January 22, 1984
There is no single day in professional sports to match Super Bowl Sunday. The eyes and ears of the world - not just the sports world - are centered on one stadium, two teams, 90 players. Only one original American Football League team had won a Super Bowl since 1969 - the Raiders in 1976 and again in 1980.
Only one team had ever won Super Bowls under more than one head coach - the Raiders under John Madden in 1976 and Tom Flores in 1980.
Tradition is important to the Raider organization, and so a small army of former players were in Tampa, Florida for Super Bowl XVIII as guests of Al Davis and the Raiders: Hall of Fame members George Blanda and Jim Otto were there. So were great Raiders from the sixties and seventies such as Clem Daniels, George Atkinson, Dan Conners, Jack Tatum, Kent McCloughan, Pete Banaszak and more.
Tradition had helped build this 1983 edition of the Silver and Black. But as kickoff time approached, each player and coach in the Raider dressing room beneath the sold-out stands in Tampa Stadium reached inside himself. For a few moments before these black jerseyed warriors took the field, each man was alone, yet in a group bound closely together. Dreams, that for some had started in childhood, were about to become reality.
The AFC Champion Los Angeles Raiders were in black, the NFC Champion Washington Redskins were in white. Tampa Stadium was ablaze with color - burgundy and gold, silver and black.
This was the big one. This was Super Bowl Sunday, and for all involved there was no tomorrow. In America today, being number one is the mark of royalty, and the next three hours would determine who wore the crown in professional football.
The Raiders were the underdogs as they had been in their two previous Super Bowl wins. The Redskins were the highest scoring team in National Football history and had beaten the Raiders in Washington earlier in the season, 37-35, in the 1983 season's most exciting game.
But this was a powerful Raider team. Twelve of the 22 Raider starters, plus punter Ray Guy and kick returner Greg Pruitt, were Pro Bowl selections at least once while with the Raiders. This was a solid, experienced, determined team representing professional sports' winningest organization. Six of these players already owned two Super Bowl rings won as Raiders - Guy, wide receiver Cliff Branch, linebacker Ted Hendricks and offensive linemen Dave Dalby, Henry Lawrence and Steve Sylvester. Seventeen others had earned one Super Bowl ring with earlier Raider World Championship teams.
To get into Super Bowl XVIII, the Redskins had destroyed the Rams, 51-10, in the NFC Playoff Game, then held off the 49ers 24-21 to win the NFC Championship. The Raiders had thundered into the Super Bowl after dominating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Playoff Game, 38-10, and the Seattle Seahawks in the AFC Championship Game, 30-14.
Kickoff came in twilight at 4:45 P.M. Nearly five minutes had elapsed on the game clock when the Redskins were forced to punt from their own 30-yard line. Washington had probed deep on three long passes and found nothing there against Raider corners Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes. Then, on fourth-and-10, Jeff Hayes took a slightly high snap from center and stepped forward into his punting routine. But the Raider punt rushers had prepared a special greeting all week in practice. Special teams captain Derrick Jensen burst through a seam on the right side and blocked the punt. The ball skidded all the way into the front of the end zone with Jensen, Kenny Hill, Odis McKinney and Lester Hayes in hot pursuit. Jensen got there first, covered the ball, and the Raiders were ahead for keeps, 7-0.
Early in the second quarter, inside linebacker Matt Millen sacked Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann to put Washington in the hole. After the punt, the Raiders started on their own 35 and ended up in touchdown land in just three plays. Jim Plunkett pitched a perfect strike to Cliff Branch down the middle for 50 yards. Two plays later, Branch broke into the post from left to right from 12 yards out, completely lost his defender and curled down low around a Plunkett pass to raise the Raiders lead to 14-0. Branch continued as the most proficient pass receiver in postseason games in NFL history.
The Redskins fought back with a long, time-consuming drive, but when linebacker Rod Martin broke up their third down pass attempt at the L.A. seven-yard line, the Redskins were forced to settle to a field goal. Raiders 14-Redskins 3.
The Raiders came back, marching to the Washington 39-yard line before a Ray Guy punt pinned the Redskins down at their own 12-yard line.
