Broncos @ Raiders; Through the Years

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Well, It's finally here!  The 2008 regular season has arrived.  The Denver Broncos start their season on the road on Monday Night Football.  This will be the fifth time in league history that the Broncos will open the season against the hated Oakland Raiders.  The Broncos own a 4-0 all-time record against the Raiders on opening day, so we'll be looking to keep that streak going.  The Denver Broncos also hold the third best all-time opening day record in the entire NFL.

Last season we witnessed a rebirth of the long dormant rivalry between the Raiders and Broncos.  Our team barely escaped a series sweep thanks to a lucky timeout and an easily rattled Janikowski.  There are a couple stats I noticed about the historical matchup of these two teams that I found highly interesting.

First, John Elway was known for his last second heroics, but I never realized that he was awful against the Raiders.  Sure he had a one or two comebacks against them, but his overall record was 12-18.  Now if we take Shanny out of the picture, Elway was 8-17 against this divisional rival.  In fact, pre-1995 the Broncos owned a 20-48-2 all-time record against their hated rival.  Mike Shanahan is 20-6 against the Raiders since taking over in 1995, but that still leaves a 40-54-2 gap to fill.  We are close to bringing some respectability back to this rivalry and hopefully we'll have it within the next couple of years and perhaps one day we will have a winning record against the Raiders for the first time since 1963.

That said, I was reviewing some of the great matchups in Oakland/Los Angeles over the years that the Broncos were able to come out on top of and I came up with a rather interesting list of candidates to choose from for my Through the Years post.  It really came down to two games for me.  The first was our 30-7 victory at Oakland on October 16, 1977 during our first Super Bowl season.  Though this game was great and part of a magical season, I had to pick my second choice.

The year was 1972, the Denver Broncos were still considered a laughingstock.  The Oakland Raiders were our pimp and slapped us around like a red headed step child TWENTY straight times from 1962 to 1972.  This was to be the year that the Broncos would have consecutive losing seasons and they have had just six seasons under .500 since. 

A somewhat young, inexperienced football team came into Oakland used to losing.  They were coming off a heart breaking comeback victory by Fran Tarkenton and the Vikings the week before.  Oakland had won the previous twenty meetings between the two clubs and was heavily favored to dispatch the Broncos like they always did. 

However, something strange happened.  The team said, "Enough of this crap!" and came to Oakland looking to bust some people in the mouth.  They didn't quite bust any mouths, rather they swarmed the field.  The Broncos came out with an aerial assault that would have made Don Coryell proud, 396 total yards passing.  The Broncos did try to run the ball all that much, since they didn't need too. 

Click here for a slideshow of this game!

The Raiders had far more balanced attack, but the Broncos D was able to stymie Ken Stabler and the Raiders for much of the day, intercepting Stabler once and sacking him six times!  The Broncos were able to hold off the Raiders in the second half to come away with their first victory over the Raiders in 10 years, 8 days, and a couple of hours.

The Broncos would win just five games that year, but to the frustrated fans, they might as well have won a playoff game.  I wouldn't be born for another six years and would not become an avid fan until the early 1980's, but I can still look back and pin point this game(firstfan confirms it was actually the game that occured the week before) as the turning point of this franchise.  October 22, 1972, is the date when the modern day Broncos were born.  At least from my perspective.

Honorable mentions for this rivalry include Denver's only ever shut out against Oakland in on their home turf on October 4, 1981.  The final score was 17-0.  I almost chose this next game because it was another one of Elway's heroics.  On Monday Night Football, on November 4, 1996, Elway completed a 49 yard bomb to Rod Smith to put the Broncos up 22-21 over the Raiders.  I actually remember that game, unfortunately, I wasn't born for most of the other great Bronco-Raider matchups of the past.

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