NFL – Throwback Thursday: Raiders Win The “Big One”

07 Dec

This week’s NFL schedule includes a matchup of the Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, 2 of pro football’s winningest regular season franchises of the 1960s and ’70s. Unfortunately, neither could finish the job, and gained the reputation of not being able to “win the big one”. To this day, the Vikings still haven’t achieved the feat, while the Raiders exorcised the demon in the game we’ll feature for this week’s Throwback Thursday. It was Super Bowl XI, played on January 9, 1977, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. It was the second Super Bowl appearance for the Raiders, who lost to Green Bay in the second such title game, and the fourth (and to this day still the last) attempt at winning the “big one” for Minnesota.

Oakland coach John Madden had always had his team at or near the top of the regular season standings in the AFC, but were forced to play second fiddle to the dominating Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steeler teams in the first half of the decade of the ’70s. They finally slayed the Steeler dragon in the 1976 AFC championship game, and would now get their chance to climb to the top of the NFL mountain. The Vikings, always known for having exceptional special teams, got the game’s first break when Matt Blair blocked a punt to give the Raiders the ball deep in Oakland territory, but a fumble at the 1 yard line ruined that break. After a scorelees first quarter, the Raiders took command. They used a relentless rushing attack, led by Clarence Davis, to pound away at the aging Viking defense to secure the next four scores of the contest – a pair of Errol Mann field goals sandwiching a 1 yard Ken Stabler to Dave Casper touchdown pass and a 1 yard Pete Banaszak run, giving Oakland a 19-0 lead. Minnesota’s offense, stifled for most of the first 3 quarters, finally put together a drive that culminated with an 8 yard Fran Tarkenton to Sammy White scoring pass to cut the lead to 19-7. White, one of Tarkenton’s top receivers, had been held without a catch in the first half, and was almost killed when he caught a pass over the middle by the Raiders’ Jack Tatum, known as “The Assassin” and a guy who always played on the edge.


Clarence Davis, the real MVP of Super Bowl XI?


Banaszak scored again on a 2 yard run and when Willie Brown picked off a desperation Tarkenton pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, the final nail was driven into the Vikings’ coffin for the day. Minnesota scored a late garbage time touchdown to make the final score 32-14, but Oakland and coach Madden claimed their first title in dominating fashion. Davis was the star rusher in the win, accumulating 137 yards on 16 carries, but the game’s MVP award went to Fred Biletnikoff, who had key receptions on scoring drives among his 4 grabs for 79 yards.  After a couple more seasons Madden would retire as a coach and go into broadcasting and video games, but his replacement, former Raider QB Tom Flores, would pick up the reins and win 2 more “big games” for the Raiders in the early 1980s.


“Old man Willie, he’s gonna go all the way!”


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