"Holy Toledo!"

July 23, 2013

Top 10 Raiders Games Since They Returned To Oakland

Filed under: A.F.L., NFL, Oakland Raiders — Bill @ 11:54 am

September 3rd, 1995
For many Raiders fans it was a glorious day, a day they thought they might never see. Meanwhile about 500 miles south there was a contingent of Raiders fans going through the very same experience we felt when the Raiders left us in 1981. The Raiders were returning to Oakland, a culmination of everything that went wrong was suddenly turning right for the East Bay. Coors beer made special logos on their cans commemorating the event, even Wheaties boxes adorned silver & black. It’s hard to believe that was 18 years ago.

As another football season approaches I thought it might be fun to take a look back over the last 18 years and choose the top 10 Raiders games since they returned to Oakland.

I can hear non-Raiders fans now saying things like “Did they even have 10 good games?” Yes they did, in fact it was difficult to choose just 10 games for this list. During the past 18 years the Raiders won 117 games (6.5 per season), plus 4 playoff victories. As bad as it has been for the Raiders consider this, since ’95 ten NFL franchises have won less playoff games (see below).

Postseason Record Since 1995:
Kansas City 0-5
Cincinnati 0-4
Detroit 0-4
Cleveland 0-1
Buffalo 1-4
Washington 2-4
Houston 2-2
Miami 3-7
San Diego 3-6
Chicago 3-4
Dallas 4-7
Oakland 4-3

With all that said let’s get to the list…
(*All these games are available on dvd)

# 10
2011 Week 5
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
October 9, 2011

(I thought long & hard about whether or not this game should be included on this list. In the end what made up my mind is knowing that this game will forever be discussed when referring to the legacy of Al Davis)

“Just Win for Al!”
Every true Raider fan knows where they were when they heard that Al Davis had passed away. The emotions you felt, the questions about the future, the memories, it all flashed through your head in about a half a second. Then as if it were in slow motion it all happened again over the course of the next 24 hours. I can only speak for myself, it was like losing a grandfather. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would hit me the way it did, I was surprised by it.

In a multitude of ways it was best that there was a game to be played right away. Who did what in the game, or how they did it didn’t really matter. As Al always reminded us, “Just win baby!” And that is exactly what they did.

It was fitting that the game would be held in ann original A.F.L. city, a city that once had a star quarterback named George Blanda, against a team whose name was also in the A.F.L. (Texans). In true Raiders tradition the game went down to the last second, the last play, the last win for Al Davis.

# 9
2009 week 13
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers
December 6, 2009

No list about the Oakland Raiders would be complete without mentioning the Pittsburgh Steelers. The lowly Raiders limped into Pittsburgh at 3-8, & the only road victory all season was way back in week 2, narrowly beating a bad Chiefs team. Vegas had installed the reigning World Champions as a 15 ½ point favorite. From the outset it appeared that the Steelers were sleepwalking their way thru this game, but the Raiders weren’t moving the ball. At the half the Steelers led 10-6, with the only Raiders scores coming on two long range field goals by Janikowski. When the 3rd quarter ended the score remained the same, it appeared the champs would simply wear down the inferior opponent and claim yet another victory.

Enter former Pittsburgh native QB Bruce Gradkowski. The 6th round draft pick had already washed out in two other cities, and was now playing for his 3rd team in 4 years. Nobody expected what he was about to do. In fact what he was about to accomplish had not been done by a Raiders QB since 1979.

With a little over 8 minutes remaining in the game Gradkowski threw a 17 yd. touchdown strike to Chaz Schilens and the underdogs had the lead at 13-10. A few minutes later “Big” Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes down the middle, he fought off would be tacklers down to the 3 yard line. The Steelers scored on the next play & they were back on top 17-13. Back came Gradkowski, this time finding Louis Murphy on a brilliant 75 yard touchdown. Three things made this play, a nice play fake by the QB, great protection from the line, & the stutter-step move by Murphy that left the defender grasping for air. Suddenly the Raiders had the Steelers attention, with about 5 minutes to play the scoreboard read Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 17.

The Steelers were champions for a reason, they were a good team. Methodically they moved the ball down field, Big Ben making a couple key 3rd down conversions. When he hit Hines Ward for an 11 yard TD it appeared the game was over. Less than two minutes to play the Steelers lead 24-20.

