Inside slant

That week of self-scouting during the bye week has paid off ever since. During the greening of Kerry Collins, the Raiders have been a short to medium range passing team. In his first seven starts, his longest completion was for 34 yards. There were a good number of 20-yard passes in there, but there was no field stretching going on.

Until Denver. In a snowstorm.

"They were sitting on our routes at about 10-15 yards deep," wide receiver Jerry Porter said, "daring us to throw. Basically we just took the dare."

Result: Porter six catches for 135 yards, three touchdowns. Ronald Curry six catches for 110 yards, one touchdown. Doug Gabriel four catches for 51 yards. Total for Collins' three main targets: 16 catches, 296 yards and four touchdowns.

And in there were completions of 63, 53 and 42 yards - Collins' three longest of the year.

Collins' improvement as he has adapted to the Norv Turner offense is one thing, but the thing that has made it work are the young receivers.

"My time frame was I wanted it to happen six, seven, eight weeks ago," Turner said. "All the way back to the way we played Tampa, you come out of that game and you think you're going to do everything you want to do.

"There's a process you have to go through and our team had to go through that. The fact that we have a lot of young guys improving, that means a lot to me."


Kerry Collins took one look at the snowy conditions for Sunday night's game against Denver and smiled.

"I played in Pennsylvania growing up so I've played in tough conditions my whole life," Collins said. "It looked worse than it was."

--Last time the Raiders saw Reuben Droughns, he was running over them -- 38 times for 176 yards. In the rematch, Oakland had four linebackers on the inactive list and went to a 4-3.

Actually they went beyond that.

"We put nine in the box, as many people as we could," safety Ray Buchanan said. "What Droughns did to us the last time was a nightmare. We knew that we didn't play the gaps the way we were supposed to last time."

The Raiders opened the game with a 4-1-6 alignment. The only linebacker who started was Danny Clark, although Napoleon Harris played extensively later on.

-- Coach Norv Turner was unable to shed much light on the status of RB Tyrone Wheatley's hamstring injury Monday other than to say he would be listed as questionable for the Sunday game against Kansas City. Asked if Wheatley had suffered a tear, Turner said "I don't know that they can answer that for us right now."

-- DE/LB Tyler Brayton came out of the game with a strained neck and will be listed as questionable for Kansas City.

-- SS Marques Anderson, who forced Reuben Droughns to fumble and then recovered it himself, suffered a quad bruise and will be re-evaluated Wednesday.

-- WR Doug Gabriel hopes that the hip pointer he got in the Denver game won't be like the one fellow WR Alvis Whitted has struggled with. Whitted has been inactive for four straight games.

-- RB Justin Fargas, who may have to replace the injured Tyrone Wheatley against Kansas City, had three carries for zero yards in his first duty as a ballcarrier in six games.



PASSING OFFENSE: A minus -- Kerry Collins notched four touchdown passes, 339 yards through the air, had completions of 63, 52 and 42 yards (his longest of the year) against the No. 8 pass defense. Jerry Porter had his best NFL game (three TDs), Ronald Curry made a one-handed circus catch in high altitude that was as spectacular as his drop last week was distressing. Continued good pass protection. A straight up A were it not for the two interceptions.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C minus -- Tyrone Wheatley was only around for eight carries (34 yards) and after he left with a hamstring injury, the running attack was meek. Some of it can be blamed on the field conditions, but not all. If Wheatley's hamstring injury forces him to sit for any length of time, the Raider run game is in dire straits.

PASS DEFENSE: C minus -- Denver averaged 10.7 yards a pass attempt, the most the beleaguered Raider defense has yielded in a game yet this year. Mixups in the secondary continue to occur, as on Rod Smith's 85-yard touchdown reception. Although the Raiders went without a sack, there appeared to be some improvement in the pass rush as LB Sam Williams made several plays worthy of note.

RUSH DEFENSE: B minus -- The Raiders held RB Reuben Droughns and Company to less than half what it rolled up in Oakland on Oct. 17 (122 yards compared to 254). They risked having Jake Plummer pass them to death but he did not have the touch Drew Brees had the previous two games against San Diego. Warren Sapp was moved back inside to tackle for large portions of the game rather than playing right end. There was a noticeable increase in inside resistance.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B minus -- There was good and bad. Denver blocked a Raider extra point then Langston Walker returned the favor in the end, blocking what would have been the game-winning field goal. Doug Gabriel finally broke a kickoff return (41 yards). Jarrod Cooper rescued Phillip Buchanon, who let a Denver punt hit him, by falling on the free ball. Sebastian Janikowski missed his only field goal try but at 48-yards in horrible conditions, it was understandable.

COACHING: A minus -- The Raiders managed to get the most out of what was not a gem of a game. What they did do, and credit the coaches, was start to take chances, go for the jugular and end the string of vanilla-flavored losses.

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