Janikowski ties FG mark, Raiders top Broncos 23-20
DENVER – Sebastian Janikowski figures his celebration over his long field goal will be short-lived.
After all, Matt Prater kicks at this altitude eight times a year to Janikowki’s one.
“He’s the only guy I’ve got to worry about if he’s going to break the record,” Janikowski said after his record-tying 63-yarder helped the Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 23-20 Monday night.
Janikowski said he dreamt of just such a historic field goal Saturday night and nailed a kick from 70 yards out during warmups.
His 63-yard kick tumbled above the crossbar near the left upright as the first half expired, giving Oakland a 16-3 lead.
“To be honest, I didn’t hit it that good,” said Janikowski, ever the perfectionist. “It barely got over the bar.”
Janikowski also was true from 37 and 21 yards. Prater made a 28- and a 30-yarder but was wide right on a 56-yard attempt in the first half, just his fourth miss from 50-plus yards in 13 career tries.
That was the difference in a foul- and fist-filled night between the AFC West archrivals.
The Raiders (1-0) won in Denver for the fourth straight season in coach Hue Jackson’s NFL head coaching debut, and handed the Broncos (0-1) their first loss in a home opener since 2000. John Fox lost his debut as Denver’s coach, and he lost at least two playmakers in the process.
Pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil was relegated to situational duty for three quarters after irritating a left shoulder injury that he originally sustained during practice last week. And perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey injured his left hamstring making a touchdown-saving tackle of Darren McFadden, who ran 22 times for 150 yards.
“It’s very disappointing because we talk about having to stop Darren McFadden, and we don’t do everything to stop him,” said Bailey, who will go for an MRI Tuesday.
Without a ground game themselves, the Broncos went to the air and cut the deficit to 23-20 with just under four minutes left on Kyle Orton’s short TD toss to Lance Ball – with both his top target, Brandon Lloyd (groin), and top tailback, Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) on the sideline.
The Raiders, who ran for 190 yards, salted away the win by controlling the clock and were able to line up in victory formation after Michael Bush’s 12-yard run to midfield for the first down at the 2-minute warning.
Other than his late TD throw, Orton had a tough night. He completed 24 of 46 passes for 304 yards with an interception. As he left the field, fans were chanting, “Tebow! Tebow!” for second-year quarterback Tim Tebow, who had an awful camp and is probably the No. 3 quarterback behind Brady Quinn.
Janikowski’s kick on the final play of the first half tied the NFL mark set by Tom Dempsey in 1970 and matched by Denver’s Jason Elam in 1998 at the old Mile High Stadium.
“I wanted to be 10 years in the league, break the record or tie the record and I want to win a Super Bowl,” Janikowski said. “Those are my three goals. I’ve got two out of three.”
Janikowski’s teammate, punter Shane Lechler, added a 77-yard punt in the fourth quarter, tying a team record set by Wayne Crow a half century ago.
“It’s phenomenal, both of them,” Jackson said. “What Sebastian did was unheard of. I think we have two of the best kickers in the league. I trust those guys, believe in them. What a kick. Obviously, a lot of people think that was the difference in the game.”
Lechler’s punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback, and that’s just what Jackson wanted out of his punter after watching Eric Decker return his previous punt 90 yards for a touchdown. It was the eighth TD on a punt or kickoff return on opening weekend, the most in a single week in NFL history.
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