Back cam Bruce Gradkowski again, hitting Johnny Lee Higgins for 17 and a 1st down. Then he hit Todd Watkins for a huge 3rd down conversion. Under 30 seconds to play. Gradkowski drops back, nobody open, waits, then throws a dart to Louis Murphy, Touchdown Raiders! 9 seconds left, 27-24 Raiders.

The Steelers did have time for one hail mary, it was batted down and the game was over. The Raiders had their 4th victory of the season, and it was against the champion Steelers. In front of many friends Bruce Gradkowski ended up 20 of 33, 308 yards, passing, 3 TD’s, and no interceptions. In the 4th quarter both teams scored 5 touchdowns. Gradkowski threw 3 4th quarter touchdowns to give the Raiders the lead, this was the first time this feat had been accomplished by a Raiders QB since Kenny “The Snake” Stabler did it in 1979. Raiders radio announcer Greg Papa had officially dubbed the new hero as “Bruce Almighty!”

# 8
1997 Week 8
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
October 19, 1997

In looking back it’s very surprising the Raiders won this game. The Broncos came in 6-0, & had John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith & “Easy” Ed. This was the team that would beat Green Bay in the Super Bowl. The 2-4 Raiders were coached by Joe Bugel, had Jeff George at QB, Rickey Dudley, & a porous defense. The Raiders hadn’t beaten the Broncos since they moved back to Oakland, however for this game they had a secret weapon.

Their weapon was revealed on the very first play from scrimmage as speedy Napoleon Kaufman busted loose for 57 yards. At the 14 yard line a tender-armed Jeff George hit James Jett for a TD. After Denver tied the game the Raiders went to the passing game, leading to another TD from George. After Denver settled for a field goal, the halftime score was 14-10 Raiders.

The plan of attack was to run the ball against the Bronco defense. It was extremely successful because the Raiders only passed the ball 3 times in the entire 2nd half. At game’s end George would have only 9 completions, but 2 were for touchdowns.

The Broncos had no answer for the secret weapon’s speed to the corners. At the half Kaufman had 117 yards, and there was more to come. First the Raiders had to figure out how to stop Elway & Co. Denver scored a go-ahead TD on their opening drive in the 3rd quarter, and were about to score again. That’s when Lance Johnstone caused an Elway fumble, & Eric Turner picked it up and raced 65 yards to give the Raiders back the lead at 21-17.

In the 4th quarter the Raiders offense was backed up against their own goal line, and faced a 3rd & short situation. Guess who was getting the ball? Kaufman was hit almost immediately, but stayed on his feet, then turned on the after-burners and left the Bronco defense in his wake. As Raider radio announcer Greg Papa said, “They won’t catch him… EVER!” The play which went for 83 yards gave Oakland a 28-17 lead.

This is Elway, so of course he comes back to score another TD, & a 2 pt. conversion pulls them to within 3 points. Oakland got the ball back with 2:05 remaining, with one mission, kill the clock. Faced with a 3rd & 10 with only 45 seconds left, where do you suppose they went? Jeff George faked the handoff to Kaufman, and hit a diving Tim Brown for 15 yards. Game over, drive home safely.

The secret weapon Napoleon Kaufman had 227 yards rushing, which broke the previous Raider single game record set by Bo Jackson on a famous Monday night in Seattle.

# 7
2000 Week 2
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
September 10, 2000

The underdog Raiders were facing Peyton Manning & his Colts, who had won the AFC East the previous year with an impressive 13-3 record. As the game began it appeared the Colts were simply too much for Gruden’s gang. Peyton & Edgerrin James lifted the Colts to a 21-0 lead, and 24-7 lead at the half.

The 3rd quarter barrage put on by the Raiders was our first indication that “Chucky” had something special brewing. Looking like Steve Grogan, Rich Gannon ran for his 2nd & 3rd TD’s of the game, Tory James intercepted Manning, & Tyrone Wheatley scored to cap a 31 point quarter.

After another Wheatley score Oakland led by 14, but Manning was not to be denied. With 4 minutes left he hit Pro Bowl WR Marvin Harrison on a 50 yard bomb to cut the lead to seven. The Colts got the ball back, and with a minute to play they were driving for the tying score. On 4th down Peyton threw a pass into the end zone, but it was intercepted (again) by Tory James. Final score: Raider 38 Colts 31.

After the game it was revealed that Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert was able to figure out some of Manning’s audibles. Since Peyton did this on virtually every play, Beikert, who called the Raiders defensive signals, was able to adjust accordingly.

# 6
2001 AFC Wild Card
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders
January 12, 2002

This game might have been ranked higher had it not been played one week before the game most Raiders fans would care to forget.

