Oakland Raiders: Ben Davidson

We continue our look at the Oakland Raiders' top 5 free agent signings of all time with George Blanda checking in at No. 2…

He was already ancient, at least, by pro football standards, when he signed with the Raiders at the age of 39 for the 1967 season. His career began in 1949, with the Chicago Bears, and continued with stints in Baltimore and Houston. Plus, he’d turn 40 in the middle of the first season in Oakland.

Nine years later, the legend of Blanda was burnished as he became the game’s all-time leading scorer while wearing a Raiders uniform, whether he was under center or kicking the football through the uprights.

"He was older than most of our coaches," Daryle Lamonica told NFL Films, "so George had that special ability to come in and perform under pressure."

Especially during a midseason stretch in 1970, when the then-43 year old Blanda decided five straight games for the Raiders.

On Oct. 25, he replaced an injured Lamonica and sparked the Raiders from a 7-7 second-quarter tie to a 31-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The next week, after the benches-clearing brawl precipitated by Ben Davidson's spearing of Len Dawson, Blanda’s 48-yard field goal gave the Raiders a 17-17 tie.

A week later, Blanda replaced Lamonica against Cleveland with the Browns holding a 20-13 fourth-quarter lead. Blanda tied the game with a 14-yard pass to Warren Wells and then Blanda's 52-yard game-winning field goal elicited Bill King’s enduring call: "George Blanda’s just been elected King of the World!"

Blanda then drove the Raiders 80 yards the next week at Denver while trailing the Broncos, 19-17, in the fourth quarter and hit Fred Biletnikoff for a 20-yard game-winning touchdown pass.

The streak concluded with a 16-yard game-winning field goal against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 22, 1970.

By the time Blanda retired, a month shy of his 49th birthday, he was known as "Father Time" by fans and he had accumulated a record 2,002 points. He is now seventh on the all-time scoring list.

"If we gave some people in the middle-age group a little hope that they can accomplish anything they want to if they want it hard enough," Blanda told NFL Films, "then my season in ’70 was worthwhile. But I didn’t think anything of it. I thought I was 21."

Blanda’s pro career spanned six U.S. presidents, from Harry S. Truman to Gerald Ford.
The anonymous survey, in which every ESPN NFL Nation reporter asked 10 players on their respective beats, included the following question: Who is the most feared player in the NFL?

The winner, with 19 percent of the vote, was Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who finished just ahead of his teammate, receiver Calvin Johnson.

No Oakland Raiders players finished in the top seven of balloting, in which 48 players received votes.

In speaking to Raiders players, none voted for Suh while two went with Johnson and two others picked Houston Texans defensive end and reigning NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt, who finished third in the poll with 7.5 percent of the vote.

The rest of the top seven: San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis (7.2 percent), Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (6.6), Cincinnati Bengals LB James Harrison (5.6) and Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (5.0).

Truly, with the paradigm shift underway in Oakland, it’s hard to envision a Raiders player making this list anytime soon. Lamarr Houston, perhaps? It’s a far cry from the days of Bill Romanowski to the likes of Lyle Alzado to Jack Tatum and Ben Davidson, for example.

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