January 4, 2014 marks the 33rd anniversary of The Oakland Raiders thrilling 14-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round of the 1980 season's playoffs. After an 11-5 regular season, the Raiders faced off against the Houston Oilers in a Wildcard Playoff game. Oakland held the Oilers and Hall of Fame RB Earl Campbell in check allowing only one touchdown en route to a convincing 27-7 victory setting up the showdown in Cleveland.
The temperature at kickoff was a frigid 4° Fahrenheit with gusting 16 m.p.h. winds. This was the coldest game since the Ice Bowl of 1967. The weather though didn’t deter the 77,655 Browns fans who filled Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
The Raiders won the toss and elected to receive. Todd Christensen returned the Don Cockroft kick 7 yards to the Oakland 31. The offense took the field and the first play from scrimmage was a 1-yard run to the left. After two failed Jim Plunkett pass attempts, the Raiders punted the ball on fourth down. WR Keith Wright returned the Ray Guy punt 4 yards to the Browns2 31-yard line.
The Browns didn’t have any success of their own on their opening drive punting the ball back to Oakland after going three-and-out. Oakland started their next drive at their 28. After a RB Mark van Eeghen run for no gain, Plunkett completed a 5-yard screen pass to RB Kenny King. On the ensuing play, the Raiders committed the first turnover of the game. With 12:00 left in the first quarter, a Plunkett pass intended for WR Bob Chandler was intercepted by CB Ron Bolton.
The Browns started their next drive at their 27-yard line. Three consecutive runs by RB Mike Pruitt gave the Browns a first down. After an incomplete pass by QB Brian Sipe, Pruitt again rushed up the middle for a loss of two yards. On third and 12, Sipe completed a 4-yard pass to RB Calvin Hill, short of the first down.
Acquired in a trade with the Houston Oilers, RB Kenny King (33) played a major role in the 1980 postseason for the Raiders. AP Photo.
On fourth and 8, P Johnny Evans punted the ball 50 yards to Keith Moody who returned it 1 yard to the Raiders 11. The Raiders weren’t able to gain any momentum going three-and-out and sending the special teams out onto the field. P Ray Guy punted the ball 49 yards to RB Dino Hall who returned it 11 yards to the Browns 48-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, the 10th ranked Raiders defense buckled down and forced the first of three interceptions on the day. On 3rd at 10 on the Browns 48-yard line, Sipe threw a pass intended for Reggie Rucker, but was intercepted by Defensive Player of the Year, CB Lester Hayes.
Much of the first quarter would be about field position with neither offense gaining much momentum.
After the interception by Hayes, the Raiders took over with 6:32 left on the Browns 48. Still unable to achieve a first down, the Raiders punted the ball back to the Browns. The two teams traded punts until with 1:55 left in the quarter, the Browns started their first real scoring threat.
With 1st and 10 on the Browns 40, Sipe completed a pass 20 yards to Rucker to the Oakland 40. Pruitt then took a handoff to the right for two yards. Sipe completed a 6-yard pass to TE Ozzie Newsome making it 3rd and 2. Pruitt gained three more yards on the ground giving the Browns a first down on the Oakland 29. The quarter ended with a Sipe pass intended for Rucker dropped in the end zone. The first quarter ended with the score tied 0-0.
The second quarter started with the Browns still driving. After two incomplete passes, Cleveland sent out the field goal team to attempt a 47-yard field goal. Don Cockroft’s field goal attempt was short and the Raiders took over on their own 29.
The Raiders dodged another threat on the next drive. The Raiders finally gained a first down in the game when Plunkett dropped back to pass and connected with TE Raymond Chester for 11 yards. On the ensuing play though, Plunkett attempted to pass but was sacked and fumbled the ball with Cleveland recovering.
Unable to move the ball, Cockroft took the field on 4th and 9 to attempt a 30-yard field goal. The attempt was missed wide left keeping the score at 0-0.
The first points of the game were finally scored with 6:10 left in the quarter. Unfortunately it was at the Raiders expense. A Plunkett pass intended for Chandler was intercepted by Bolton and taken back 42 yards for a touchdown making the score 6-0 Browns. The score would stay that way as LB Ted Hendricks broke through the line to block the extra point.
After the teams traded punts, the Raiders would finally score their first points of the game with 18 seconds to go in the half. The Raiders started the drive at their 36. On 2nd and 10, Plunkett connected with Chandler for 15 yards and a first down. Two more passes to King and van Eeghen set up a Plunkett scramble for three yards and another first down.
