By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, December 31st, 2010 at 12:18 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Even without the cooperation of the San Diego Chargers, the parallels are striking.
Back at the turn of the millennium, the Raiders closed out the regular season at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs in hopes of finishing with a .500 record and the promise of a better day.
The Raiders were 7-8, losing to the Chargers the previous week not long after they learned they’d been eliminated from the playoff race before taking the field Sunday afternoon.
All Kansas City needed was to win and capture the AFC West. Lose and they were out of the playoffs.
It set up the same way this season until Cincinnati upended San Diego last week, giving the division title to Kansas City.
Given that the Chiefs have already assured themselves a playoff berth, it’s impossible to duplicate the ecstasy that came with the 41-38 overtime victory on Jan. 2, 2000.
The Chiefs had beaten the Raiders 11 straight times (including a wild card playoff game) at Arrowhead and took a quick 17-0 lead only to have the postseason ripped from their grasp as Jon Gruden and Co. celebrated wildly when Joe Nedney’s 33-yard field goal split the uprights in overtime.
Some other instances of history repeating itself:
— The Raiders, scored 390 points that season, were convinced they were better than their record, ranked fifth in total offense and eighth in scoring.
The 2010 Raiders feel the same way, having scored 379 points to rank seventh in scoring and No. 10 in total offense.
— Place-kicking woes with Michael Husted (20-for-30) cost the Raiders dearly. He was eventually dumped in favor of Nedney with three games to play with Al Davis drafting Sebastian Janikowski in the ensuing draft to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Janikowski, for as well as he kicked this season, missed three field goal attempts, including a 32-yarder at the final gun, in a 24-23 loss in Arizona in a loss many see as the death knell to their playoff hopes.
— There were rumors going into the Chiefs game that Gruden’s job was not safe because Davis felt the Raiders underachieved. Davis later joked at a press conference that when the Chiefs went up 17-0 that day, Gruden and assistant Bill Callahan engaged in some gallows humor about looking for new jobs.
– Coach Tom Cable is in the last year of his contract this season and only Davis knows if he considers this season requisite progress or totally unacceptable. Hue Jackson, to whom Davis entrusted the offense with good results, has aspirations of becoming a head coach.
When the Raiders were knocking out the Chiefs, Cable was transitioning between being an assistant coach at Colorado and a head coach at Idaho and said he knows little about the 1999 game except that it gave the Raiders an 8-8 record.
The same record this season, Cable believes, along with a 6-0 record within the division, “absolutely’’ could be a similar lift-off point as the 1999 team had in taking down the Chiefs.
“First of all, it gets that losing thing away from us – meaning we don’t finish 7-9, we finish 8-8,’’ Cable said Friday before the Raiders departed for Kansas City.
“We sweep the division, which is a tough thing to do in any division in this league. And then I think it just sends everybody to the next step, meaning the offseason, feeling like heh we’re right there and now we gotta finish the deal and make it all the way next year.’’
Oakland used the 1999 game as the impetus for a 12-4 record the following season and its first division title in nine years.
Running back Tyrone Wheatley was the author of the game’s signature play, a 26-yard run on a counter draw during which he broke several tackles before crashing into the end zone, a moment captured by play-by-play announcer Greg Papa’s call of “Wheatley won’t go down!’’
Wheatley, now the running backs coach at Syracuse, said his enduring memory is what it took to cross the goal line.
“I remember Darryl Ashmore pushing me into the end zone _ everyone helping a teammate score,’’ Wheatley said. “It signified the extra fight that was maybe missing earlier in the year and we went and rolled off three years of real good football.’’
Wheatley said offseason participation was high.
“Guys bought in _ it was an incredible deal,’’ Wheatley said. “Accountability was big. We were accountable for our own mistakes and accountable for each other.’’
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (hamstring) and running back Darren McFadden (turf toe) did not practice and both were listed as questionable, with Cable saying McFadden has a better chance of playing than Seymour.
Both will be game day decisions.
Other official injury designations included wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (ankle-questionable), wide receiver Nick Miller (ankle-questionable) and tackle Langston Walker (concussion-questionable). All were limited during practice.
Cable said Walker “seems to be OK,’’ making him the likely starer over Mario Henderson at right tackle.
Tight end Zach Miller (foot-probable), cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle-probable), cornerback Chris Johnson (groin-probable) and safety Mike Mitchell (ribs-probable) all practiced without limitations.