Raiders Top Limping Saints

It wasn't the loss of star running back Ricky Williams in the last game. It wasn't the loss of starting quarterback Jeff Blake in the first quarter.

It was the gutsy performance of Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon, especially down the stretch Sunday when he ate up the clock and contributed two touchdowns, that snapped the New Orleans Saints' six-game winning streak, 31-22.

"Super performance given the circumstances in this game," said Oakland coach Jon Gruden. "There was a lot of pressure, a lot of emotion in this game. He made a lot of creative plays and was brilliant down the stretch."

Gannon shook off five sacks and steady pressure to engineer five scoring drives.

"He made some unreal plays," said Saints linebacker Keith Mitchell. "We had him sewn up a few times and he just got out of it. He was really on today."

Although Oakland had only 295 yards, the Raiders (9-2) converted 60 percent of their third downs and held the ball for almost four minutes longer than the Saints. Working against the No. 3 defense in the NFL, Gannon completed 14 of 21 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Gannon had been sacked just 18 times in the first 10 games, but was dropped by the Saints five times for a loss of 34 yards. Coming into the game, the Saints led the NFL with 44 sacks.

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Game Summary

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  • Gannon was also the Raiders' leading rusher with 55 yards on seven attempts. Oakland, ranked No. 6 in rushing, averaging 134 yards a game, was without Tyrone Wheatley, who also sat out last Monday night's game with two sprained ankles.

    "We caught them in some man coverage," Gannon said, "and I stepped up in the pocket and found myself with ome gaping holes."

    The Saints (7-4), their offense already depleted by the loss of star runner Williams, who broke his ankle in last week's game, lost Blake in the first quarter. Blake fractured and dislocated his right foot when defensive end Lance Johnstone landed on it. He may have surgery this week.

    Aaron Brooks, who had done little more than occasionally take a knee in his two-year career, stepped in. He got off to a rough start.

    Brooks was sacked for a 6-yard loss on his first series. On his first pass in the next series, Brooks was intercepted. Four plays later, Gannon hit Andre Rison with a 34-yard touchdown pass that put the Raiders up 10-0.

    Oakland, which had a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter, stretched the lead to 17-0 when Zack Crockett capped a 50-yard drive with a 6-yard run. Crockett ran for a second 6-yard touchdown in the closing minutes. Gannon also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown in the fourth quarter.

    Brooks bounced back with a 53-yard TD pass to Willie Jackson to trim Oakland's halftime lead to 17-7. Brooks also hit Jackson for a 9-yard touchdown with 1:09 left in the game.

    Brooks completed 14 of 22 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He was also intercepted once and sacked three times.

    "It's the first time he consistently played and we got him to throw for 150 yards in a half," said Saints coach Jim Haslett. "I think he played pretty good."

    Doug Brien hit field goals of 42, 40 and 33 yards for New Orleans, which had won six straight.

    New Orleans gained 133 yards rushing, just below its average of 134 yards when Williams was healthy. Chad Morton gained 45 yards, Jerald Moore and Terrelle Smith each had 42 yards.

    Notes

  • The victory was the first for Oakland in New Orleans since Jan. 25, 1981, when the Raiders beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
  • Entering the game the Saints were 7-0 when they scored 20 or more points.
  • Oakland is averaging more than 28 points this year, good for third in the NFL.
  • Injuries: The Saints reported RB Jerald Moore, bruised ribs; LB Phil Clarke, right ankle sprain; CB Michael Hawthorne, left leg contusion; QB Jeff Blake, broken right foot.


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