- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

OAKLAND, Calif. The playoffs have been unkind to the Oakland Raiders for almost two decades. So they took out 19 years of frustration on the New York Jets.
League MVP Rich Gannon and the Raiders showed why this season might be different from all the others since 1983 with a 30-10 playoff rout yesterday. They knew the surest road to the AFC Championship game was to stay at home and avoid tuck rules and snowy night games in New England.
Now they get Tennessee, whom they beat 52-25 at home in September, back at the Oakland Coliseum for a shot at the Super Bowl. The Raiders have not been to the big game since winning it against the Washington Redskins in 1984.
"These chances are very rare," veteran All-Pro safety Rod Woodson said. "I think we are a mature team that understands what we have here."
What they have is the opportunity to re-establish their "Commitment to Excellence."
That chance has been there before two years ago, when they lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens in the conference title game, and last season, when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the controversial tuck rule did them in at New England.
"We've been this far before," said Jerry Porter, who outperformed his more illustrious teammates at wide receiver, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. "It's time to go farther."
Porter caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and set up Rice's 9-yard score with a 50-yard reception as the Raiders (12-5) made it a clean sweep for the home teams this weekend. Gannon began going downfield in the second half after a 10-10 tie, and it paid off.
"We didn't throw the ball deep a lot this year, so it was exciting we were able to do some of that," Brown said. "At halftime, the coaches said we were going to do what we do best, and that's to throw."
The Jets had the most efficient thrower in the league, Chad Pennington, but he had a miserable day. Pennington, in his first season as a starter, had a 104.2 rating. But against Oakland he was 21-for-47 for 183 yards and a 44.9 rating.
"There's a saying that as the quarterback goes, so does the team. I didn't go today," said Pennington, who threw two interceptions as many as he had in the last 10 games combined and lost two fumbles. "I was struggling all day long. I don't know why. It's one of those things I have to learn from and have a short-term memory."
The Raiders, winners of eight of their last nine games, got interceptions by Tory James and Eric Barton in the second half. They also recovered the two fumbles by Pennington and earned their second trip to the AFC title game in three years. In the 2000 season, they lost at home to Baltimore 16-3 in the conference championship game.
"We suffered a big letdown my rookie year in the AFC championship when Baltimore came in here," Porter said.
Their most painful loss came at New England last January in the infamous tuck-rule game when an apparent late fumble by quarterback Tom Brady was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots, of course, went on to win the Super Bowl.
Now, the Raiders think it is their turn.
"These opportunities are few and far between," said Gannon, who finished 20-for-30 for 283 yards. "I am trying to seize the moment, seize the opportunity. Of course, three other teams are trying to do the same thing."
Rice's catch was his 21st postseason touchdown, tying an NFL record. The 40-year-old receiver also set a record for yards in the playoffs with 2,133 in an 18-year career.
"I'm just happy to be playing football with a team that is very hungry," Rice said.
Oakland's defense harassed the usually unflappable Pennington and sacked him four times, twice by Rod Coleman. The Raiders beat the Jets for the third time in four games at home in the last year.
After a strong first half, Pennington came undone, throwing high, forcing passes and looking rattled.
"He was trying to do too much," Coleman said. "We were coming, so he had to start forcing stuff."
It was the second straight year the Raiders ended the Jets' season here in a playoff game. These teams have had some of the most memorable and bitter meetings in NFL history, but this game was a lopsided Raiders celebration.
"I'm already over this one," Porter said. "Now, it's Tennessee."
The game was tied 10-10 at halftime. But after James' leaping sideline interception at the Jets 45, Gannon went downfield. He hit Brown for 16 yards, then found Porter streaking down the left sideline against a zone defense. Porter caught the ball in stride for a 29-yard touchdown.
Oakland stopped the Jets on a fourth-and-3 when wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, who struggled all game, slipped on his pattern. Gannon then connected with Porter over the middle for 50 yards. It took three more plays for Gannon to hit Rice in the back of the end zone.


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