EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—In an improbable display of competence and a basic execution of football fundamentals, the Oakland Raiders stunned the football world Sunday when running back Michael Bush miraculously rushed for three yards against the Giants and succeeded in converting a first down.
The Raiders, who fearlessly faced a third-and-one situation on their own 22-yard-line, somehow gained the 36 inches needed for an elusive first down, despite numerous obstacles that included a professional NFL defense, owner Al Davis' incompetent personnel decisions, mediocre play-calling, and general ineptitude.
"I cannot believe what I just saw," said CBS commentator Greg Gumbel, adding that he was amazed the Raiders advanced the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, let alone gained a full 10 yards. "The fact that they were out on the field for three consecutive plays without turning the ball over is incredible. But a first down? An actual first down from the Oakland Raiders? You…I mean—I just, I can't…"
"I'm speechless," Gumbel added.
According to eyewitnesses, Raiders fans were equally astonished, reportedly shaking their heads in disbelief at the team's lack of incomplete passes, false starts, and holding penalties during the four-down series. Chuck Walker, a lifelong Raiders fan, said he was "proud" of his hometown team for defying the odds and avoiding mental errors for nearly 120 seconds.
"I've never seen them go that long without totally screwing up," said Walker, who believed the first down may have even slightly changed the game's momentum. "I was certain that with a yard to go they would send five receivers deep and [quarterback] JaMarcus [Russell] would chuck the ball to one of the Giants' defensive backs."
Continued Walker, "This will surely go down as the highlight of the Raiders' season."
NFL analyst Tom Jackson also registered his incredulity, saying that after he saw the Raiders gain nine yards on the first two plays of the series—a "miraculous achievement" in and of itself—he never could have imagined they'd gain the one yard necessary to begin another set of offensive downs. The fact that they actually gained two extra yards beyond the first-down marker, Jackson said, left everyone in ESPN studios beside themselves.
"On any given play there is so much potential for the Raiders to lose a significant number of yards that you never expect them to actually gain anything," Jackson said. "But they did it. They made a first down. And on three tries, like a normal pro football team."
Jackson went on to credit the accomplishment to the much-maligned offensive line, saying that not only did they show a full understanding of their blocking assignments, but they also ran the correct play when the ball was snapped.
"Looking at that play, you wonder how a team like the Raiders are 1-4," Jackson said. "Not for too long, of course, but you do wonder for a split second."
According to referee John Parry, the first down also caught members of the officiating crew off guard. Parry said that when Bush moved the chains, his instinct was to throw an unsportsmanlike behavior flag for taunting.
"Michael just got up off the ground and handed me the ball without trying to provoke anyone," Parry said. "Usually you'll find the Oakland guys are jumping back on the pile trying to jam a finger into someone's eye or just kicking wildly with their cleats."
"At first I thought we definitely missed something," Parry added. "But we reviewed the play and the league didn't find anything illegal. They got a first down fair and square."
The Raiders lost the game 44-7.