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Woodson, Raiders Stun The Pack


Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson had a great coming out party, and Jon Gruden got a nice welcome home.

Woodson's

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  • ferocious first-quarter hit on Antonio Freeman forced a turnover that ignited the Oakland Raiders to a 27-21 victory over the bumbling Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

    Returning to the city where he began his NFL coaching career as an assistant on Mike Holmgren's staff in 1992, Gruden saw his Raiders hand the Packers their first loss at Lambeau Field since Sept. 17, 1995, a span of 33 games, including five exhibitions.

    "He taught me a lot, it was good to beat him," said Gruden, the NFL's youngest coach, who turns 35 Monday. "It's a great feeling coming back. I have a lot of great memories here."

    And Sunday's recollection will beat them all.

    Woodson had an unforgettable day, too. He got his first professional start at left cornerback because Gruden wanted him tested by quarterback Brett Favre and receivers Freeman and Derrick Mayes.

    He passed with flying colors.

    "It was a great opportunity for him to see the best," Gruden said. "He did some good things. I thought he was pretty good in his technique. I thought he challenged people. That's a good start for that young man."

    Woodson looked right at home as an NFL starter.

    "No butterflies," he said. "It's still football."

    And Woodson, the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft, is still the playmaker he was at Michian.

    On Favre's first pass in his direction, Woodson hammered Freeman just as the ball arrived and free safety Eric Turner grabbed the ricochet and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

    It was one of three turnovers the Raiders (2-0) turned into 17 first-half points on their way to an insurmountable 24-7 halftime lead before a stunned crowd of 60,078.

    Favre only threw Woodson's way once more. It bounced off Freeman's chest.

    "He's a fine, young cornerback with a very bright future," Freeman said. "He's a fine athlete. But he's only played a quarter and a-half, not 16 games."

    Favre finished 3-of-8 for 53 yards, but things quickly deteriorated for Green Bay (2-1) when the three-time MVP left.

    Backup Doug Pederson fumbled two of center Frank Winters' first three snaps, and Oakland turned those gifts into 10 more points and a 17-0 lead.

    "This is the first time in game situations where Frank and I have worked together," Pederson said. "Each center has his own rhythm. I was just off with Frank today. I guess I wasn't ready."

    Linebacker Mike Morton recovered the first one at the Packers 20, and two plays later, tight end Rickey Dudley hauled in Donald Hollis' pass at the 10 and bullied his way into the end zone for a 17-yard TD and a 14-0 lead.

    Raiders strong safety Calvin Branch recovered Pederson's next blunder at the Packers 42 and Greg Davis followed with a 54-yard field goal to make it 17-0 as Pederson and Winters practiced snaps on the sideline.

    "I'm a little angry and very disappointed with how we played," Holmgren said.

    The Packers finally caught a break when free safety Mike Prior, subbing for Darren Sharper (thigh), picked off Hollas at midfield and Pederson hooked up with Derrick Mayes on a 14-yard TD pass to make it 17-7.

    Oakland quickly retaliated.

    After LeRoy Butler sacked Hollas at the Green Bay 43 with a minute left in the first half, Hollas hit Rodney Williams for 18 yards on third-and-14, then picked on converted cornerback Chris Darkins for a 25-yard TD to Williams with 22 seconds left for a 24-7 lead.

    Hollas completed 15-of-23 passes for 162 yards and two TDs after starter Jeff George went 7-for-16 for 45 yards.

    Pederson's 17-yard TD toss to Roell Preston in the third quarter made it 24-14.

    After Davis' 30-yarder, David Klingler hit Corey Bradford with a 5-yard TD pass with 54 seconds left to pull Green Bay to 27-21. But the onside kick went out of bounds.

    "Any time you don't play well, there's reason for concern," Freeman said. "But this is why you play the preseason, to work the kinks out."

    In his first start for Green Bay, Raymont Harris had very few holes to work with and finished with minus-1 yard on six carries.

    "If we were going to play poorly, at least we did it collectively," Mayes said.

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