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Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos; Through The Years


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The biggest rivalry in football is not so much of a rivalry these days. Except for 2002, there has been no Bronco-Raider rivalry to speak over for nearly fifteen years. The sad state of affairs in Oakland has become the biggest laughing stock in the football world. Al Davis, who was instrumental in building Championship teams around cheating(I really can't help myself), has now utterly destroyed his organization and with every move he makes he digs a bigger hole from which the Raiders may never ascend from.

If I wasn't a Bronco fan...I might feel sorry for the Raider fans. Then again, there are many Raider fans who behave like this scumbag loser and I feel like they are getting exactly what they deserve.  It is unfortunate that the few respectable Raider fans I have met through Silver & Black Pride have to suffer along with the rest of them.  At least many of them are beginning to believe that Al Davis is truly the problem, not the solution.

The mantra of "Al Davis is the Raiders" is beginning to wear thin among the Raider faithful and eventually the fans will and should turn on Al Davis. At which point Al Davis will likely move the team again to attempt to escape some fake paranoid dementia of "everyone being out to get him". The soap opera that is the Oakland Raiders will continue to be an embarrassment to the league that seems to only be rivaled by the Bengal and Lion organizations.

The point of that little rant is that there are few Raider-Bronco match ups in Mile High Stadium worth mentioning from the last 25 years. Sure there is a couple here and there, one we lost and one we didn't. Frankly, I really expected many more great games between two supposed rivals who play each other twice a year, every year. However, In review of the top five match ups, nearly all occurred before 1990. The one game I decided to choose above the rest was the most important victory in Denver Broncos history up until Super Bowl XXXII. The date was January 1, 1978 at Mile High in the AFC Championship game.

The 1977 season was a Cinderella season for the Denver Broncos.  This organization had a nearly two decade culture of defeat and mediocrity.  They had come close to getting to the playoffs a few times, but the Broncos always seemed to find a way to miss out.  That all changed early in the 1977 season when the Broncos traveled to Oakland to face the defending Super Bowl champions on their turf. 

The Raiders had won 17 straight games.  After marching 70 yards in ten plays on their opening drive, the Raiders would be shut out as the Broncos would intercept Ken Stabler a team record seven times and completely dominated the rest of the game to win 30-7.  That victory set the tone for the rest of the season.

Though the Broncos would lose to the Raiders later in the season, it was no longer an easy road for Oakland to run rough shot over Denver.  It was from then on to be a hard fought, bloody battle to the end.  That is exactly how the 1977 AFC Championship game would play out.  The Raiders were coming off of a wild 37-31 overtime victory over the Baltimore Colts, while the Broncos needed a thirteen point fourth quarter to come away with the organizations first ever playoff victory in a 34-21 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty.

The frigidly sunny day was an icy 18 degrees, yet perfect for playoff football.  The Oakland Raiders would take the first possession on a methodical 18 play drive, but the Orange Crush defense would hold near the goal line and the Raiders would only come away with three measly points.   Denver quickly turned the tables when Craig Morton hit Haven Moses for a 74 yard touchdown bomb.  After those initial points, both defenses would dig in and an intense defensive struggle would ensue.

Ultimately the game would be decided by a controversial call.  Denver's Brison Manor would recover a fumble at the Oakland 17 yard line. Then Morton and the Broncos would drive down to the Oakland two yard line.  Then a hand off to Rob Lytle up the gut, but he was met with a fierce hit by Jack Tatum which jarred the ball loose.  The ball was scooped up by Mike McCoy and he began to scamper down the field with nothing but daylight and empty grass ahead of him.  The problem for the Raiders was, the refs had blown the play dead and ruled Lytle down by contact.  With no replay system in place there was no way for the call to be reviewed.  The Broncos would score a touchdown on the next play to go ahead 14-3.

Professional football is mired with such calls and true professionals rise to the occasion and knows very well how to deal with adversity.  Oakland would mount a fourth quarter comeback though which started early in the quarter when Ken Stabler hit Dave Casper on a seven yard touchdown strike to narrow the lead to 14-10.  However, on the Raiders next possession, Bob Swenson would intercept Stabler and return it to the Oakland 14 yard line.  Craig Morton would connect with Haven Moses on a 12 yard touchdown plays a few minutes later.  Moses would finish the game with five catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns, surely the MVP of the game.

The Raiders would score on their final drive with a 17 yard touchdown pass from Stabler to Casper with just over three minutes left in the game.  Rumor has it that the Broncos used some espionage to learn which players on the Oakland defense might be open to exploitation late in the game.  According to Raiders DE Pat Toomay, John Matuzak was up to the task of stopping the Broncos running game late in the fourth quarter.  Toomay describes the situation best in this revealing article, but suffice to say, Matuzak drank and partied himself into a stupor the night before the big game and was hyped up on a myriad of "caffeine and other chemicals" to keep his energy up throughout the game.  Needless to say it didn't work as the Broncos ran repeatedly off-tackle and gobbled up yardage and eventually the time on the clock.  The Raiders would never see the ball on offense again and the Denver Broncos would earn their first Super Bowl appearance after 27 years of struggle.