Continuing our look at the Oakland Raiders Super Bowl Championship teams to help us along on our quest to determine the greatest Raider champion of all time we arrive at...
1980 Oakland Raiders
This Raider team started off slow. After five games they were 2-3, and they had lost two games in a row by a combined 31 points. They only lost two games the rest of the way.
Despite the strong finish, it wasn't enough for them to overcome their rough start, and that meant that the early deficit to the Chargers. The Raiders and Chargers finished tied for first at 11-5, but the Chargers took the tiebreaker, and this found the Raiders in the wild card round. The 1980 Raiders were the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl as wild card team.
The turnaround from the early season woes was definitely a team effort, but the biggest and most undeniable factor was Jim Plunkett. Dan Pastorini started the season as the Raiders starter, but he was lost for the season with an injury. Plunkett looked like anything but the savior in his first game as starter in a week 5 loss to the Chiefs. The Raiders lost 31-17 and Plunkett chucked five INTs. It was the Chiefs first win of the season.
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Things got much better from there. The two headed running attack of Mark van Eeghan and Kenny King began to lead the Raiders offensive attack. Neither guy had over a thousand yards, but they combined for 1,599 yards. And of course, as running backs go they had it pretty good running left behind Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. Both players were ending the end of their career—Upshaw played one more season and Shell two—and they weren't as dominant as they were in 1976, but they were still a menacing pair.
The running game opened the door for a deep strike passing attack. Plunkett's favorite target was Cliff Branch. Branch led the Raiders with with 858 yards and fellow receiver led the Raiders with 10 touchdowns. As for Plunkett, his stats weren't impressive 18 TDs and 16 INTs, but he was good when he needed to be, and he took charge of the team. An impressive feat for a QB almost everyone had written off as an epic bust.
The offense was not the story of this team though. That honor goes to the defense. And the story of this defense starts with 'The Judge' Lester Hayes. Hayes had 13 picks in the regular season, and unbelievably he upped his game in the playoffs. There he had five INTs in three games. He returned two of those INTs for touchdowns.
Those are decent stats for a receiver. For a cornerback they are absolutely mind boggling. You have to wonder why an QB bothered throwing Hayes way. Well, the answer was, the other options weren't much better. All told the Raiders ended with 35 INTs! Incredible.
Of course a good pass rush helped force the QBs hand in this. Sacks weren't an official stat then, but Wikipedia tells me they had 54 of them. The Raiders had a solid three man D-line with Reggie Kinlaw flanked by John Matuszak and Dave Browning.
The linebackers were outstanding. Ted Hendricks and Rod Martin were beasts on the outside and rookie Matt Millen helped tie this defense as the season went on. From Week Eight on this defense gave up over 20 points only twice, and one of those times was in the conference championship game to the Chargers.
That win over the Chargers in the AFC Championship game was the Raiders second close game on the road in the playoffs. They won that one 34-27. The week before they needed a late drive to pull out a 14-12 victory over the Browns.
The Super Bowl wouldn't be quite so close. The Raiders dominated the Eagles 27-10. It was a game that was in stark contrast to 10-7 loss the Raiders suffered in Week 12 at Philadelphia. The game wasn't as close as the score indicated. It was 14-3 at halftime, and the Eagles didn't get their touchdown until the game was all but over in the fourth quarter.
Rod Martin had a legend making game with three INTs, and Jim Plunkett capped off his redemption tour with three TDs.
No one expected the Raiders to win the Super Bowl in 1980. This team gelled when no one was expecting it.
Just like the 1976 Raiders we have the NFL's America's Game special on them on youtube. These are fantastic. This one features Jim Plunkett, Matt Millen and Gene Upshaw.