Raiders hammer Cleveland Browns 36-10

OAKLAND, Calif. - When linebacker William Thomas played in Philadelphia, he used to joke with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden that he should be a tight end.

The pleading should begin again in Oakland after Thomas had two interceptions, including one that he ran back for a touchdown, as the Raiders beat Cleveland 36-10 and knocked the Browns out of a first-place tie in the AFC Central.

''He always talks about that tight end thing,'' Thomas said about Gruden, now head coach of the Raiders. ''But he hasn't followed through with it.''

Gruden kiddingly replied: ''I may have to accommodate him.''

Tyrone Wheatley ran for two 2-yard touchdowns and Zack Crockett added another for the Raiders (3-1). Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland's top draft pick who entered the game 2-for-5, hit field goals of 37 and 31 yards.

After passing for a career-high 316 yards last Sunday in Cleveland's 23-20 victory over the Steelers, Tim Couch was 16-of-29 for 141 yards.

His lone touchdown was a 15-yard TD pass to Darrin Chiaverini on the opening drive. And he had just one interception going into the game.

''I don't think they were that much better than us,'' Couch said. ''If I don't throw those interceptions, we're moving right down there and we're doing good.''

Cleveland (2-2) won just two games all of last season in its first year back in the league. Phil Dawson hit a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter to account for the rest of Cleveland's scoring.

After Chiaverini's touchdown, Cleveland's attempt at an onside kick failed, putting Oakland on the Browns 43 for its first series.

Soon after, Wheatley scored on a 2-yard run for the Raiders, who bounced back after a 33-24 home loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

''We had a good drive to open it up, and we were trying to keep our defensive off the field as long as possible,'' Browns coach Chris Palmer said about the onside kick. ''We were going to try to pull out everything we could to win it, but it backfired on us this time.''

Oakland took the lead on Wheatley's second 2-yard run to open the second quarter. The key play of the drive was Rich Gannon's 48-yard pass to Andre Rison, who had three receptions for 54 yards.

Wheatley finished with 21 carries for 63 yards.

Midway through the second quarter, the Browns got down to Oakland's 33-yard line on Errict Rhett's 42-yard run. But Dawson's 42-yard field-goal attempt went wide right.

Thomas, a 10-year veteran linebacker and two-time Pro Bowl player picked up by the Raiders in the offseason, snagged his first interception late in the second quarter. It led to Crockett's scoring run.

On the Browns' next possession with less than a minute left in the half, Thomas picked off Couch again, this time with a running scoop catch that he ran back 46 yards for a touchdown.

''By far, I have the best hands on the team,'' Thomas joked afterward.

Couch was charged with intentional grounding in the end zone late in the second half for a Raiders safety.

Gannon, who had been criticized for favoring receiver Tim Brown, spread it around a little more this time, going 14-of-23 for 179 yards.

Top overall draft pick Courtney Brown, who sacked Kent Graham of the Steelers three times last Sunday, was quiet against the Raiders. In fact, Gannon remained untouched by the Browns' defenders all day.

''I don't think it's a step backwards,'' Palmer said. ''But they're a good football team and this is a very hard place to play.''

NOTES:

Browns defensive end Stalin Colinet left the game with a neck strain and did not return. ... Thomas spent all nine of his previous pro seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. ... Gruden gave Thomas the game ball. ... Raiders offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy sprained his left knee in the second half. ... Rison went to Kansas this week to enter a no-contest plea to felony theft charges involving a $1,000 tape recorder. ''I had to go take care of business,'' he simply said. ... Janikowski now leads the AFC with six touchbacks. ... The Raiders head into their bye week. .... The Browns play host to the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.

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