CB Lester Hayes (37) sacks Houston Oilers QB Kenny Stabler in a 1980 AFC Wild Card playoff game. AP Photo.
The 1980 Raiders finished the season 11-5, tied with the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West, but the Chargers held the tiebreaker and claimed the division. The Silver and Black opened the playoffs as a Wild Card qualifier and faced off against some pretty familiar faces.
Prior to the start of the 1980 season, QB Kenny Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers for QB Dan Pastorini. Pastorini’s time in Oakland was cut short when he broke his leg in Week 5 and the man originally signed to back up Stabler, Jim Plunkett, took over at quarterback.
Houston also featured former Raiders TE Dave Casper who was traded to the Oilers after Week 6 (October 14) of the 1980 season. Casper added to a potent Houston attack which featured RB Earl Campbell. RB Kenny King, who was a key player in a trade with Houston, became a critical factor in the playoffs for the Raiders.
The game was played on Sunday, December 28, 1980, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Oilers won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. K Chris Bahr’s opening kickoff was returned by RB Ronnie Coleman to the Oilers’ 24. Campbell promptly fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. After safety Mike Davis’ recovery, the Raiders were forced to settle for a 47-yard Bahr field goal. The successful kick gave the Raiders a quick 3-0 advantage with 13:15 left in the first quarter.
Bahr’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and Houston elected a re-kick. KR Carl Roaches returned the next kickoff to the Houston 39 where Stabler and company set up shop. After Stabler hit Casper for a 12-yard gain, the Oilers were stymied and forced to punt. P Cliff Parsley’s punt was fumbled by Ira Matthews, but recovered by Odis McKinney and the Raiders took possession at their 5. The Oilers defense allowed one first down before forcing a P Ray Guy punt. Roaches returned an uncharacteristically short Guy punt 10 yards to the Houston 48.
Stabler was sacked by CB Lester Hayes for a loss of nine to open the next possession as the Oilers went three-and-out. The Oilers returned the favor with a three-and-out of their own and took over at their 45 after the punt and an 11-yard return. A 23-yard pass to Coleman kick-started the Oilers and Campbell atoned for his earlier fumble with a 1-yard touchdown run to cap a 9-play, 55-yard drive. After K Toni Fritsch’s second chance at the extra point (he missed the first one, but the Raiders were penalized on the play), the Oilers led 7-3 late in the first quarter.
The Raiders next drive fizzled and after a Guy punt, the Oilers moved into scoring range. Fritsch missed a 45-yard field goal attempt and the Raiders took possession. The two teams traded punts.
The Raiders celebrate one of two Lester Hayes (37) interceptions on the day. AP Photo.
The Raiders got the ball back at the Oilers 41 with 7:44 left in the second quarter. A 37-yard pass to King put the pressure on the visiting team. On 3rd and goal, Plunkett connected with TE Todd Christensen for a 1-yard TD toss to reclaim the lead. After Bahr’s extra point, the home team led 10-7 with 5:35 left in the half.
After another Houston three-and-out, Plunkett had the Raiders on the doorstep again. Plunkett hit Arthur Whitttington for a 20-yard gain, and TE Raymond Chester for a 45-yard strike. But, the pass to Chester was wiped out by a penalty and Plunkett’s deep ball for Chester was picked off in the end zone by safety Vernon Perry.
Another three-and-out put the ball back in the Raiders’ hands but they were unable to move into scoring range. Stabler moved the Oilers down the field late in the second quarter, but Fritsch’s 37-yard field goal was blocked by defensive lineman John Matuszak and the Silver and Black took a 10-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The teams traded punts to start the third quarter. The Raiders third possession of the third quarter started as a result of a Hayes interception in the Oakland end zone that gave the Silver and Black the ball back at their 1-yard line. The Raiders drove out to their 28 before Houston forced a punt. After Stabler got the Oilers’ next drive started with a 33-yard pass to TE Mike Barber, the Raiders held and forced a punt.
After Parsley’s punt went into the end zone for a touchback, Plunkett hooked up with WR Cliff Branch for a 33-yard gain, and Whittington for a 44-yard pass play for a touchdown. The Raiders covered 80 yards in just four plays and led 17-7 after Bahr added the extra point.
A Mike Davis sack of Stabler helped get Houston’s next drive off on the wrong foot, and a DE Willie Jones sack of Stabler ended the next. The Raiders got the ball with 9:17 left in the game. Bahr capped a 7-play, 55-yard drive with a 37-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 20-7 lead with 6:25 left to play.
Down just two scores, the Oilers were thinking comeback. However, the Raiders kick coverage team held Coleman to an 8-yard return to the 12. LB Ted Hendricks sacked Stabler for a 9-yard loss to bring up 3rd and 20 at the Houston 2. Hayes intercepted a Stabler pass and ran it back 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 27-7 lead and seal the Oilers fate.
Stabler drove the Oilers as far as the Raiders 1-yard line, but his 4th and goal pass for Barber was broken up by Dwayne O’Steen. A couple of RB Mark van Eeghen runs and a Plunkett kneel-down ran out the clock and preserved the victory.
The Raiders advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoffs and a match-up with the Browns in Cleveland.