Raiders outduel Titans

The playoffs are in the past tense for the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans but the two fallen franchises played one of the more entertaining games of the day Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum. The contest resembled an AFL shootout with Oakland prevailing 40-35.

Quarterbacks Billy Volek (Tennessee Titans) and Kerry Collins (Oakland Raiders) combined for 863 yards passing. Volek was 40-of-59 for a franchise record 491 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Drew Bennett caught 13 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns while Derek Mason caught nine balls for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Collins, meanwhile, completed 21-of-37 passes for 372 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Jerry Porter caught eight passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. The outcome of the game was not signed, sealed and delivered until :08 seconds remained in the game when Volek was called for intentional grounding in the end zone while Raiders defensive end Grant Irons had him under severe pressure.

The Raiders are now 5-9 and Tennessee is 4-10. Both clubs play on Christmas Day with Oakland visiting Kansas City and Tennessee hosting Denver.

"You never get too high with the highs are too low with the lows," Collins said. "Last week was a low. People ask, ‘What are you playing for?' We're playing to get better. We got better today."

The game was tied at 21-all at halftime as, for Tennessee, Volek connected with Bennett for two touchdowns while tight end Ben Troupe caught another. Collins, meanwhile, connected with Porter twice for touchdowns in the first half and tight end Teyo Johnson for another.

Oakland went in front 28-21 with 7:28 left in the third period when Collins delivered a 45-yard touchdown pass to Doug Gabriel, who caught the ball over the middle and raced into the end zone.

On the ensuing series, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly stripped Volek of the ball and Warren Sapp recovered the fumble at the Titan 21. Four plays later, Collins connected with Porter for a 3-yard touchdown pass, making it 35-21 Raiders with 4:30 left in the third period.

"We had a lot of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of but we came out with a ‘W'," Porter said. "We got the ball spread out pretty good. We got Doug Gabriel going a little bit and we got Teyo going a little bit."

Tennessee, however, shaved the lead in half with 11:53 left in the game when Volek hit Mason for a 3-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-goal. The Titans threatened once more when Gary Anderson lined up for an apparent 37-yard field goal. Punter Craig Hentrich, who was the holder, rolled out to his left on the fake field goal and tried to hit Shad Meier in the end zone but the pass fell incomplete.

On the ensuing possession, Oakland faced third-and-nine from its own 20. Collins then hit Alvis Whitted for a clutch 57-yard reception despite being well covered by Scott McGarrahan and Peter Sirmon. That play led to an eventual 42-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.

"I gained my confidence in them just like I hope they've gained their confidence in me," Collins said of his receivers. "He's obviously got great speed. He (Whitted) was matched up on a linebacker. I just tried to put him in a position where he could make a play. He came through with a big play."

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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