Three was not a good number for the Oakland Raiders in a 24-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans Thursday night's exhibition game. In the first 8:45 of the game, the Raiders' offense ran three plays while the Tennessee offense scored three touchdowns.
That number was not the only disturbing trend in Oakland's second preseason game. For the second week in a row, the opposing team's offense had little trouble moving the ball against the Raiders' first-team defense. Granted, two of the Titans three touchdowns came via turnovers that gave them the ball on Oakland's side of the field. Tennessee, however, moved through the Raiders' starting defense as if it were going through a practice session.
"The turnovers really hurt us right off the get-go," Raiders' head coach Bill Callahan said. "We felt confident coming in that we'd make a good showing. When you get in that kind of hole it's tough to climb out of. I thought we did a good job of competing after that but we got behind the 8-ball too quick."
Tennessee struck first when Steve McNair connected with Derrick Mason on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Mason beat cornerback Tory James on the play despite the fact that James was call for holding. Oakland, which hosts San Francisco August 24, gave the ball back to Tennessee immediately when Larry Ned fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Titans recovered at the Oakland 11. Kevin Dyson scored on an end-around on the next play, making it 14-0 Titans before the Oakland offense took the field. Rich Gannon tried to connect with Jerry Rice on the third play from scrimmage but the ball deflected off his hands and into the arms of linebacker Keith Bullock to give the Titans possession at the Oakland 38. Eddie George, who carried eight times for 32 yards, capped the drive when scoring on 4th-and-goal from the 1.
Oakland's first-team offense did not get its initial first down until the 2:12 mark of the first quarter after going three downs and out the first two possessions. Oakland committed four turnovers and nine penalties for 63 yards. The Raiders first unit went on a 13-play, 77-yard drive against the Titans second-unit defense. The Raiders, however, were looking for their first team offense to end the night on a positive note. Tyrone Wheatley capped off the march with a 4-yard touchdown with right guard Frank Middleton delivering key block. Wheatley is trying to re-establish himself after an injury-filled 2001 campaign.
"You just want to get your wind back and work on some of the things you really couldn't do in practice," said Wheatley, who carried four times for 13 yards. "Tonight, I wanted to see the game at real speed. I take pride in my runs. My 2, 3, 4 yard runs I take great pride in those."
Oakland had a chance to pull within a touchdown late in the first half when Matthew Hatchette dropped a potential touchdown pass from Marques Tuiasosopo. The Raiders were forced to settle for a Sebastian Janikowski 29-yard field goal attempt but it sailed wide right. Janikowski has missed three of five field goal attempts.
Rick Mirer, Oakland's No. 3 quarterback, scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to make the final score respectable.