October 18, 2011

1993: Raiders Overcome Elway Heroics to Beat Broncos on Long FG

The Monday Night Football matchup on October 18, 1993 featured two NFC West rivals, the host Denver Broncos and visiting Los Angeles Raiders. Both teams were at 3-2 coming into the key contest.

Not much had been expected of the Raiders, under Head Coach Art Shell, coming into the ’93 season - they had been a mediocre 7-9 in 1992. The signing of free agent QB Jeff Hostetler (pictured at right) made a difference (one of the losses came in a game he missed due to injury), and he had dependable WR Tim Brown to throw to, as well as the speedy trio of James Jett, Alexander Wright, and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. However, the running game and defense were suspect.

Denver had a new head coach in Wade Phillips, who had replaced Dan Reeves, the team’s mentor for 12 years. While Reeves had led the club to six playoff appearances in that time, including three AFC Championships, the Broncos had dropped to 8-8 in 1992. Reeves moved on to the Giants while Phillips was elevated from defensive coordinator. To be sure, John Elway (pictured below) remained at quarterback, and his importance to the team had been evidenced by the 0-4 record when he was out with an injury in ‘92. Jim Fassel, his college quarterback coach, was hired as offensive coordinator. TE Shannon Sharpe had emerged as Elway’s go-to receiver but, like the Raiders, the running game had been questionable thus far.

There were 75,712 fans in attendance at Mile High Stadium as the Broncos took the opening kickoff and drove from their 20 to the LA 11 yard line, but an Elway pass was intercepted by SS Derrick Hoskins in the end zone and returned 14 yards. The Raiders made the most of it, although initially the resulting possession appeared to have run out of gas at the LA 36. However, Denver was offside on a punt, allowing Los Angeles to maintain the drive, and then Hostetler threw to Brown for a 45-yard gain to the Broncos’ 19. Three plays later, Hostetler threw to Wright for an 11-yard touchdown.

Following a three-and-out possession by Denver, Brown returned the resulting punt 32 yards and, five plays afterward, Jeff Jaeger kicked a 32-yard field goal. The Raiders led by 10-0 after one quarter of play.

Los Angeles scored again early in the second quarter on a 49-yard Jaeger field goal. The teams traded punts for the remainder of the half, although an aborted kick by Denver’s Tom Rouen led to the Raiders getting the ball with good field position at the Broncos’ 38 with 1:15 remaining on the clock. However, another 49-yard three-point attempt by Jaeger was nullified by a holding penalty and LA was forced to punt. The Raiders went into halftime with a 13-0 lead.

Denver got a break in the third quarter when, after a sack that knocked Hostetler briefly out of the game, LA’s backup QB Vince Evans was intercepted by SS Dennis Smith, giving the Broncos the ball at the Raiders’ 39. With RB Rod Bernstine carrying the ball five times and Elway throwing to Sharpe for a 12-yard gain, Denver got to the LA six, but a delay of game penalty and 14-yard loss on a sack created a fourth-and-25 situation. Jason Elam’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked by DE Howie Long, but once again a penalty on a special teams play hurt the Raiders as CB James Trapp was called for running into the kicker. With a second chance, Elam was successful from 40 yards to put Denver on the board.

Following a short possession by the Raiders, the Broncos drove into scoring position again on a series highlighted by a pass from Elway to WR Derek Russell that gained 33 yards. But Denver came up empty when Elam was wide on a 42-yard field goal attempt, and the score remained 13-3 entering the fourth quarter.

The Broncos started off the final period with a 55-yard drive in seven plays that ended with Elway throwing to WR Arthur Marshall for a 27-yard touchdown that, with the successful extra point, brought them within a field goal of the Raiders. They scored again in short order when, on the first play of LA’s ensuing possession, Hostetler fumbled and NT Greg Kragen recovered for Denver at the Raiders’ five. Two plays later, Elway hit TE Reggie Johnson with a two-yard scoring pass and the Broncos had a 17-13 lead. It appeared that the star quarterback was once again working his come-from-behind magic.

The Raiders wasted no time regaining the lead, however. Hostetler threw to Jett for a 74-yard touchdown on the first play after the kickoff and once again Los Angeles held a three-point lead at 20-17. Denver got the ball with 10:25 to play and put together an 11-play, 62-yard drive highlighted by a 43-yard gain on a pass from Elway to Russell to the Raiders’ 46. Another pass to Russell, for 11 yards, allowed the Broncos to convert a third-and-eight situation and the possession ended with Elam kicking a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20.

The teams traded punts, and with 2:37 on the clock, the Raiders took over at their 39. Hostetler threw to Brown for 20 yards on a third-and-six play and LA was able to run the clock down to 21 seconds, at which point Jaeger booted a 53-yard field goal that just made it successfully. Time ran out on the Broncos at their 18 yard line, and the Raiders came away with a 23-20 win.

Los Angeles outgained the Broncos with 308 total yards to 253, although Denver had 18 first downs to LA’s 12. The Raiders ran the ball poorly, gaining just 53 yards on 23 attempts, but had 308 net passing yards – Denver, by comparison, rushed for 132 yards and had 253 through the air. Elway was sacked seven times by the Raiders (three by DE Greg Townsend) who, characteristically, were also penalized 13 times.

Jeff Hostetler, who was sacked just twice, connected on 15 of his 24 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and none intercepted. Tim Brown (pictured at right) led the receivers with 6 catches for 116 yards; John Jett’s 74-yard scoring catch was his lone reception of the game, and the combination of Jett, Alexander Wright, and Raghib Ismail contributed 7 receptions for 136 yards and two scores. RB Greg Robinson led what there was of a running game with 27 yards on nine carries.

For the Broncos, John Elway, who performed so well in the fourth quarter, was successful on 16 of 30 throws for 188 yards with two TDs against one interception. Derek Russell (pictured below) caught 5 of those passes for 111 yards. Rod Bernstine rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries.

“It was an ugly kick,” said Jeff Jaeger of his game-winning field goal. “It was so low. But it went through, and that's all that counts. Let it be as ugly as can be if it goes through the uprights.”

The Raiders defeated Denver again at home in the season finale and ended up second in the AFC West with a 10-6 record, good enough for a wild card spot and fourth seed in the playoffs. The Broncos were right behind at 9-7 and also made the postseason as a wild card. The two teams met for a third time in the first round and the Raiders won their most convincing victory of the three encounters by a 42-24 score. LA lost to Buffalo at the Divisional level.

Elway had a Pro Bowl year as he led the league in pass attempts (551), completions (348), and yards (4030), ranked second in touchdown passes (25), and third in completion percentage (63.2) and passing (92.8 rating).

Jeff Hostetler threw for 3242 yards and placed fourth in yards per attempt (7.7) and second in yards per completion (13.7). Tim Brown continued to be his leading target as he caught 80 passes for 1180 yards and seven TDs and placed fifth in the league in all-purpose yards with 1652.