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Raiders coach irked by ref's call

By DARRELL FRY, MARC TOPKIN, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Even after his team shut out Miami on Saturday, Oakland coach Jon Gruden seemed a little mad about a Raiders touchdown that was called back late in the third quarter with his team leading 27-0.

Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler was hit as he attempted to throw. The hit on Fiedler's throwing arm caused what looked like a lateral. Raiders cornerback Tory James scooped up the ball and ran it for a touchdown.

But the referees ruled it an incomplete pass, which negated the touchdown.

The Raiders challenged the call. But after reviewing the play, officials upheld the ruling on the field.

That didn't please Gruden at the time or after the game.

"I believe that was a fumble and a live football," he said.

PRAISE FOR TORY: After the game, Gruden couldn't say enough about James' play, which included a forced fumble and two interceptions, one of which he returned 90 yards for a touchdown.

"Tory got some good jumps and some good reads on the ball," Gruden said. "I'm really happy for him. He stepped up for us against Indianapolis earlier this year and he stepped up for us today. We gave him a game ball."

BEWARE OF THE BLACK HOLE: A sellout crowd of 61,998 showed up for Saturday's game, the first home playoff game in Oakland since 1980.

It made for a wild scene as fans were awash in silver and black. Some went to the extreme, dressing in elaborate Raiders costumes.

As usual, the south end zone, nicknamed the Black Hole because of the rabid fans who sit there, was in a frenzy all day.

The fans made the atmosphere so raucous that even Gruden noticed.

"I have never seen anything like this before today. I mean, this place was rocking," he said. "From the music to the costumes to the noise, it was relentless. ... Our players fed off of that and it was awesome today and we appreciated it."

SPREADING THE WEALTH: The Raiders can say Saturday's win was truly a team effort.

Eight Raiders carried the ball and seven caught a pass.

Gruden had to chuckle at his team's versatility.

"We've got too many options," he said. "We've got so many options I don't know who's doing what some of the time."

COMING OUT OF NOWHERE: The hit of the day might have been delivered by a punter.

Early in the third quarter, Oakland's Darrien Gordon looked on his way to a long punt return until Miami punter Matt Turk leveled him at the Raiders 46-yard-line, holding Gordon to 24 yards.

SEEING YELLOW: Penalties hurt Miami, which is nothing new. The Dolphins were charged with eight for 55 yards, but had several others declined.

The Dolphins set a team record this season with 115 penalties.

NOT IMPRESSED: The Raiders beat the Dolphins, but they didn't necessarily turn them into believers. "The Raiders have a good team, they have a lot of talent, but in my opinion they will not win the Super Bowl," Dolphins guard Mark Dixon said. "They have a good football team, but they're not unbeatable," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

WE REMEMBER HIM: Among the big plays by the Raiders was a 32-yard reception by running back Terry Kirby, which shouldn't have surprised Miami. Kirby is a former Dolphin.

The veteran back caught a short curl pass in the second quarter, then spun away from the defender for a huge gain.

He also ran the ball 11 times for 37 yards, including a 17-yard first down.

LOSS OF CONFIDENCE: The Dolphins entered the game with confidence, having won in Oakland each of the past three seasons. But in one play less than 41/2 minutes into the first quarter, the Dolphins went from being on the verge of taking an early lead to a full-fledged collapse, thanks to the long interception return.

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