QB Jim Plunkett hands off to RB Marcus Allen. AP Photo
Already with three come-from-behind 4th quarter victories in the 1982 season, the Raiders looked to continue that trend. The Silver and Black wanted to make a statement against the incumbent Los Angeles team. Sitting on a 5-1 record and coming off back to back victories, these Raiders had a spot in the postseason in their crosshairs. They also had to keep pace with the Chargers who were only one game behind in the standings. 23 points in the final quarter spelled good fate for a comeback win.
The other team from LA sat on a reverse 1-5 record, coming off back to back losses. With a trip to the playoffs nowhere near a conceivable reality, the Rams sought to deal a crushing blow to the newcomers in their city. Stifling the opposition’s momentum was the task at hand.
It was a typical pleasant Southern California day on December 18. With a 1:01 p.m. game-time temperature of 70 degrees and negligent winds, weather would not be a deciding factor in this match up.
After losing the coin toss and watching the Rams kick returner Barry Redden scamper up the right side line for 85 yards to the Raiders 17, things were not looking so fortuitous for the home team. A Vince Ferragamo pass to the left flat and two runs by RB Wendell Tyler put the Rams at the one-yard line on 2nd and goal. The Silver and Black held their ground for the next two plays only to see Tyler dive over right guard for the score. Three and half minutes into the game: Rams 7, Raiders 0.
Greg Pruitt boldly decided to return the ensuing kickoff from four yards deep into his own end zone but managed to cross the 19 yard line. A 1st down gain on 3rd and 1 by Marcus Allen was negated by two sacks to quarterback Jim Plunkett. The Allen-led 2nd ranked total offense in the NFL would have to wait for another series to show off its potential.
An uncharacteristically short punt by the ever reliable Ray Guy set the Rams up on the Raiders 32. Ferragamo capped off this efficient four-play, 32-yard drive with an 18-yard TD pass over the middle to the dual threat running back Wendell Tyler. Just like that the Rams were up by two scores.
TE Todd Christensen avoids a tackle from the Rams defense. AP Photo.
For the rest of the 1st quarter, one punt and two interceptions in their first three possessions had the top-tier offensive attack looking utterly stagnant. But with Ferragamo throwing a pick of his own and the Raiders getting the ball back with 12 seconds to go, they looked to improve upon their performance as the game transitioned into the 2nd quarter.
Marcus Allen was just the man for the job. His 15-yard dash up the middle on 1st down set the pace and inspired his quarterback. Passes to WR Malcolm Barnwell, WR Cliff Branch and TE Todd Christensen of 19, 7 and 19 yards put the Silver and Black deep into Rams territory. On 2nd and 2, Plunkett lobbed a beauty to Branch in the left corner of the end zone for an 18-yard score. They were on the board after driving 80 yards in eight plays. Rams 14, Raiders 7.
Unfortunately, the offense struggled once again. Both teams traded punts and Plunkett threw his third pick of the game, this time to CB Pat Thomas at midfield. First down gains via a pass, run and Raiders personal foul had the Rams at 1st and goal at the 6. Ferragamo then threw a left corner pass of his own to Preston Dennard for the TD.
Chris Bahr’s 53-yard field goal attempt fell just short as time expired in the half. It was a forgettable first two quarters as neither team surpassed 140 yards of total offense. Plunkett (7-13-104; 1 TD, 3 INT) certainly had room for improvement. Down 21-7, the Raiders channeled their energies toward a fourth comeback victory of the season. The division and the playoffs were on the line.
The Silver and Black returned to the field as a different team to start the second half.
As with any team in the position of being down by two scores, playing staunch defense is essential for any chance at a comeback. For that to occur, linebackers Matt Millen and Rod Martin would have to exercise their veteran savvy and play-making ability. They obliged accordingly. Their combined 16 tackles, three passes defensed and one INT helped force the opposition into 4th down situations resulting in three punts in three possessions. A big time sack of Ferragamo by DE Lyle Alzado on a 3rd down near the end of the quarter also proved to be a game changing play.
RB Marcus Allen stiff-arms the defender. AP Photo
On the offensive side of the ball, a hodgepodge series of pitches, screens, scrambles and penalties ultimately advanced the Raiders to the 5-yard line of the Rams for 1st and goal. Their second possession of the 3rd resulted in Allen's one-yard slant over right tackle for a touchdown at 7:08. At the conclusion of three quarters in a rather defensive showcase, the deficit was cut to 21-14.
