DENVER -- The Oakland Raiders plane has left Denver. So it can be revealed.
Al Davis was to be handed the game ball from Monday night's 23-20 victory against the Broncos in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
"He doesn't know it yet," Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell told CBSSports.com. "We'll give it to him on the airplane. So don't tweet it."
At 82, the longtime Raiders owner Al Davis is obviously no longer a youngster. While Raiders players didn't want to speculate about his health, they said he's rarely seen these days at practices.
For now, the Raiders want to do some winning for a guy who not only has been around for recent stock-market crashes but also for the one in 1929. Until Monday, they hadn't won an opener since 2002. Mission accomplished there.
Now, they want to get the Raiders back into the playoffs for the first time since they made the Super Bowl in that 2002 campaign.
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"That's what we're shooting for," Campbell said. "We understand [Davis is] getting up in age. We want to make sure we can get to the playoffs and get him what he deserves."
In trying to do his part, Campbell, completing 13 of 22 passes for 105 yards, didn't put up big numbers. But he gave the Raiders the lead for good at 7-3 on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marcel Reece early in the second quarter. And he pushed them to a 23-13 lead on a 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Raiders saw Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record on a 63-yard field goal at the halftime gun, Darren McFadden rush for 150 yards on 22 carries, and Hue Jackson get a victory in his NFL coaching debut.
But that didn't result in any of them getting the first game ball. It was slated for Davis, who wasn't in the locker room to receive it after the game but apparently was to be surprised on the team plane.
"We gave him the game ball because he's been going through a whole lot of criticism, and that stuff about the moves he's been making and stuff like that," running back Michael Bush, who rushed for 26 of his 30 yards as Oakland ran off the final 3:43 of the game, told CBSSports.com. "And we gave him the game ball. Hopefully, he's not too mad at us because the game was close. But I think he enjoyed it."
Not that Bush, in his fifth year with the Raiders, would know if Davis were mad. He doesn't catch a glimpse of him much these days.
"I haven't seen him lately," Bush said. "But I'm pretty sure he sees our every move. So he knows. He's the eye in the sky."
|Jason Campbell is supposed to be a changed man. But his smartest move was putting the ball above Darren McFadden's belt and letting his stud running back go to work (again). Sure, the Raiders lost their composure too many times (again). But Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard FG. It was barley enough for Oakland's fourth straight win in Denver.|
|It started well enough, with the Broncos forcing a turnover on Oakland's first offensive snap. But the hint of things to come should have been settling for a field goal. Denver couldn't run; hardly even tried. The passing game was discombobulated in the rain. Penalties abounded. Eric Decker's 90-yard punt return was a lone bright spot in John Fox's mainly forgettable coaching debut.|
|By Lee Rasizer|
Davis, whose Raiders have won three Super Bowls but none since January 1984, hasn't liked what he has seen lately. The Raiders haven't had a winning season since losing that January 2003 title game to Tampa Bay. And they didn't even have a .500 campaign during that stretch until going 8-8 last season.
But that wasn't good enough for Tom Cable to keep his job. He was fired, and Davis promoted Jackson, his offensive coordinator.
"I never told anybody it would be easy," Jackson said of winning his debut. "But anytime you can go on the road in the AFC West and win, especially when we have had what has happened to us on Monday nights in the past, you've got to take it."
Perhaps night games, in which the Raiders had lost 11 straight, have not been their forte. As for AFC West games, though, they haven't been too tough. The Raiders, who strangely went 6-0 in the division last year and 2-8 outside it, have won eight straight within the division.
As for games against the Broncos, one of their biggest rivals, those actually haven't been too difficult lately either. Oakland won its fourth straight in the series while frustrating Denver quarterback Kyle Orton.
With backup Tim Tebow, who didn't play Monday, being the most popular guy in town, Orton is trying to win over Broncos fans. He didn't help himself much Monday.
Orton heard a boo. Actually, he heard a lot of them from the home fans when he was barely pressured and dropped the ball for a lost fumble at the Oakland 35 with 14:11 left in the game and the Broncos trailing 16-13.
"All in all, it was probably like all of us, not quite good enough," Denver coach John Fox said about the showing by Orton, who was 14 of 30 for 178 yards and an interception in the first three quarters before padding his stats on a late touchdown drive and finishing 24 of 46 for 304 yards.
There were few complaints, though, about some special-teams performers. Until Orton's 9-yard TD pass to Lance Ball with 3:43 left to cut the deficit to 23-20, Denver's only touchdown came on a 90-yard punt return by Eric Decker in the third quarter.
But Janikowski was the ultimate special-teams hero. His 63-yard field goal tied the record set by New Orleans' Tom Dempsey in 1970 and Denver's Jason Elam in 1998.
"I didn't hit it really good," said Janikowski, who said he kicked a 70-yarder in warmups and who now has seven career field goals of at least 55 yards, including one from 61. "[The altitude] definitely helped it. ... I got a little doubt. I mean, it cleared by like one yard only.
"I'm not big on setting goals, but I wanted to be 10 years in the league, break the record or tie the record and win the Super Bowl. Those were my three goals. So I've got two out of three. Hopefully, this year I get the third one."
If that happens, you better believe Davis will get another game ball.