December 2, 2010

2001: Cardinals Tie Raiders in Wild 4th Quarter, Win in OT

On the surface, the game between the Arizona Cardinals and host Oakland Raiders on December 2, 2001 at Network Associates Coliseum didn’t seem to be a promising matchup. Under Head Coach Dave McGinnis, in his first full season at the helm, the perennially underachieving Cardinals were 4-6, although they were riding a two-game winning streak. QB Jake Plummer (pictured at right), known for his inconsistency but also his late-game heroics, had come out of a midseason slump and was at his best throwing to WR David Boston.

The Raiders, coached by Jon Gruden, were 8-2 entering the contest. With QB Rich Gannon, whose career reached its pinnacle in Oakland, they ran a conservative, ball-control offense that proved highly effective. But the defense was beginning to show its age, although there was still plenty of talent.

Oakland got the first break of the game when LB Greg Biekert recovered a fumble by Plummer at the Arizona 23 yard line. Five plays later, Gannon passed to WR Tim Brown for a five-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.

The Cardinals came back, driving 73 yards in seven plays. A four-yard run to the 50 by Plummer in a third-and-two situation kept the drive alive, and then RB Michael Pittman ran 42 yards to the Oakland eight. RB Thomas Jones scored on a five-yard run that tied the score.

The Raiders missed an opportunity to regain the lead early in the second quarter when a 41-yard field goal attempt by Sebastian Janikowski was blocked by DE Fred Wakefield. The Cardinals moved in front instead on an impressive drive in which Plummer completed a 21-yard pass to Boston on a third-and-ten play and Pittman contributed a 22-yard run down to the Oakland 15. Pittman capped the possession with a one-yard carry for a 14-7 lead.

Following a 55-yard punt return by WR Arnold Jackson to the Raiders’ 39, the Cardinals went 34 yards in nine plays capped by a 23-yard Bill Gramatica field goal to extend their margin to 17-7. It was 20-7 in favor of Arizona at halftime as Gramatica added another field goal, of 26 yards, in the last minute of the half.

Oakland scored the only points in the third quarter on a 12-play drive. RB Zack Crockett ran for seven yards in a fourth-and-one situation to the Arizona 24, and Crockett helped sustain the drive again with a four-yard run to the 12 on third-and-two. Fittingly, Crockett scored a TD from one yard out to narrow the Cards’ margin to 20-14.

Gannon, who had thrown only two interceptions in the first ten games, had tossed two in the first three quarters, and one was particularly costly deep in Arizona territory that CB Tom Knight returned for 43 yards. The Cardinals converted that turnover into a 33-yard field goal by Gramatica early in the fourth quarter. However, Gannon and the Raiders responded by driving 67 yards in five plays, capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gannon to Brown.

The score remained 23-21 in favor of Arizona until the Raiders completed a 10-play drive with a 24-yard Janikowski field goal with 1:52 remaining on the clock. The Cardinals needed just 29 seconds to respond as Plummer completed a 20-yard pass to WR MarTay Jenkins to midfield and then Boston burned star Oakland CB Charles Woodson as he caught a 50-yard touchdown pass. Plummer successfully ran for a two-point conversion and Arizona was back in front at 31-24 with 1:10 now left.

It was plenty of time for Gannon and the Raiders to come back. The 14th-year veteran quarterback completed passes of 22 yards to venerable WR Jerry Rice on a third-and-ten play, 10 yards to RB Charlie Garner, and 36 yards to Rice down to the Cards’ 10 yard line. On a broken play, Gannon pump-faked and then ran for eight yards, getting out of bounds at the two with 15 seconds remaining. On fourth-and-goal, he then tossed a two-yard TD pass to Rice and, with the successful conversion, the game went into overtime tied at 31-31.

The game was decided in overtime when the Cardinals were forced to punt and Oakland WR David Dunn muffed the kick. Arizona LB LeVar Woods recovered at the Raiders’ 25 and three plays later, at 7:29 into the extra period, Gramatica won the game with a 36-yard field goal. The Cardinals came away with a 34-31 win.

Oakland outgained Arizona with 436 yards to 390, and also led in first downs, 26 to 24. However, they turned the ball over three times, to once by the Cardinals, and that ultimately proved costly.

Jake Plummer completed 22 of 38 passes for 249 yards with a touchdown and none intercepted. David Boston caught 6 passes for 106 yards and a TD, and MarTay Jenkins contributed 6 receptions for 90 yards. Michael Pittman was the team rushing leader with 78 yards on 18 carries and a score.

Rich Gannon (pictured at left) had 29 completions in 45 attempts for 302 yards with three TDs and two interceptions; he also ran the ball seven times for 30 yards. Jerry Rice had 7 pass receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown and Tim Brown added another 5 catches for 63 yards and two TDs. Charlie Garner was Oakland’s leading rusher with 59 yards on 15 attempts and added another 28 yards on 5 receptions out of the backfield.

Arizona lost three of its last five games to conclude with a 7-9 record, tied with the Giants for third in the NFC East. The Raiders won their next two contests but faltered with three losses to conclude the regular season. Still, their 10-6 tally was good enough to win the AFC West and they won in the Wild Card playoff round before losing a close decision to New England in the Divisional round.

Rich Gannon led the AFC in passing with a 95.5 rating and also in touchdown passes (27) and completion percentage (65.8). His 1.6 INT percentage was the lowest among NFL qualifiers and he was named to the Pro Bowl.

Jake Plummer threw for 3653 yards and had 18 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions – the only time in his six seasons with the Cardinals that he had fewer interceptions than TD passes.

David Boston (pictured at right) led the NFL with 1598 pass receiving yards; his 98 catches ranked seventh (third in the NFC). He was a consensus 1st-team All-Pro selection and was picked for the Pro Bowl.

The pass receiving combination of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, with a combined total of 31 pro seasons, was highly productive. Each caught nine touchdown passes, while Brown pulled in 91 receptions for 1165 yards and Rice had 83 catches for 1139 yards. Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl.