Collins' big bomb excites the fans

Rich Gannon went deep. Kerry Collins went deeper. The Oakland Raiders say there is no competition to become the No. 1 quarterback.

Try telling that to the approximately 35,000 fans who were brought to their feet Saturday night by the sight of Collins arching an 89-yard strike down the left side to Doug Gabriel for a touchdown in a 21-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Network Associates Coliseum.

Gannon, playing the entire first half, directed an 18-play drive that led to a field goal on his first possession and later supplied an answer to the question of whether he can convert the medium and long-range opportunities with a 41-yard completion on a seam route to Jerry Porter.

That throw was the big play in a 73-yard, seven-play scoring drive to put Oakland up 10-6. "We are moving the ball good. I feel real good about what we're doing," Gannon said. "The more we work together, the better off we will be."

Gannon finished 7-for-15 for 92 yards and exited with a 10-9 lead.

Collins had a nearly disastrous first series, avoiding an interception to Lynn Scott on a poorly thrown ball only because Scott dropped the ball and was also called for defensive holding.

Looking nothing like the relatively smooth operator Gannon had been, Collins had no completions on his opening drive, which resulted in a punt by Shane Lechler.

But the next series, the same lightning that struck with Collins vs. the 49ers last week occurred again with the same receiver.

Gabriel, the second-year receiver out of Central Florida, got a step on second-year Cal cornerback Jameel Powell and Collins led him perfectly, arching the ball some 55 yards in the air.

"He ran a good route and got past his man," Collins said with a shrug. "Those are the throws you've got to make."

Gabriel caught the ball in stride and pulled away into the north end zone.

Collins gave way to Marques Tuiasosopo in the fourth quarter, his entire night's productivity essentially coming on one play. He finished 1-for-5 for 89 yards and the touchdown.

The big passes from Gannon and Collins encouraged coach Norv Turner, but the Oakland coach was disappointed there wasn't more yardage.

Two plays in particular will be pointed out in film sessions --sideline passes from Gannon to Gabriel and one from Tuiasosopo to Johnnie Morant -- because the throws took the receiver out of bounds.

"Those were two plays of between 30 and 40 yards we could have had," Turner said. "We've worked hard in practice on keeping those throws in bounds."

Tuiasosopo completed 6 of 9 passes for 65 yards with a long gainer of 33 yards to Alvis Whitted.

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