On the final week of the regular season the Jets beat the Raiders in Oakland to qualify for the playoffs, and dropped the Raiders into Wild Card weekend. The Raiders limped into the playoffs losing three in a row, & 4 of 6. To accommodate the Jets rugged travel schedule the game was pushed back to a 5 pm. local start.

This is the only Raiders game one might refer to as “the Jerry Rice game”. His finest hour in Silver & Black, Rice lit up the Jets defense for 183 yards. Lost in the shuffle was a 123 yard performance by Laveranues Coles, a 3 TD passing day by Vinny Testaverde, 105 yards rushing by Curtis Martin, and a whopping 185 total yards by Charlie Garner. His 80 yard run late in the 4th quarter sealed the victory for the Raiders. This day, however, will be thought of as Jerry’s day, Rice caught 9 balls, including a big 47 yarder, & an even bigger 4th quarter TD.

The Raiders led 16-3 at the half, but like most Raider-Jets playoff games back came New York. At the end of the 3rd the score was 16-10 Raiders. The 4th quarter was an explosion of offense, each team trading touchdowns, 5 in all. The final score did not accurately reveal how close this game was, Raiders winning 38-24. It was Jon Gruden’s last win as a Raider head coach.

# 5
2000 Week 6
Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers
October 8, 2000

The Bay Area rivals meet again at 3Com Park, and old buddies, Jon Gruden & Steve Mariucci, would both add a few grey hairs during this one. Oakland led 6-0 until Jeff Garcia hooked up with Terrell Owens on a TD pass to give the 49ers the lead. Near the end of the half Jerry Rice caught career TD reception #172 to push the 49ers up 14-6. In the 3rd quarter Tyrone Wheatley scored & Gannon ran in a 2 pt. conversion to tie the game. A short time later Gannon hit a wide open Tim Brown and the Raiders had the lead back. When Gannon scored on a designed run it appeared that the Raiders were taking control. Terrell Owens, who would end up with 12 catches for 176 yards, caught his 2nd TD of the game to give the 49ers a chance. Gannon, who was having a huge day made his only mistake, throwing an interception that the 49ers converted into a Charlie Garner game tying TD. Heading into OT tied at 28-28.

The Raiders won the toss, drove into field goal range, only to have rookie kicker Sebastian Janikowski miss a 35 yarder. Later in overtime the 49ers had their chance to win the game. As Wade Richey lined up for his 29 yd. attempt I thought the game was over. Fortunately for Raiders fans Anthony Dorsett flew around the end and blocked the kick, so the game continued. This time Gannon would not wait for a kicker, he lofted a deep pass to Tim Brown who streaked down the sideline to end this game that had lasted over 71 minutes. Final score: Raiders 34 49ers 28.

# 4
2000 AFC Divisional Playoff
Miami Dolphins at Oakland Raiders
January 6, 2001

After 5 frustrating seasons all we (season ticket holders) wanted was a home playoff game. The Raiders had not hosted a playoff game in Oakland since they beat Kenny Stabler’s Houston Oilers in the 1980 Wild Card game. The dream became a reality when the Raiders demolished the Panthers 52-9, clinching the AFC West crown. In came the Miami Dolphins, who had just beat the Colts in overtime because of a Herculean effort of Lamar Smith.

Early in the game the Dolphins drove down field and appeared to be on the verge of scoring. Suddenly Tory James stepped in front of a Jay Fiedler pass and he was off to the races, scoring on a 90 yard interception return. For the rest of the day the shell-shocked “Fins” never got that close to the end zone, as the Raiders defense shut them out 27-0. People will ask me why I picked this game as #3. There may have been more exciting playoff victories, but this one was the first one, and that is what makes it so special.

# 3
1999 Week 17
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
January 2, 2000

(Simply put this is the single most exciting game that the Raiders have played since 1995. Others may have been ranked ahead of this game for extenuating circumstances, but if one were to pick just one game to watch this would be the one.)

Heading into this game the 9-6 Chiefs were tied with Seattle atop the AFC West, if they won they would be division champs & make the playoffs. Few thought the Raiders would win, after all they hadn’t won in KC since 1988, & were a paltry 2-18 vs. the Chiefs in their last 20 meetings. The game did mark the return of Rich Gannon to Kansas City, where he had been a Chief before signing with Oakland.

