On December 18, 1976, the 13-1 Oakland Raiders faced off against the 11-3 New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. That year QB Ken Stabler threw for 2,737 yards and 27 TDs while completing 194 of his 291 pass attempts. Stabler had a trio of receivers with whom he was able to connect through the air. WR Cliff Branch caught passes worth 1,111 yards and 12 touchdowns. TE Dave Casper had 691 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving, and Fred Biletnikoff totaled 551 yards while grabbing seven touchdown passes.
It was a 58-degree Saturday afternoon when Raiders P Ray Guy kicked off to the New England 1. Jesse Phillips returned the ball to the New England 15 to set up the Patriots’ opening drive. After moving the ball to their 24 the Patriots drive stalled and P Mike Patrick punted to the Oakland 30. Neal Colzie returned it 24yards to the New England 46. Unable to score on their opening drive, Guy punted the ball out of bounds to the New England 14.
The New England Patriots drove 86 yards in 10 plays and scored the first touchdown of the game when Andy Johnson ran it in from one yard out making the game 7-0 Patriots after the extra point.
On the ensuing kickoff the Raiders returned the ball to the Oakland 32. On the first play of the drive, Stabler passed to Biletnikoff for 22 yards. RB Clarence Davis ran for 4 yards to set up a Stabler to Branch connection for another 17 yards. The drive, however, stalled on the New England 23 and the Raiders had to settle for a field goal attempt. K Errol Mann made the 40-yard field goal making it 7-3 Patriots with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
CB Skip Thomas picks off a QB Steve Grogan pass.
The score of 7 -3 would remain until the Raiders scored the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half. The drive started after a Skip Thomas interception and return to the Oakland 24.
Hall of Fame TE Dave Casper makes a catch over the middle during the Raiders come-from-behind win over the Patriots in the 1976 AFC Divisional Playoffs.
The Raiders showcased their two-minute offense driving down the field 76 yards in 8 plays. Stabler connected with Biletnikoff for 31 yards and a touchdown making the game 10-7 Raiders after the successful extra point.
The second half started with the Raiders Carl Garrett returning the kickoff to the Oakland 30. After moving the ball to the New Enlgand 48, the Raiders were unable to convert and Guy punted to the New England end zone for a touchback.
Starting at the 20, the New England Patriots drove 80 yards in 9 plays and scored their second touchdown of the game. QB Steve Grogan threw to TE Russ Francis for 26 yards for the score, making the game 14 -10 Patriots after the extra point.
On the Raiders ensuing possession, the offense was unable to gain any momentum and went three and out.
The Patriots started their next drive on their 45. They marched 55 yards in 10 plays and scored Phillips 3-yard rush making the game 21-10 (PAT was good) with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
The Raiders began their next possession on their 30. Now down 11 points and with only a little over a quarter to go, the Silver and Black would have to play a near perfect 4th quarter to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
After a Stabler completion to Biletnikoff for 17 yards, the Raiders began the 4th quarter on the New England 45.
The Raiders started their comeback with an 11-play, 70-yard drive. RB Mark van Eeghen scored the Raiders second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard TD run. Stabler went a perfect 5-for-5 on the drive.
The score was 21-17 New England, but the momentum was swinging to the Raiders side.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum crowd celebrates Mark van Eeghen's 1-yard TD run as the Raiders mounted a comeback.
The Patriots first drive of the fourth quarter started on their 14 with 10:54 left. The Raiders defense forced a three-and-out with the Silver and Black starting their next possession on their 14. The Raiders were unable to capitalize on the opportunity and were forced to punt.
The Patriots got the ball back on the Oakland 48 threatening to score again. New England was able to move the ball to the Oakland 32 but stalled. This set up a 50-yard field goal attempt by John Smith. Smith missed low giving the Raiders new life with 4:12 left in the game.
Two plays layter, Stabler connected with Biletnikoff for 7 yards and Branch for 8 on consecutive plays. Stabler connected again with Biletnikoff for 12 yards, crossing midfield and getting to the New England 40.
With two minutes left in the game Stabler hooked up with Dave Casper for 21 yards. On the ensuing play, Stabler was sacked by Mel Lunsford for a loss of 8 with 1:24 remaining in the game.
After two incomplete passes, New England’s Ray Hamilton was called for roughing the passer, moving the ball to the New England 13. On first down, Stabler found Casper again, this time for 5 yards, with 46 seconds to go. RB Clarence Davis ran it up the middle for 4yards before getting stopped short of the goal line with 40 seconds to go.
After a timeout, the Raiders lined up for a run. RB Pete Banaszak was stopped for no gain. With 14 seconds left and the game on the line, Stabler took matters into his own hands, rolled left and dove into the end zone for the game winning 1-yard touchdown run.
QB Kenny Stabler (12) scores the go-ahead touchdown.
The Patriots got the ball back with seven seconds but LB Monte Johnson intercepted Steve Grogan’s pass attempt and sealed the 24-21 victory for the Silver and Black.
Stabler finished the game with 19 completions for 233 yards and one touchdown, but he won the game on the ground. WR Fred Biletnikoff caught 9 of Stabler’s passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
The Oakland Raiders would go on to face and defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game en route to the team’s first World Championship of Professional Football in franchise history with a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.