The Oakland Raiders are handling their status as AFC Title Game participant like a 10-year old being called home for dinner by his parents.
In a nutshell, the Raiders, who host the Tennessee Titans for Sunday's AFC Championship Game, are not celebrating because they remember their last trip to the conference title game too well. Two years ago, the Raiders blasted Miami 27-0 in the AFC Divisional playoffs and hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the conference title game. Oakland laid an egg the following week and lost to Baltimore 16-3.
The Raiders entered that title game as the favorite and with the NFL's top-ranked ground game. The Raiders hopes ended when nearly 400-pound Tony Siragusa flattened quarterback Rich Gannon, who later returned but was not effective.
Oakland insists that this year's club is different and has more of a sense of urgency. Two years ago, reaching the conference title game was an achievement because the Raiders had not been there in 10 seasons. This time, however, Oakland is full of experienced players who may have their last shot. The Raiders, who last won a Super Bowl in 1983, have six players on their roster 35 or older.
"This team is on a mission," said Oakland head coach Bill Callahan, who was the offensive line coach two years ago. "Right now, the mission is not complete. To complete it, we've got to play a great game this weekend. And the thing that I see that's different from two years ago is that this team is a little bit more focused. They're putting in more time. You can see the quality of practices that we're having."
"They didn't have Charlie (Garner), they didn't have Jerry (Rice)," Woodson said. "Hopefully Rich can stay healthy, because he got hurt in that game. Jerry Porter didn't step up the way he has this year. (Tyrone) Wheatley's running well, the offensive line is playing extremely well. You've got some key additions on defense. Overall, it's a better football team."
Like Woodson, Adams earned the first Super Bowl ring of his career as a Raven and would like nothing better to add another to their collection.
"There is nothing like winning the Super Bowl," Adams said. "The only thing you can really compare it to is meeting your wife. You really cannot fathom how it feels until you win one. Am I happy that we won the divisional playoff game (30-10 over the New York Jets Sunday)? Yeah. Am I happy to be in the conference championship game? Yeah. I'm happy but don't congratulate me yet."
"We have guys with experience and that understand the magnitude of this game," Dorsett said. "Now, we have guys that look at the big picture."