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Oakland Raiders quarterback Josh McCown, right is sacked for a loss of a yard by Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil in the first quarter of an NFL football game in Denver on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
DENVER —The cloning of the Denver Broncos is coming along nicely in one phase of the game.

You figure if the Raiders can run for 200 yards and average 5.7 yards per carry, and LaMont Jordan rushes for 157 yards, beating the Broncos at their own game, victory would all but be assured.

A 23-20 overtime loss to the Broncos at Invesco Field will long be remembered for fortuitous time out which erased a game-winning 52-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski, followed by a repeat attempt that hit the left upright.

The Raiders stormed the field, euphoric at actually beating an AFC West team for the first time since 2004. Lane Kiffin didn't realize it, but Broncos coach Mike Shanhan had already told the officials to call time out before the kick.

It was just about the time Janikowski's kick hit dead center when a few Raiders realized something was amiss. Or about to be missed.

``I heard the whistle when he kicked it, so I figured something was up,'' wide receiver Jerry Porter said.

When Jason Elam eventually converted from 23 yards away on the ensuing drive, it only made the pain worse.

``It almost gave them the feeling of what it's like to come back and win, because they thought they'd won,'' Kiffin said of an ``emotional roller coaster'' which included a 25-minute delay to allow for a passing lightning storm.

The Raiders came tantalizingly close to beating a Broncos offense they've worked hard at copying, and when they pore over the wreckage in Alameda, their failure to mimic the Broncos passing game will stick out like a sore broken index finger.

Josh McCown will bear the brunt. He will get no credit for playing through a crack on his right index finger and a sore foot, injuries which left him listed as doubtful heading into the game.

Kiffin, in fact, said Friday he anticipating starting Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper, if he continues to be unburdened by the demands of actually playing, could wind up being the most beloved Raider since Jim Otto.

McCown completed one pass all day of real consequence, a 46-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Porter for the Raiders' first touchdown.

That touchdown was the only reason his quarterback rating climbed to 44.0 and ahead of teammate Ronald Curry (0-for-1, 39.6).

He threw three interceptions, two to Dre Bly and one to Champ Bailey. He was sacked four times.

In short, McCown did everything Kiffin said he doesn't want his quarterback to do — turn the ball over and take sacks.

His counterpart, second-year quarterback Jay Cutler, had a pair of interceptions of his own but completed 23 of 33 passes for 269 yards and led the Broncos to a game-tying field goal after Thomas Howard's crushing 44-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 20-17 Raiders lead.

As the quarterback, the most important figure in the passing game, McCown's culpability is impossible to dispute, and it showed up in a big way against Denver because he is being asked to do many of the same things as Cutler.

The Raiders want to keep their quarterback on the move, execute rollouts and half-rolls, work the perimeter and involve running backs and tight ends, a system that dovetails nicely with the zone blocking schemes both teams run.

Shanahan noted during a midweek conference call with reporters that offenses are very similar.

McCown did enough of those things against Detroit (30-for-40, 313 yards) that Kiffin stuck with him.

``We didn't throw the ball very well, other than the double-move to Jerry,'' Kiffin said Sunday. ``We knew we'd have issues throwing the ball to one side, especially with Champ (Bailey). We need to back and look at the film to see what happened. We've got a lot of work to do.''

Kiffin said he never considered switching to Culpepper, even though McCown's production amounted to one big pass play and a 21-yard run.

``Not in that game, with what was going on, understanding all the things that go with it, details I won't get into right now,'' Kiffin said. ``It's a lot more than just him.''

McCown agreed breakdowns were abundant but conceded, ``I can't speak for the rest of the offense, but when you walk away with three turnovers, that's what it came down to.''

Having trouble with Bailey and Bly is understandable, but the middle of the Denver defense isn't nearly as formidable and the Raiders couldn't pass in that area, either. Tight ends were a non-factor, as were running backs.

The Broncos, meanwhile, had receivers breaking free all day. Either Raiders receivers couldn't get open, or Denver executed many of the same plays much better to give Cutler more inviting targets.

Just before the end of regulation, Porter broke free and McCown missed him down the left sideline, with Bly intercepting the next throw and forcing overtime. It was one of the few times a Raiders receiver seemed well in the clear all day.

``We've got to protect him just that much better, give him a chance to set his feet and make a better throw,'' Porter said. ``It was a damn good defense, coupled with some things we could have done better.''

The quarterback position being what it is, blame isn't usually spread around.

The Raiders may be able to run, but McCown can't hide.

NFL writer Jerry McDonald can be reached by e-mail at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgoup.com