Friday, June 25, 2010
Best Raiders Team Ever: 1976
By Bill Williamson
Notable players: QB Ken Stabler, FB Mark van Eeghen, WR Fred Biletnikoff, WR Cliff Branch, TE Dave Casper, OT Art Shell, G Gene Upshaw, DL John Matuszak, DL Otis Sistrunk, LB Phil Villapiano, LB Ted Hendricks, CB Willie Brown, S George Atkinson, S Jack Tatum, P Ray Guy.
John Madden's 1976 season was nearly perfect -- culminating in a Super Bowl win over the Vikings.
Analysis: This championship season was in the works for some time. Oakland owner Al Davis and coach John Madden put together a great team.
The Raiders didn’t have the titles that Miami, Dallas and Pittsburgh had, but they were a dominant team in the 1970s. If you were going to win the Super Bowl, you probably had to go through the madcap marauders of the East Bay.
Wild, free-spirited and wickedly clutch on the field, the Silver and Black was a special fabric of the NFL in the 1970s. They were always known for close calls, but in the end not having enough to be complete the championship journey.
That all changed in 1976. The Raiders had plenty. They were, by far, the class of the NFL and they have the hardware to prove it.
Led by a stunning group of players, this team had depth on offense and defense. Stabler was the engineer, as he seemingly rolled out of bed and led the Raiders to one last-minute win after another. He had great receivers in Biletnikoff, Branch and Casper. The offensive line was anchored by future Pro Football Hall of Famers Shell and Upshaw.
Defensively, the Raiders were nasty with first-year Raider Matuszak and Sistrunk up front, Hendricks in the middle and Brown and Tatum anchoring the unit.
It was enough for Oakland to nearly go unbeaten. After New England thrashed the Raiders in Week 4, Oakland didn’t lose another game. Oakland went 13-1 in the regular season (despite having a five-game trip spanning Weeks 2-6) and then won home playoff games against New England and Pittsburgh before toying with Minnesota in Super Bowl in XI.
It was a culmination of a great run in Oakland. In the end, this team will be remembered as one of the NFL’s great all-time teams.
Most impressive win: A 32-14 victory over Minnesota in Super Bowl XI. The Raiders showed their dominance on offense and defense by completely suffocating the Vikings. It was a fitting day to end a near-perfect season. No one in Oakland will forget the sight of a jubilant Madden being carried off the Rose Bowl field by his victorious Raiders. Davis surely never will.
Crazy start: The Raiders had some memorable battles with Pittsburgh. This special season started with a classic battle between the two 1970s powerhouses in Oakland.
The Steelers led 28-14 with five minutes to go. However, Oakland made a furious comeback to tie the score. Oakland then got the ball back and won it with a short field goal with 18 seconds remaining, sending the home crowd into a wild celebration.
Nothing like beating the hated Steelers on opening day. It set the tone for Oakland’s best season of all time.
1967: The Daryle Lamonica-led Raiders were 13-1 in the regular season before being worn down by Green Bay in Super Bowl II.
1980: The Raiders became the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl. The 11-5 Raiders were led by coach Tom Flores and spunky, resurgent quarterback Jim Plunkett.
1983: The Raiders’ third Super Bowl champion was a dominant unit. Led by a great defense and young running back Marcus Allen (1,014 yards rushing, 11 TDs), this was a special team.