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2004 Season Review

In a season of change and continued losing, the Raiders show a glimmer of promise.

Gone are future Hall of Fame wide receivers Tim Brown (released in training camp) and Jerry Rice (traded in October). Gone is starting quarterback Rich Gannon, the NFL's 2002 MVP, who is sidelined in the season's third game because of a broken vertabrae in his neck. His playing future is clouded at best.

First-year Raiders coach Norv Turner deserves credit for keeping his team focused throughout a trying season. From the public's view, the players don't quit in games and don't backstab in the locker room -- unlike the 2003 season under then-coach Bill Callahan.

With a 5-11 record, the 2004 Raiders are only one win better than the previous season. But make no mistake, there's evidence of improvement. You just have to look for it.

The Raiders offense -- led by quarterback Kerry Collins (top photo) and receivers Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry -- finishes eighth in the league in passing (241.1 yards per game). Tackle Robert Gallery, guard Jake Grove and safety Stuart Schweigert are among the rookies who show they are part of a potential solution to end a losing trend of the past two seasons.

Oakland's downfall is an abysmal running game (last in the league) and a floundering defense (third to last in total yards and passing yards surrendered). Still, the Raiders are competitive -- six of their losses are decided by seven points or less.

Here's a capsule review:

Top Three Highlights

The Raiders overcome an 11-point deficit in the final seven minutes to stun the Broncos 25-24 in the snow in Denver in a nationally televised Sunday night game Nov. 22. After Jerry Porter catches a 5-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins to lift Oakland into the lead with 1:49 left, Langston Walker blocks a 43-yard field goal attempt by the Broncos' Jason Elam with 31 seconds remaining.

Upon hearing boos from the Network Associates Coliseum crowd after throwing an interception against New Orleans on Oct. 24, Kerry Collins waves his arms to encourage the crowd to boo him more. Even though the Raiders lose to the Saints 31-26, Collins proceeds to lead Oakland to victories in two of its next three road games. The 10-year veteran throws for 3,495 yards -- the sixth best single-season performance in franchise history.

The Raiders end a 13-game road losing streak with a 27-24 victory over Carolina on Nov. 7. Sebastien Janikowski's 19-yard field with six seconds left gives Oakland its first road victory since a 27-7 win over San Diego on Dec. 8, 2002.

Top Three Disappointments

The Raiders surrender 442 points (second worst in franchise history) and rank 30th in the NFL in total defense and pass defense. Free-agent defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Ted Washington, whom the Raiders reportedly sign for a combined $50.6 million, can't revitalize an Oakland defense that was among the league's worst in 2003.

Despite being paid a reported salary of $8.782 million as the team's exclusive franchise player, cornerback Charles Woodson makes little or no impact on Oakland's 30th ranked defense. The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner contributes only one interception in 13 games. Woodson caps an undistinguished season by reportedly being arrested for public intoxication in the wee hours after the Raiders' 40-35 victory over Tennessee on Dec. 19.

The Raiders end the season ranked last in the league in rushing (80.9 yards per game).

Roll Call

Kicker Sebastien Janikowski makes 25 of 28 field goal attempts (for a career-high 89.3 percent) and scores 106 points, the fourth time he exceeds 100 points the past five seasons.

Punting Excellence
Punter Shane Lechler is named to The Associated Press 2004 All-Pro team for the second straight year and also makes the AFC Pro Bowl team. Lechler has a league-high 46.7 yards gross average.

Rising Star
Wide receiver Ronald Curry has a breakout season with 50 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns. Curry might have exceeded Jerry Porter's team highs of 64 receptions, 998 receiving yards and nine TDs if he doesn't sustain a torn left Achilles' tendon against Kansas City on Dec. 5.

Building Blocks
Right tackle Robert Gallery and right guard Jake Grove, both rookies playing out of position, exhibit the potential to be Pro Bowl-caliber players for years to come. Gallery, the second overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft, starred at Iowa at left tackle while Grove (taken in the second round) excelled at center for Virginia Tech.

