Originally created 01/08/01

Say hello to the Raider Nation, Baltimore



ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Fronted by a workaholic coach and a determined quarterback, the Oakland Raiders are playing the AFC title game at home because they earned it, plain and simple.

"I think you get what you deserve," coach Jon Gruden said. "I think we deserved to win our conference, we deserved to have a bye week and a home game, and we deserve to play in the AFC championship game because of the way we've played."

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans 24-10 on Sunday, setting the stage for the conference championship next Sunday in Oakland.

The Raiders (13-4) kept their season alive with a 27-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. It is Oakland's first appearance in the title game since the 1990 season.

Cornerback Tory James ran back an interception 90 yards on Miami's first possession and the Raiders' rout was on. It was Oakland's first playoff shutout.

"Let's go for another one," he said.

"Why stop now?" cornerback Charles Woodson said.

The Raiders have lost just one game at home this season.

Rich Gannon, selected to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team, was 12-of-18 for 143 yards. He hit James Jett with a 6-yard scoring pass. Tyrone Wheatley added a 2-yard touchdown dash, and rookie kicker Sebastian Janikowski had a pair of field goals.

James' interception return was his first career touchdown. Although he is overshadowed in the Raiders' backfield by Woodson and Eric Allen, James had the game of his career. He added another interception to match his career high in the fourth quarter.

"When I was out there, I really couldn't feel anything. It was like I was in a dream," he said. "Everything I did out there was working out for me.

The Dolphins' sixth-ranked defense couldn't stop the pumped-up Raiders, who had not hosted a playoff game in Oakland since 1980.

The game demonstrated the Raiders' balanced attack. They had 267 yards of total offense, including 140 yards rushing. Oakland has the best rush in the NFL.

Baltimore's strength is their defense.

Cornerback Ray Lewis ran an interception back 50-yards in Baltimore's victory Sunday. The Ravens (14-4) got another score from Anthony Mitchell, who returned a blocked field goal 90 yards.

Gruden watched the game from the Raiders' training facility in Alameda, Calif. The players had the day off, but Gruden was already hard at work for next Sunday.

"You know since I've been in football, I've never seen a team be as dominant for as long a period of time as the Ravens' defense has been," he said. "To yield just over 10 points a game for 18 games is eye-opening to me.

"To see what they did to the Denver Broncos in the first playoff game, and what they did today against a balanced physical offense in the Tennessee Titans, it opens your eyes."

Gruden said he'll try to keep everything as normal as possible for his players this week. That means the same preparation, the same practice schedule.

This game, he said, we'll be handled just like any other game - even though he knows there's a lot more at stake.

"Yeah, I've got to temper my excitement, you bet. I mean, this is an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," he said. "This is the kind of game you dream about as a kid, a kind of game you think about at the end of a day's work."