5. Tuck Rule Revenge
November 17, 2002
Raiders 27, Patriots 20
As far as regular season games go, this game was nothing special. Sure it pinned the previous year’s AFC Champion with what would be that year’s AFC Champion, but very few will remember this game for that reason. For us Raider fans, this was the game we had been looking forward to since January 19 of that year. It had been nearly ten months, but Raider nation was still reeling from being the victim of the worst call in sports history, and on this day, we got a little payback for it.
Not to evoke those awful nightmares again, but I’m sure as you all can vividly recall, on January 19, 2002 the world was introduced to the “Tuck Rule.” The memory still haunts me, but just to truly appreciate this revenge game that took place in November, I’ll speak of the snow bowl for just a second. The Raiders were up 13 to 10 after travelling the entire length of the country in order to play Belicheat and his new boy wonder in an AFC Divisional game. There was less than five minutes left and the Patsies were driving in Raider territory when out of nowhere Charles Woodson blitzed Brady from his blindside, knocking the ball out of his hands like any other traditional fumble we have ever seen. Then, Greg Biekert fell on it, and the game was all but done. The refs called it a fumble and a subsequent turnover with very little time left. All we would need was a few kneel downs and Gannon and Company were set to play the Steelers the next week in the AFC Championship. But then the conspiracy began as the play was reviewed. The refs then overturned the ruling citing some bogus, dumb, never-before-used rule and 20 minutes later, the Raiders had lost. It still makes me sick to this day.
But I digress. This game, ten months later, pinned pretty much the same two teams against one another, only this time with more accurate results, as our boys in Silver and Black won. Gannon played magnificently in this one, and once again Brady fumbled. Only this time there was no bogus call, and the fumble was not overturned. And when this game, and this season was done, the Raiders ended up playing in the Super Bowl and the patsies ended up missing the playoffs entirely. A good consolation gift I guess for being the victim of the worst call in sports history. …Man, it’s been over ten years and I’m still overly bitter about it.
4. Big Al Helps From Above
October 9, 2011
Raiders 25, Texans 20
If Justin Beiber’s hair were a football game, it would have been this one – as this game was about as emo as it gets. Al Davis, the face, heart, and soul of the franchise had just passed away the day before the game. Raider nation’s hearts were bleeding but the team still had a game to prepare for. Hue Jackson rallied the troops as he got in touch with his emotional side. The man was like a twenty first century Shel Silverstein as he poured his heart out before, during, and after the game. Note…is it sad that when I think of a deep, emotional person I think of Shel Silverstein? There’s gotta be some better examples!
The game, as well as the league itself, started out the day on a somber note as stadiums across the nation honored big Al with a moment of silence before kickoff. And then the game started. From statistics alone, the Raiders were dominated by the Texans as they were out gained 473 yards to Oakland’s 278. Those despairing statistics, coupled with the Texans having home field advantage, were not enough however to overcome the emotionally charged energy of the Oakland Raiders.
Jason Campbell played perhaps his finest game not only as a Raider, but as a professional quarterback as he threw for two touchdowns and 191 yards. Just a note here, Campbell played great in this one, but if those were among his finest numbers, I think we should all be thankful we have Carson now.
Entering the fourth quarter Oakland was down 17 to 15 after only being able to score field goals through the first three quarters. Finally however, Campbell connected on a touchdown pass and then Seabass added yet another field goal to put our boys up by 8 points with 10 minutes left in the game. The Texans cut that lead down to 5 with 2:56 left to play and then things got real interesting.
Campbell did nothing with the ball, allowing the game to finish in Matt Schaub’s hands. The Texans drove the ball down the entire length of the field, and with 0:07 left, it all came down to one play. Schaub scrambled to his left, and had two options available to him. He could have either a.) ran in for the score, and almost certainly would have made it or b.) toss the ball to Jacoby Jones. Luckily for us, he chose the latter, and Michael Huff, a man who was drafted by Al Davis in the first round – a choice that was heavily questioned by critics, picked off the ball and won the game for the Raiders.
I think we will all remember this one, as well our emotional coach as the game concluded. Gotta tell you, its memories like this one that makes me miss Hue.
3. Spoiling the Chiefs
January 2, 2000
Raiders 41, Chiefs 38 OT
This game may be one that most forget about, but they absolutely should not. I think this game will separate us die hard Raider fans from the posers as this victory took place the year before the Raiders got good under Jon Gruden’s watch. It was Chucky’s second season with the Raiders, as well as his second 8-8 mark. Going into this game, which was the last game of the season, the Raiders had very little to play for, but the same could not be said for our rivals in red and white. The Chiefs were 8-7 and if they could beat the Raiders at home, they were to be in the playoffs.
The game started off ugly. And I mean real ugly. Not even eight minutes into the game, after having only possessed the ball for one play, the Raiders found themselves down 17 to 0. Those two early touchdowns that KC scored were on an 84 yard punt return and a 34 yard pick six. The Raiders could have thrown in the towel then and gotten ready for the off-season. But of course, had they done that, this game wouldn’t be part of this countdown.
The Raiders got their first break of the game on special teams as they too returned a punt for touchdown after CB Marquis Walker blocked it. Rich Gannon would later point to that play as the momentum swing of the game.
