Monday, December 20, 2004

Getting by the Titans

When you're not headed to the playoffs, madly celebrating a big win late in the season becomes perfectly acceptable -- and completely necessary.

Oakland defensive end Bobby Hamilton hollered through the locker room in delight, coach Norv Turner congratulated his offensive linemen for a great game, and even injured Charles Woodson made locker-room rounds to high-five teammates.

The Raiders and Titans sure made it seem these fallen franchises were playing for something meaningful in late December.

Kerry Collins threw for season-high 371 yards and matched his career high with five touchdown passes, hitting Jerry Porter for three scores and outdueling Billy Volek in Oakland's 40-35 victory Sunday that sent Tennessee to its fourth straight loss.

``This team, we feed off each other,'' said Raiders defensive lineman Grant Irons, who helped force a safety with 8 seconds left. ``The emotion, enthusiasm, we just want to approach each and every game with that.''

Volek had the second-best passing day in franchise history with 492 yards and threw for four touchdowns, but the Titans' defense gave up big plays all afternoon. Volek also scored on a 1-yard run with 1:21 left, but later was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for the safety.

``We're moving the ball down the field,'' Volek said. ``The wide receivers are doing a great job. The offensive line was doing a great job. We just didn't score enough points.''

Drew Bennett established a career high with 13 receptions, for 160 yards, tying the Titans' franchise record for catches while playing in front of dozens of family and friends. He caught two touchdown passes in the first half, reaching 10 TDs for the first time in his career to become the franchise's first to do it since the Houston Oilers' Drew Hill in 1988.

``Statistics are only good when you get the win,'' Bennett said.

Volek hit Derrick Mason for a 3-yard score with 11:53 left that pulled Tennessee (4-10) within 35-28.

The Titans later faked a field goal from the Oakland 19, but Craig Hentrich's pass to Shad Meier was incomplete at the goal line. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 42-yard field goal on Oakland's next possession, set up by Alvis Whitted's career-best 57-yard catch.

``You can't say enough about our effort offensively,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. ``I told the guys inside, 'I'll take this one.' It's the head coach's fault. You can't take points off the board like I did in the decision to go with the fake field goal. It's a great call if you execute it, but not a good decision.''

Collins had five touchdown passes for the first time since his New York Giants beat Minnesota in the NFC championship game on Jan. 14, 2001. The last time a Raiders quarterback passed for five was Rich Gannon against Carolina on Dec. 24, 2000.

Porter caught scoring passes of 32, 18 and 3 yards, his second three-TD game of the season, and had eight catches for 148 yards as the Raiders (5-9) bounced back from last Sunday's 35-10 pounding in Atlanta to win at home for the first time since beating Tampa Bay in Week 3.

``Last week was pretty bad,'' Collins said. ``We were pretty awful. The guys really came to play today.''

In the first meeting here between these teams since the Raiders won the 2002 AFC championship game to reach their first Super Bowl since 1984, Collins picked apart Tennessee's poor pass defense. He completed three long touchdown passes in the first half in his most impressive game since taking over for the injured Gannon in Week 4.

Collins hit Teyo Johnson for an 18-yard score to get things started, and Doug Gabriel caught a 45-yarder in the third quarter.

Bennett, who grew up in nearby Orinda, scored on passes of 17 and 23 yards. Volek had another big day after throwing for 426 yards in a 49-38 loss to Kansas City at home Monday night.

Volek made his third straight start and sixth overall in place of injured Steve McNair and looked sharp. Oakland's depleted secondary took a beating.

Woodson, the Raiders' four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, sat out with a bone contusion on his right knee. Phillip Buchanon bruised his tailbone in the second quarter on a nullified interception. Bennett scored his second touchdown four plays later.

Collins played great, and it shows. He threw for 5 tds and 1 interception. He averaged 10 yards per throw which helped us make something out of the game. Although we can't make it to the playoffs, lets try and show our stuff against the Chiefs and the Jaguars in these last 2 games.

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