Slap In The Face
Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Warren Sapp are included in the "All-Overrated Team" in the Dec. 20 issue of The Sporting News.

Seeing Yellow
For the second straight season, the Raiders have an NFL-high 134 penalties. On the positive side, Oakland is fifth with 1,013 penalty yards - a decrease of 107 yards from 2003 when it led the league in that category. It's the 13th time the Raiders lead the NFL in penalties. Only the Chicago Bears have a more dubious record - leading the league 16 times in penalties.

Fast Facts

The Raiders finish last in the AFC West for only the third time in franchise history. Oakland was last in the American Football League's Western Division in 1961-62.

Amos Zereoue finishes the 2004 season as the Raiders' leading rusher with 425 yards on 112 carries. That's the good news. The bad news is that Zereoue sets a franchise record for fewest rushing yards as a Raiders season leader as he eclipses Wayne Crow's record of 490 yards on 119 carries set in 1961.
Kerry Collins' 3,495 passing yards ranks sixth in club history. The top five single-season passing performances are: 4,689 yards by Rich Gannon in 2002; 3,917 by Jeff George in 1997; 3,840 by Gannon in 1999; 3,828 by Gannon in 2001 and 3,615 by Ken Stabler in 1979;
At minus 17, Oakland is tied with Miami for 30th in NFL turnover/takeaway ratio. The Raiders, who have 35 turnovers and only 18 takeaways, finish ahead of only San Francisco (minus 19) and St. Louis (minus 24).
Since 1999, the Raiders are 8-28 when scoring less than 21 points.

By The Numbers:

2.5: Sacks by Raiders DT Warren Sapp, who had 77.0 sacks the previous nine seasons with Tampa Bay.
3: Blocked kicks by offensive lineman Langston Walker.
5.8: Average yards on 21 punt returns for Phillip Buchanon, who averaged 13.1 yards per return during his first two NFL seasons.
22: Games missed because of injury by Raiders QB Rich Gannon the past two seasons (9 in 2003 & 13 in 2004).
23: Raiders losses in 32 regular-season games since the team played in Super Bowl XXXVII at the end of the 2002 season.
442: Oakland points allowed during its 16 games in 2004, the second worst showing in franchise history. The 1962 Raiders allowed 458 points in a 14-game schedule.

Parting Shot

In the 2004 season, quarterback Kerry Collins showed he cared. You can't make the same apprasial about other high-profile Raiders such as cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Phillip Buchanon and defensive tackle Warren Sapp, all of whom are considered busts in 2004. Collins (right) was 3-10 as a Raiders starter and threw only one more TD pass (21) than interceptions. Still, he was accountable for his performance -- win or lose -- in every game he played.

During the third quarter of the Raiders' 31-26 home loss to New Orleans on Oct. 24, many of fans at Network Associates Coliseum rained boos on Collins after an interception. As he walked off the field, the former New York Giants starter waved his arms to encourage more abuse from the crowd. After his outburst, Collins rallied the Raiders with two fourth-quarter TD passes despite a Raiders loss and then he went on to have a creditable season.

You can argue successfully that the best moments of the Raiders' 2004 season was Collins' passing. Playing in a blizzard, Collins was sensational as he passed for 339 yards and four TDs to engineer Oakland's upset of the arch rival Broncos in Denver on Nov. 28. He also had five TD passes to lead the Raiders past the Titans on Dec. 19.

Collins, 32, isn't the second-coming of Brett Favre, but he'll give you a chance to win. The Raiders could do a lot worse.

The Last Words

"A lot of guys this offseason need to think about whether they want to be here. The last two years here, we've had some guys who think they can just line up on Sunday and play football. It doesn't work that way."

Raiders RB Tyrone Wheatley

Photos captions/credits:
Raiders QB Kerry Collins (5) tries
to elude Chiefs DE Jared Allen.

The Associated Press

Kerry Collins passes against the Chiefs.

Updated: 1-24-2005


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