Following that, the Raiders offense got rolling and showed what it would be capable of in the coming years. Zack Crockett and Napoleon Kaufman (wow, how great is it to remember those players?) stepped up big as each had a touchdown in the first half. By halftime the Raiders were up 28 to 24.
Another great side story from this game was it pinned Gannon against Elvis Grbac – the man the Chiefs had thought for so many years was better than our boy Rich. Ha. How many MVPs did Grbac win? And how many Super Bowls did he go to?
So anyway this game went back and forth several times. Six lead changes to be exact. Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders led 35 to 31 but Elvis drove the ball down the field to take a three point lead with very little time remaining. But, in the last season before #11 was kicking for us, Joe Nedney kicked a 38 yard field goal as time expired to tie the game.
Even though I love the new overtime format, I am glad it wasn’t in place for this game as the Raiders won the toss and then subsequently won the game after scoring a field goal on the first possession. The Raiders won in an instant classic, and the Chiefs were sent home packing. The repercussions of this game meant that the Seahawks, and not the Chiefs, were going to the playoffs. On Sportscenter that night, head coach Mike Holmgren of Seattle publicly thanked the Raiders. Well Mike, you’re welcome.
2. 500th MNF Game
November 11, 2002
Raiders 34, Broncos 10
This game was so memorable not because it was the 500th MNF game, and not because Oakland beat the Broncos in Denver (of which I was present for), but for what this game meant to the Raiders and that season. This was the Raiders’ Super Bowl season, but by the time this game had rolled around, it sure didn’t look like we were headed to San Diego that year.
The Raiders had started out 4-0, and were actually the last unbeaten team in the NFL. And then all hell broke loose as the Raiders lost the next four straight in pain staking fashion. It began with a loss to the 0-4 Rams, and then it spiraled out of control with three more losses – two of which were in overtime. So, half way through the season the Raiders were 4-4, and all but forgotten by the rest of the league. It was Bill Callahan’s first year as coach, and critics were citing his lack of experience as well as the age of most of Oakland’s key starters as the reason for the downfall. I still have a newspaper clipping from the Denver Post that was issued out in the week leading up to this game – it was a cartoon of Gannon, Rice, Brown, Romanowski, and Rod Woodson, all drinking some weird geriatric juice and the caption read “Broncos to host the retirement community of Oakland.”
Well, that article not only became billboard material at my house (apparently it motivated me to cheer more?), but it must have been used in the same capacity for the Raiders as Oakland not only won this game, but demolished the Broncos.
A couple of specific notes of this one – Rod Woodson started out the fun when he picked off Brian Griese and ran it back for a 98 yard touchdown. I still think that play alone not only sparked the Raiders’ victory in this one, but the rest of the season. In addition to that great play by old man Woodson, Rich Gannon had a stellar game. The man completed 21 straight passes – just one shy of the then record held by Joe Montana. Oakland won by 24 points, but honestly, the game was not even that close. The Raiders controlled this one, and they would control the remainder of the season as they went 7-1 to finish out the regular season –clinching the number one seed in the AFC playoffs. Which, leads me to my final post of this countdown, and the greatest Oakland Raider memory I have from the past 15 years:
1. The 2002 AFC Championship Game
January 19, 2003
Raiders 41, Titans 24
It had been twenty years since the Raiders had won the conference championship game. Twenty long years. During those twenty years Raider fans saw year-after-year of mediocre football as our team was led by such no names as Mike White and Joe Bugel. But then, a man by the name of Gruden came to town, and he brought with him the greatest QB to ever done the Silver and Black – Rich Gannon. The two finally brought the talent and gifted football minds that our man Tim Brown needed. And as discussed above, within only four short years, the Raiders had made it to this game to face the Titans. At stake: a trip to the Super Bowl.
Heading into this game, I was quite optimistic. The Raiders had not only played the Titans earlier that year, but had beaten them quite handedly with a 52 to 25 trouncing. And that optimism was only strengthened as Gannon, the league’s MVP, navigated the team down the field and scored on a four minute opening drive. Even though the Titans matched this with a touchdown of their own, Gannon did it again on his second possession as he utilized all of our weapons. Jon Ritchie and Jerry Porter got in on the action, and Charlie Garner punched it in on a twelve yard pass. Doug Jolly then hauled in a touchdown pass shortly before halftime as the Raiders took a 24 to 17 lead into the locker room. Fortunately, that would be the last lead change of the game.
The second half was just a joy to watch, as Oakland controlled the ball and the scoreboard. I have been for years now, a very superstitious fan – never allowing myself to get too comfortable watching the Raiders’ game. And that same feeling echoed in this game as I did not allow myself to think the game was over. But finally, I listened to reason, and the clock, when the Raiders scored their last touchdown to go up 41 to 24 with 6:29 left.
I remember being so happy for Tim Brown. After his long, successful career, he was finally headed to where he belonged! And fortunately, for me, this is where all my memories of that season end. I don’t remember anything that happened after this game, so, what a way to end that season! The Oakland Raiders were AFC Champions!
Alright guys, I hope you enjoyed my countdown. I would love to hear about some of the games you think I should have mentioned!