DENVER (AP)—The crowd groaned, the Raiders celebrated and Mike Shanahan smiled.
The Denver Broncos coach may never have called a smarter timeout.
Jason Elam’s 23-yard field goal with 5:48 left in overtime gave the Broncos a 23-20 win over Oakland just minutes after the Raiders had exulted over what they thought was their own wild win.
Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 52-yard field goal at 11:13 of overtime. But as the Raiders rushed the field in celebration and many of the Broncos hung their heads in defeat, referee Walt Anderson ruled that Denver had called a timeout just before the snap.
On the retry, Janikowski’s high-arcing kick hit the left upright, fluttering the flag atop the pole and giving the Broncos new life and the ball at their 42. They drove to the Oakland 6 and Elam nailed it on first down—and the Raiders didn’t bother calling their own timeout.
“They stole it from us and we stole it right back,” Elam said.
“I feel bad,” Broncos safety John Lynch said. “But not really.”
The Raiders (0-2) swore they never heard the whistle.
“Nobody was aware they called timeout,” lamented Oakland’s rookie coach, Lane Kiffin. “They rushed just like there wasn’t a timeout. Maybe somebody’s got to tell me the rule. They should tell the ref to blow it just before he kicks it.”
Shanahan knew exactly when to call it: right as long snapper Jon Condo looked up.
“When you take it down to a millimeter of a second, that works pretty good,” Lynch said. “Mike’s timing was unbelievable. I was standing next to him when he told the referee, ‘We’re going to call a timeout.’ But then I’m saying, ‘All right, do it! Do it!’ And he did, I think with 2 seconds, and the guy blew his whistle.”
The Broncos insisted they weren’t so much trying to ice Janikowski as they were hoping to get their rushers a breather. Sure enough, Janikowski pushed it ever so slightly to the left when Dre’ Bly applied pressure off the corner.
Janikowski, who missed three field goals last week, had split the uprights from 65 yards in pregame warmups, and his miss in overtime looked like it could have traveled 80 yards had it not clanked off the yellow pole.
“I’ve never seen anybody hit the top of the upright from 52 yards out,” Elam said. “He’s very talented.”
Janikowski’s leg strength had the Broncos on edge.
“That’s what we were fearful of on that last drive,” Lynch said. “He can be erratic, but you know he can kick the ball from 70 yards here.”
This was the first time since Green Bay did it in 2004 that an NFL team had won consecutive games on the last play. Elam hit a 42-yarder as time expired to give Denver a 15-14 win at Buffalo in the opener.
“When you keep playing, good things happen,” Lynch said.
This one wasn’t nearly as frenetic a finish as that one, when the Broncos had no timeouts and only 10 seconds to get off the miracle kick. But it was just as satisfying to the Broncos (2-0), who won their eighth straight home opener and handed the Raiders (0-2) their 11th straight loss overall.
“It was tough,” Raiders quarterback Josh McCown said. “Because you go from total elation, you’re excited, you came on the road and got a win, and it takes the wind right out of you. It’s unfortunate for ‘Seabass.’ He nailed it, the first one.”
The Raiders overcame a two-TD halftime deficit and grabbed a 20-17 lead with 8:55 left in regulation when linebacker Thomas Howard intercepted Jay Cutler’s tipped pass returned it 44 yards for a touchdown, and Oakland got the 2-point conversion.
The Broncos tied it on Elam’s 20-yard field goal with 2:18 left, and Bly, burned for a 46-yard TD by Jerry Porter earlier, intercepted McCown’s deep pass to Porter in the final minute.
Gerard Warren, traded from Denver to Oakland in the preseason when he didn’t grasp Jim Bates’ new defensive scheme fast enough, sacked Cutler in the end zone in the fourth quarter for a safety that cut Denver’s lead to 17-12.
“Just letting them know, ‘Beware! I’m on the roam right now in the silver and black,” Warren said.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who last week signed a six-year deal, $61 million contract, the richest ever for a rookie, watched in sweats from the sideline as McCown started despite a small fracture on the index finger of his right hand and a sore right foot.
Thanks to his two interceptions, the Raiders fell behind 17-3 after a first half that was delayed for 25 minutes by lightning.
Then came the wild second half and an overtime worthy of this storied rivalry.
“I’ll be happy when we start putting some teams away early,” Elam said. “We were able to sneak out of here with a win.”
Which, for a moment, is what the Raiders were thinking, too.
Shanahan is 20-5 against his former team, and the Broncos are 12-1 in home openers under Shanahan. … RB LaMont Jordan gained a career-best 159 yards on 25 carries for Oakland. … CB Champ Bailey, who tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions last year, picked off his first of the season.