The game began ominously for the Raiders, as Tamarick Vanover returned a punt 84 yards for a TD. Moments later, just 2:15 into the contest James Hasty picked off Gannon and scored another TD for KC. The Chiefs added a field goal, and Oakland was down 17-0 before they finally got on the board. Gannon began throwing to his running backs, leading to 3 TD’s in the 2nd quarter. The Chiefs also scored, and by halftime the lead had changed hands three times.

In the 3rd both teams scored again, and the lead changed hands two more times. The Raiders score came on a 26 yard run by Tyrone Wheatley that was a thing of beauty. He bulldozed over, through, & past what seemed like the entire Chiefs defense. Later this TD run would be honored as the 1999 NFL Run Of The Year. Heading into the 4th quarter it was Oakland leading 35-31.

When Elvis Grbac tossed his 3rd TD pass of the day it looked like the Chiefs would once again beat the Raiders. Then a strange thing occurred, Jon Baker, the Chiefs kickoff specialist, kicked the ball out of bounds. Rich Gannon took advantage of the good field position. With 45 seconds left newly signed kicker Joe Nedney booted a 38 yard field goal, the game was tied 38-38. Incredibly Grbac took the Chiefs back down the field, and on the last play of regulation Pete Stoyanovich missed a 44 yarder. While everyone caught their breath, the game headed to overtime.

Jon Baker, who had already kicked two kicks out of bounds, lined up, ready for the kickoff to begin the overtime period. To the Chiefs astonishment he kicked the ball out of bounds again. The Raiders jumped on his huge mistake, and just 3:13 into overtime Joe Nedney kicked the 33 yard field goal that ended the hopes & dreams of every Chiefs fan.

This was a huge win for the Raiders, who had gone 5 years without a winning record, and used this win to start a streak of 3 consecutive AFC West titles. Rich Gannon made the Pro Bowl 4 consecutive years, won the Player of the Year Award in 2000, and NFL MVP in 2002. Jon Gruden made himself into a household name as “Chucky”, and it all began on this day in Kansas City..

# 2
1995 Week 1
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
September 3, 1995

It was truly a very special day. After 13 years, 9 months, & 21 days the Raiders returned to the Coliseum to play an official regular season game as the Oakland Raiders. Tim Brown scored the game’s first points on a 5 yard pass from Jeff Hostetler. The stingy Raiders defense allowed only 77 rushing yards, Napoleon Kaufman scored his 1st NFL touchdown, and the Raiders won 17-7. Oakland’s new team started out the season red hot sporting an 8-2 record, but when Jeff Hostetler broke his wrist their season was derailed.

It might not have been the most exciting four quarters of football, but it certainly was an important day in the history of the Oakland Raiders.

# 1
2002 AFC Championship
Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders
January 19, 2003

Selecting this game #1 was a no-brainer. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line the Coliseum was packed with excited Raiders fans (including myself). We didn’t have to wait long, the Raiders scored early on a Rich Gannon touchdown pass to Jerry Porter. At the end of the 1st quarter the Raiders led 14-7, but the Titans fought back, taking a 17-14 lead on the first of two Steve McNair TD runs. Again Gannon drove the Raiders down the field hitting TE Doug Jolley to give the Silver & Black a lead they would never relinquish. Another McNair TD run pulled the Titans to within three points. With just 15 minutes left to play and everything on the line the score was Raiders 27 Titans 24.

Crunch time belonged to the Silver & Black. The Raiders scored the final two touchdowns on runs by Rich Gannon & Zach Crockett. As the clock ran down I remember that special feeling of pride, Several years before this, we, the fans, had committed to this city, this stadium, & this team. This was the reward, the day this team gave us excellence.

For the first time since the 1976 season the Raiders were awarded the Lamar Hunt trophy at the Coliseum in front of their home fans.

Honorable Mention:
Some of my friends are going to give me sh** about not picking these games. Well just because they didn’t make my list doesn’t mean they don’t belong on your list. Remember it’s subjective…

1999 week 7 New York Jets at Oakland
Gannon leads thrilling comeback

1999 week 15 Tampa Bay at Oakland
45-0 blowout!

2002 week 10 Oakland at Denver
MNF # 500 Gannon completes 21 straight, Rice scores TD #200

2002 AFC Divisional NY Jets at Oakland
Playoff win advances Raiders to Championship

2004 week 12 MNF Oakland at Denver
Blocked kick in the snow saves dramatic win

2010 week7 Oakland at Denver
Raiders score 59 pts. vs. Denver

**All these games are available on DVD


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