Big play dooms Raiders

Bernard Berrian

Despite being forced to play without cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington, the Raiders' defense was playing by far their best game of the season, putting the team in a great position to get an unlikely victory.

One play changed everything.

Less than a minute after Sebastian Janikowski's field goal gave the Raiders the lead, Bears' speedster Bernard Berrian ran right past fill-in cornerback Chris Carr and scored on a 59-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Rex Grossman with 3:11 remaining. That play suddenly gave Chicago the lead and eventually sent Oakland to its fifth straight loss, 17-6, at McAfee Coliseum.

Up until that point, the Raiders' pass defense could not have played much better, especially under the circumstances it faced. Chicago had only amassed 180 yards through the air and Oakland had held the Bears' offense to three points before Berrian's touchdown.

"To be ahead with four minutes left in the game and have a chance there - it's a lesson that we talk about all the time - when you've got a chance to finish people, you're got to finish them," Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin said.

For much of the game, Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad ran comeback routes and made first-down catches in front of Oakland's cornerbacks, particularly with Carr. On the decisive play in the fourth quarter, when Berrian slowed down for a split second, Carr played him for the short route and slowed down himself. As a result, he and the Raiders got burned.

"They were really doing a very good job at selling me on the go route and breaking up," said Carr, who made his second career start on Sunday when he filled in at right cornerback in place of the injured Asomugha. "They were doing that to me all game. So on the go route, he gave me a little hesitation, and I wasn't running as fast as I should have been running. Then, he got a step on me, and he got me."

Said Grossman, who replaced an injured Brian Griese in the second half: "It was a matchup we were looking for all game. We called several plays to get something like that, and they'd be in a different coverage that would take it away."

For 56 minutes, it was working perfectly for the Raiders. Prior to Sunday, Griese had thrown for more than 300 yards twice this year, including a three-touchdown effort against Minnesota on Oct. 14. Before he was knocked out of the game just before halftime with a shoulder injury, Griese passed for only 97 yards despite completing 10 of his 14 passes.

Meanwhile, the Raiders did what it had not been able to do all season long - get a hold on the opposing team's run game. Chicago running backs Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson couldn't find many holes to run through against the suddenly-stout Raiders defense. The Bears ran for a total of 78 yards on the ground - Benson had 29 rushes for 76 yards - with the longest run of the game covering all of nine yards.

"This year, we've been giving up the big runs," linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "When you don't give up big runs, you see what happens today. That's a perfect example."

Which brings us back to that big play. On Sunday, it wiped out 56 minutes of brilliance and brought the Raiders back to a painfully-familiar place.

"Hey, it can come down to one play," Carr said. "We were up 6-3, and if they don't score on me on that play, then we probably win the game. If you're in the position to be perfect, you have to be perfect."

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