Broncos Lead Raider 24-10 in 4th
DENVER (AP) _ Rookie Ian Gold scored on a blocked punt return as the Denver Broncos took a 24-10 lead over the Oakland Raiders early in the fourth quarter Monday night.
Jason Elam’s 23-yard field goal and Gold’s 12-yard return of his blocked punt in the third quarter enabled the Broncos to erase a 10-7 halftime deficit. Denver quarterback Brian Griese then threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Byron Chamberlain with 13:03 left to play.
Oakland’s Zack Crockett capped a 75-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run late in the first half.
Terrell Davis had scored on a 5-yard run less than four minutes into the game to give the Broncos the early lead.
Denver scored on its first possession, after a Raiders turnover, in the final Monday night game at 52-year-old Mile High Stadium, which will be replaced by a new stadium in 2001.
The Raiders were without kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who has a bacterial infection in his kicking foot, and leading rusher Tyrone Wheatley, who has two sprained ankles.
The Broncos momentarily lost Griese midway through the first period with a bruised throwing shoulder. Griese was tackled by two Raiders after throwing the ball away and then, on the next play, was tackled on a scramble.
After being replaced by Gus Frerotte for five plays, Griese returned early in the second quarter. Griese already was playing with torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder.
Cornerback Ray Crockett’s interception at the Oakland 39-yard line on the third play from scrimmage set up Denver’s first score. Griese passed 23 yards to tight end Dwayne Carswell and 10 yards to Chamberlain. Davis gained 2 yards on fourth-and-inches, and then went 5 yards off the right side for the touchdown with 11:32 left in the opening quarter.
Later in the quarter, the Raiders faced a third-and-26 from their own 8, but Rich Gannon passed 27 yards to Andre Rison. On the next play, Gannon hit Rickey Dudley for 30 yards, but the drive stalled inside the 5. Brett Conway, Janikowski’s replacement, kicked a 19-yard field goal with 2:06 to go in the quarter.
In what was shaping up as a defensive battle, the teams traded turnovers early in the second quarter. Denver punt returner Deltha O’Neal fumbled when hit by Travian Smith, giving Oakland possession at the Denver 37. Three plays later, however, Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski intercepted a pass at the 21.
Moments later, the Raiders went 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Gannon completed four passes for 60 yards on the drive, including a 20-yarder to Tim Brown. A pass-interference penalty against Terrell Buckley put the ball at the 1, and Zack Crockett ran the final yard for a 10-7 lead with 2:55 left in the half.
Griese, who seemed to lack zip on his throws after the first-quarter injury, was picked off by linebacker William Thomas at the Denver 42. But three plays later, Gannon was sacked by Gold and fumbled, with Kavika Pittman recovering at the 40.
Denver took the second-half kickoff and went 70 yards in 15 plays on a drive culminating in Elam’s 23-yard field goal with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
Davis, who had only 18 yards rushing on seven carries at halftime, gained 35 yards on six carries on the drive, and Griese completed five short passes.
Two minutes later, Gold ran up the middle on Shane Lechler’s punt, blocked it, scooped up the loose ball at the 12 and scored with 5:20 remaining in the quarter. It was Denver’s first blocked punt for a touchdown since 1979.
Griese then went 6-of-6 for 73 yards passing on the 83-yard scoring drive ending on Chamberlain’s TD catch.
The Raiders (8-1) came into the game with a three-game lead over Denver (5-4) in the AFC West. Under Denver coach Mike Shanahan, the Broncos had beaten Oakland in 10 of their last 11 meetings.
The temperature was 20 degrees at kickoff but there was no snow. Last year, Denver fans pelted Raiders players with snow balls, prompting Oakland offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy to go into the stands.