On the Browns 37, King ran the ball 7 yards to the Browns 30. Van Eeghen gained another first down on a 4-yard rush to the left. After an incomplete pass and a run for a loss of 3 yards, Plunkett threw a perfect pass to Chester for 26 yards to the Browns 2. The Raiders called a timeout with 1:03 left. On first and goal, van Eeghen ran for a 1-yard gain and the clock still running. On second and goal, a Plunkett pass intended for TE Derrick Ramsay fell incomplete. With 22 seconds left in the half and on third and goal, van Eeghen ran right and crossed the goal line for a touchdown before the end of the half. The extra point was good and the teams went into the locker room with the score 7-6 Raiders. The scoring drive went for 14 plays and 64 yards.
Safety Mike Davis cuts in front of TE Ozzie Newsome to preserve the Raiders 14-12 lead. AP Photo.
The second half opened up with Cleveland having first possession. After a 28-yard return by RB Charles White, the Browns started at their own 40. The Browns would drive 48 yards and score on a 30-yard field goal by Cockroft.
Oakland would start their first possession of the second half with great field position after RB Arthur Whittington returned the kickoff to the Raiders 40. Unable to capitalize on the short field, the Raiders went three-and-out and were forced to punt.
The Browns started their next drive with 9:59 left in the third quarter at their 36-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Sipe connected with Pruitt for 25 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Sipe completed a pass to WR Dave Logan for another 15 yards and another first down on the Oakland 24 yard-line. The drive stalled and on 4th and 4 the field goal team took the field. The ball was snapped and holder Paul McDonald was tackled for a loss of 11 yards on the botched field goal attempt keeping the game 9-7 Browns.
The Raiders started their ensuing drive on their 29-yard line. A Gene Upshaw holding penalty stalled the drive and the Raiders were forced to punt.
The Browns started their drive on the Raiders 44. Sipe connected with Dave Logan for 21 yards and a first down. On 2nd and 10 CB Dwayne O’Steen was called for pass interference moving the ball to the Raiders 9. The Raiders defense held though and only allowed a field goal making the game 12-7 Browns with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter.
The score would stay like that to end the quarter as neither team’s offense could gain any traction in the freezing weather.
The fourth quarter opened up with the Raiders driving. They started on their own 19-yard line. King ran to the left for 7 yards. Plunkett completed two passes in a row, one for 13 yards and another for 19 yards, moving the chains to the Browns 42. Two plays later, Plunkett completed a pass to TE Ray Chester for 27 yards. Now first and 10 on the Browns 15-yard line, van Eeghen ran for 1 yard. An offsides penalty by the Browns made it third a four on the Browns 9. Plunkett connected with King for 6 yards and a first and goal. On the third consecutive run by van Eeghen, he crossed the goal line for a touchdown and after the extra point, the Raiders led for the first time 14-12.
Safety Mike Davis and the Raiders celebrate his game-saving interception. AP Photo.
The blistering cold forced both teams to trade punts on ensuing possessions.
With 4:39 left in the game, the Browns began their possession on their 25-yard line. Sipe dropped back to pass but because of the Raiders stifling secondary had to scramble to avoid getting sacked. Upon getting tackled for a 1-yard loss, Sipe also fumbled the ball with the Raiders recovering.
The Raiders took over on the Browns 24 with great field position. Playing the clock and ball security, van Eeghen had three runs for 9 yards. On fourth and 1, the Raiders went for it but were stopped short of a first down.
Cleveland took over with 2:22 left in the game on their own 15-yard line. On 2nd and 10, Sipe completed a 29-yard pass to Ozzie Newsome to the team’s 44-yard line. On 3rd and 10, CB Dwayne Osteen got called for holding and gave the Browns another first down. On the next play Sipe connected with Pruitt for 23 yards down the left sideline. With 1:06 to go and on the Raiders 28, Pruitt rushed to the left for 14 yards. Cleveland called a timeout with 0:56 left.
On second and nine with 49 seconds left in the game, needing just a field goal to take the lead, Sipe dropped back to pass and threw a ball into the end zone intended for Newsome. It was intercepted by safety Mike Davis sealing the 14-12 win for the Raiders and propelling them to the AFC Championship game against the San Diego Chargers.
The play Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano called would go down in history as "Red Right 88."