For the offensively-inclined fans, the final quarter provided the necessary entertainment and lifted this game into the echelon of one of the Greatest Raiders Moments.
The Silver and Black were rolling as the initial seconds ticked off the clock. Plunkett launched a 35-yard strike to Branch at the Rams 14. A solid seven-yard run up the gut by Allen advanced their position. However, the progress stopped there. Bahr nailed a 24-yarder at 12:43 to inch the team closer. Rams 21, Raiders 17.
Then in shock and awe fashion, Super Bowl-winning head coach Tom Flores called an onside kick. That other LA team never saw it coming and Bahr recovered his own kick at the Raiders 46-yard line.
Another Super Bowl champion on the squad in Jim Plunkett picked up where he left off, while the rushing attack took care of the rest. The quarterback completed an over the middle pass to FB Kenny King for 14 yards. The combination of Allen, Pruitt and Frank Hawkins ran the Raiders to a mere three feet from the end zone. At 7:33, the home team displayed its true grit with a one-yard dive by Allen over the pile for the score on 4th and goal. They enjoyed their first lead of the game at 24-21.
The team harbored no intention of stopping there. Less than 20 seconds later on Ferragamo’s second pass, Millen jumped in front of TE Mike Barber for the INT and returned it 17 yards to the Rams 11.
QB Jim Plunkett drops back to pass. AP Photo
The NFL’s number-two ranked offense continued the momentum with utter proficiency. The Rams were reeling as an uncovered Greg Pruitt hauled in a six-yard TD from Plunkett on the third play of the drive at 5:45. An unexpected missed extra point by Bahr kept the Raiders lead to nine at 30-21.
As quickly as the Raiders gained the advantage, the Rams took much of it right back with a quick scoring drive. Successive Ferragamo passes of 13, 11 and 18, combined with a 19-yarder after a scramble, advanced his team to the opposition’s 20-yard line. The potential momentum obtained from a near interception after a Rod Martin tip went unattained as referees called a 19-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone on S Mike Davis. The quarterback snuck it in from the one-yard line just two plays later. The Rams trimmed the lead to 30-28.
Ray Malavasi’s defensive squad stepped up in the next series and applied serious pressure to Plunkett, forcing him to under throw his TE Christensen on 3rd down. The Raiders went three and out. The Rams offense returned to the field at 2:25 on their own 28. It was up to the Silver and Black to hold the lead.
Ferragamo’s first pass soared 21 yards into the hands of Dennard at midfield. FB Mike Guman’s 8-yard smash up the middle turned into a 23-yard gain after Lester Hayes’ 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Three consecutive run plays set the Rams up at the 19. Mike Lansford capitalized on the favorable field position and booted a 36-yard field goal at 1:38. A six play, 72-yard drive in little over a minute. Rams 31, Raiders 30. The stage was set for yet another memorable comeback in true Raiders style
For this next moment, it was Pruitt’s time to shine. Receiving Lansford’s kickoff at the goal line, he charged 43 yards up the middle. Raiders ball near midfield with 1:31 left to play.
No squandering of an opportunity would happen this afternoon. Plunkett began the crucial drive with a quick five-yard completion to Allen over the middle. With precious time falling off the clock, he immediately assembled the offense and nailed Branch for 13. Barnwell then corralled one for 10. 40 seconds remained. Allen swept left for 14; ran left again; dived…touchdown! Bahr kicked the PAT and the Raiders were up 37-31…for good.
Jim Plunkett understood the implications of the game in succinct terms. “We had to win and we did. On the last drive there were a lot of big plays, some fine runs, some great catches. [We] got to the 25…so we kept it on the ground, and Marcus did it on two runs. Everybody did a great job.”
Rod Martin knew his team had battled valiantly to earn the right to the postseason. “This game put us in the playoffs and is a big win for us. We never quit and never say die. This is the number one comeback win I’ve ever been involved in.”
Following consecutive victories over division rivals Broncos and Chargers, the Raiders had secured the division crown and were steamrolling into the postseason with a stellar 9-1 record. No doubt as a result of the Silver and Black’s drive to avoid defeat at all costs.