Raider Vault: The Time Randy Moss was a Raider

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Raider fans were universally delighted at the news. Moss’s #18 jersey instantly became the most popular Raider jersey (especially in the Pico-Union) and Moss became the face of the franchise that was looking to return to Super Bowl form after two consecutive losing seasons.  Raider fans had every reason to think that the 2005 squad would turn it around. Entering the second year with offensive guru Norv Turner as head coach, the 2005 Raiders had shed most of the aged players who had led the team to an AFC title in 2002, and replaced them with capable veterans. The Raider offense was led by big-armed quarterback Kerry Collins, who had led the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance in 2000 and had thrown for almost 3500 yards and 20 TD’s for the Raiders the year prior. Big, capable running back LaMont Jordan, formerly Curtis Martin’s backup in New York, had been acquired to carry the load in the running game.  Receiver Jerry Porter had caught 64 passes for nearly 1000 yards and 9 TD’s the year prior and was considered as good a #2 receiver as any in the league. Speedy younger receivers like Alvis Whitted, Doug Gabriel and Ronald Curry were considered emerging young playmakers, and many believed that the 2005 Raiders, with the addition of Moss, had the best receiving corps in the NFL.

The Raiders had acquired future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp the year prior, and pass-rusher Derek Burgess in the 2005 off-season. Sapp joined veteran nose tackle Ted Washington, on a defense that included a cornerback tandem of Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha as well as rookie linebacker Kirk Morrison. The team already seemed like it was built to contend for a playoff spot if not a deep playoff run, but the addition of the phenomenal Randy Moss seemed to be the move that would put the team over the top: he was the best receiver in the league, and was still in or near the prime of his career.  Unfortunately for both Moss and the Raiders, that future never materialized.

The Raiders’ 2005 campaign kicked off with three consecutive losses to the Patriots, Chiefs and Eagles. In the opener at New England (the defending Super Bowl champion), Moss was targeted 15 times and finished the game with five receptions for 130 yards and a 2nd quarter TD that briefly put the Raiders ahead. Moss caught another five passes for 127 yards and a game-tying 3rd quarter score the following week in a 23-17 loss to Kansas City in which the Raiders could not get Kansas City’s offense off the field late in the game. Against defending NFC Champion Philadelphia, Moss again had five receptions, but this time failed to score, and the Eagles won the game on a late field goal after a flawless 2-minute drill from Donovan McNabb. The game had been billed as a receiver duel between Moss and Terrell Owens, and Owens won, catching nine passes and scoring a touchdown to give the Eagles a lead early in the 3rd quarter. The Raiders were penalized 13 times in that game.

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  • The Raiders finally got a win in Week Four against a very good Dallas Cowboys team, with Moss contributing 4 receptions for 123 yards. Oakland had featured the run and leaned on four Sebastian Janikowski field goals to get the 19-13 win, despite picking up another 13 penalties. Moss hurt his groin on an awkward play early in a 27-14 loss to the Chargers coming after the bye week, and missed most of the game. He returned the next week against Buffalo, but was not up to his usual form, and in two consecutive wins against the Bills and Titans, caught a total of 6 passes for 69 yards and a score. Moss would struggle with the groin injury and other nagging injuries for the remainder of the year, and his production was way down: after starting the year averaging 24.5 yards per reception and 116.5 yards per game, he would average only 13.1 yards per reception and 44.7 yards per game for the remainder of the season. He would eclipse the 100 yards receiving mark only once more in 2005, in Week 17 in a loss to the Giants. While he finished the season with over 1,000 yards and 8 receiving touchdowns, he was a non-factor in a number of Raider games, and had five games in which he failed to record five receptions or a touchdown reception.

    Moss’ struggles were indicative of the larger Raiders struggles. The Raiders were penalized a league-leading 147 times. Norv Turner and OC Jimmy Raye’s offense – as dictated by Al Davis – struggled to find a consistent rhythm. Kerry Collins completed only 53.5% of his passes and the team finished ranked 29th in rushing offense. Oakland’s defense, despite the presence of the NFL’s sack leader Derrick Burgess and future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Charles Woodson, finished ranked 27th in overall defense and 25th in scoring.  The unit as a whole managed a total of 5 interceptions for the entire season.  The Raiders finished the year 4-12, with only Burgess making the Pro Bowl.  Al Davis lost patience with Norv Turner, and fired him in the offseason, replacing him with former Raider Head Coach and Hall of Fame Raider offensive guard Art Shell.