Raiders shake up AFC West race

So much for the Oakland Raiders being quitters. On a snowy night in Denver, the Raiders became a big player in the AFC Western division race without actually being involved.

The Oakland Raiders rallied to edge their most bitter rival, the Denver Broncos, 25-24. Langston Walker blocked a 42-yard Jason Elam field goal in the final seconds to preserve the Raiders win. At 4-7, the Raiders are a best a longshot to make the playoffs but Oakland knocked Denver out of its first place tie in the AFC West. The Broncos are now 7-4 and trailed San Diego (8-3) by one full game. The two teams meet in San Diego on Sunday. The Raiders host Kansas City Sunday.

Oakland quarterback Kerry Collins connected with Jerry Porter for a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 1:49 left in the game to give Oakland a 25-24 lead. The two-point conversion was no good. That touchdown was one of three Collins-to-Porter connections and was set up by a 64-yard Collins-to-Ronald Curry catch-and-run to the Denver 10.

The Broncos had one more shot and drove from its 32 to the Oakland 25 before Walker's blocked field goal.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Denver turned a 13-10 deficit into a 24-13 lead with :59 seconds. Denver took a 17-13 lead with 14:26 left in the contest when Droughns went up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown. Droughns appeared stopped at the line of scrimmage but kept his legs driving and bounced to the right for a touchdown. That score was set up by a 57-yard Jake Plummer-to-Ashley Lelie connection to the Raider 3.

On the ensuing possession, defensive tackle Ellis Johnson return a Collins interception 32-yards to paydirt to give the Broncos a 24-13 advantage with 13:46 left in the game. The Raiders were seemingly down for the count but trimmed Denver's lead to 24-19 with 6:26 left in the game when Collins connected with Curry in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. Curry made a leaping one-handed grab and held on to the ball. The two-point conversion was no good.

The Broncos broke the scoreless tie with 1:54 left in the second half when Elam booted a 32-yard field goal. Sebastian Janikowski missed a 48-yarder on the ensuing possession.

Denver widened the lead to 10-0 with :44 seconds left in the first half. Plummer rolled out to his right and lofted a pass to Rod Smith, who got behind safety Ray Buchanan. Smith then raced 85 yards to paydirt.

Oakland, however, gained some momentum before halftime when Collins fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to Porter, who was double-covered by cornerback Champ Bailey and safety John Lynch, with :16 seconds left in the first half. The score stood at 10-7 at halftime.

The Raiders got the first big break of the second half when safety Marques Anderson forced a Reuben Droughns fumble that cornerback Charles Woodson recovered at the Denver 36. Three plays later, Collins hit Porter for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Monsanto Pope blocked the extra point and Oakland led 13-10 with 12:50 left in the third period.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at

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