never recovering.

Sunday night at Husky Stadium was a different story, however, as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck led Seattle to a pair of field goals in the first quarter while the Seahawks' defense limited Oakland to Sebastian Janikowski's 52-yard field goal in the opening stanza. Hasselbeck hasn't led an easy life in Seattle this season. Between being pulled from games, booed by the home crowd and getting ripped to shreds by local newspaper columnists, the young Seahawks quarterback has been through the ringer in his first season in Seattle.

Hasselbeck still isn't out of the fire but he had the Raiders number early on. He completed four of his first six throws for 69 yards and had a key 15-yard scramble on a quarterback keeper that set up Ryan Lindell's second field goal that put the Seahawks ahead 6-3 late in the first quarter. That was a good omen for Seattle, which has led after the first quarter in every game it has won this season but have trailed in games which it has lost. A more telling sign for Seattle was in the time of possession, a category the Raiders generally control. Instead, the Seahawks held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the first quarter, keeping the ball out of the hands of Gannon while putting the pressure on Oakland's defense.

The Raiders finally stopped Seattle in the second quarter and a Seahawks punt pinned Oakland back at its own 11. Gannon, who completed only two of his first seven pass attempts, warmed up and connected on his next six. He avoided disaster when he fumbled while scrambling, but the ball bounced back into his hands. Six plays later Gannon hit wide receiver Tim Brown on a short crossing route for a four-yard touchdown that helped give the Raiders their first lead of the game at 10-6. But Hasselbeck and Seattle's offense rebounded nicely, marching 76 yards with relative ease to lead the Seahawks to their first touchdown of the night.

The drive started with an incompletion -- and with the crowd at Husky Stadium booing Hasselbeck -- before Seattle got going. Hasselbeck found his favorite target, Darrell Jackson, four times for 45 yards on the drive. Jackson had seven catches for 102 yards in the first half alone, the last of which was a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck that put the Seahawks back on top. On the touchdown Jackson beat Oakland cornerback Tory James, who was filling in for injured starter Charles Woodson. Woodson has been troubled by turf-toe injury the past week and was in the Raiders starting lineup when the game began. But he aggravated the injury early and was in and out of the game the rest of the night.

Oakland went into halftime trailing only by three, 13-10, but definitely not with the same spark that had led them to six wins in its first seven games this year. But seldom-used running back Terry Kirby got the Raiders going in a big way to start the second half when he took the opening kickoff in the third quarter and raced back 90 yards for a touchdown. Oakland got the ball back less than 90 seconds later after a Seattle punt and moved efficiently down to the Seahawks' 19 before settling for a 37-yard field goal by Janikowski.

Seattle kept coming, however. After falling behind 20-13 the Seahawks answered right back. This time it was running back Shaun Alexander who got into the end zone, going around left end and slipping a pair of tackles on his way to a six-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Oakland never could find an answer for Alexander, who is starting only because of an injury to Ricky Watters. When the Seahawks got the ball back after forcing the Raiders to punt, Alexander took a handoff from Hasselbeck, broke through a mass at the line of scrimmage and then streaked 88 yards down the middle of the field for a go-ahead touchdown for Seattle. It was the longest run from scrimmage in Seahawks history and gave them a 27-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Alexander kept going, topping the 200-yard plateau on Seattle's next possession then piling it on later with his second score of the night, coming on a 10-yard run. Alexander's touchdown came three plays after Oakland's Zack Crockett fumbled at the Raiders own 25-yard line. ''I'm not going to tell you a lot of things we did well on defense tonight,'' Gruden said. ''It's unacceptable. We've been too good against the run in the past to have someone come in and do that to us. We've got to get it corrected because when you get a hole punched in you like that, (other teams) are going to take a long look at you.''

Alexander's 266 yards also established a Seahawks franchise record for most rushing yards in a single game. ''As a defensive unit we played terrible,'' said linebacker William Thomas. ''We can't have teams coming in and running for 300-something yards against us. We have to go back and watch everything that everyone did wrong. It was just a matter of everyone not taking care of their responsibilities.'' Despite Alexander's heroics, the Raiders didn't fold. They came back on a 64-yard scoring drive with Gannon getting a key fourth-down completion to Jerry Rice before finding tight end Roland Williams for a five-yard score that cut Seattle's lead in half. But when push came to shove, the Seahawks just gave the ball to Alexander and allowed him to do the work.

The Raiders did get the ball back for one final shot at forcing overtime but those hopes died when Jordan -- after catching a screen pass from Gannon -- slipped on the turf and couldn't get out of bounds. Gannon and the rest of the offense tried to hurry to the line of scrimmage for a final play but the clock ran out before they could get the ball snapped. -30-


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