First-and-ten on their own 12, with only 12 seconds left in the half. But the Raiders remained alert. In the October league game between these two teams a screen pass to halfback Joe Washington out of a three wide receiver formation had triggered a winning rally by the Redskins. When Washington coach Joe Gibbs sent three wides and Joe Washington in, the Raider coaching staff reacted intuitively. Defensive coordinator Charley Sumner countered immediately by inserting speedy linebacker Jack Squirek with specific instructions to go tight man-to-man on Joe Washington.
The three wide receivers went right and Joe Washington went left. A big outside pass rush by defensive end Lyle Alzado forced quarterback Joe Theismann to put extra loft on his soft lob pass toward Joe Washington; over the outstretched hands of the oncoming Alzado. And there was Squirek, grabbing the ball on the move and just hopping into the black-painted end zone with the football held high in a scoring salute. The interception and touchdown by Squirek put the Raiders ahead at halftime, 21-3, led to a couple of "Holy Toledo's" by radio play-by-play announcer Bill King and set off an explosion of Silver and Black in sold-out Tampa Stadium.
As the second half opened, Washington gallantly fought back, marching 70 yards to score and one-yard plunge by future Hall of Fame inductee John Riggins. Then Raiders reserve tight end Don Hasselbeck penetrated sharply, reached high and blocked the extra point as Raider special teams continued to be a key element in the relentless pursuit of glory.
The Raiders now had 21 points, the Redskins 9. But the Redskins would score no more in the nearly 26 minutes that remained to play.
Head coach Tom Flores gathered his Silver and Black-clad warriors on the sideline. "No let up, no let up. Just 30 minutes of Raiders football and its ours," Flores exhorted. And there would be no let up. No way. This game, this season, this league, belonged to the Raiders.
The threat of the feared Raider deep passing attack opened the short routes after Redskin cornerback Darrell Green was flagged for pass interference on a bomb from Plunkett to speedy wide receiver Malcolm Barnwell. Plunkett then went underneath for completions to Branch, tight end Todd Christensen and fullback Frank Hawkins to move goalward relentlessly. Finally, from the Washington five, Marcus Allen skillfully danced free inside and dove into the endzone for the touchdown to put the Raiders ahead by 19 points, 28-9.
With 1:35 left in the third quarter, the Raiders only turnover put the Redskins just 35 yards from the end zone. But on fourth-and-one from the Los Angeles 26, John Riggins powered off left tackle behind the blocking of the highly publicized "Hogs" - the Redskins massive front line. Raider linebacker Rod Martin overpowered the tight end trying to block him, clogging the off-tackle hole and giving Riggins nowhere to go. Safeties Mike Davis and Vann McElroy roared in to support and the Redskins remained one yard short. The Raiders took over on their own 26-yard-line.
Marcus Allen took over from there. Allen started left, went too wide for his blocking, found heavy traffic, reversed his field, saw a lane inside, burst free of pursuit, angled left as he sped downfield, picked up an escort from Branch and went 74 yards for a then-record Super Bowl longest run from scrimmage. The touchdown put the Raiders way out in front, 35-9.
For all practical purposes, Super Bowl XVIII was now history. The Raiders added a 21-yard field goal by Chris Bahr in the final minutes. Coach Flores cleared the bench to allow every proud Raider to see action in this masterful performance. Mike Haynes got an interception, Jeff Barnes and Mike Davis added sacks. The statistics piled up; the smile grew wider; the roar of the crowd grew louder.
The clock ticked down: five, four, three. Frank Hawkins ran the final sweep and the gun went off. The Raiders 38, the Redskins 9. The Raiders were again the World Champions of Professional Football. The third time in just eight years!
In accepting his third Super Bowl trophy Owner Al Davis appropriately memorialized the team, the organization and the overwhelming triumph.
"Not only, in my opinion, are you the greatest Raider team of all time, I think you rank with the great teams of all times to have ever played any professional sport."
The joyous Raider locker room was still as Al Davis continued:
"Tom Flores isn't just a great coach in our league. With all due respect, he's one of the greatest coaches of all time.
"I want to say one thing to the fans and great players who wore the Silver and Black in the past all over the country. And I want to pay tribute to my partner, Ed McGah, who died earlier this winter. Again, you were magnificent. You dominated. And I love all of you, and you know that. Just win, baby!"