January 2, 1994
QB Jeff Hostetler throws for one of three touchdowns during his 210-yard passing performance.
The setting was perfect. There was hazy sunshine. The temperature was a comfortable 76 degrees with no wind. It was a new year in a renovated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game was a sellout and there was a huge national and local television audience. This was pressure football at its best.
The Raiders and the Denver Broncos, both at 9-6-0 going into the final game of the 1993 league season, had a playoff berth and home-field advantage on the line.
The Raiders were at less than 100% for this crucial contest. Leading rusher, rookie Greg Robinson, was out with a season-ending knee injury. Talented defensive back and special teams star James Trapp and S Patrick Bates were also sidelined by injuries.
The Broncos had lost seven of their last eight matches against the Raiders, including an earlier game that season in Denver, 23-30. Denver's first year head coach Wade Phillips and veteran QB John Elway had vowed to change this pattern to a more favorable one.
The visiting Broncos came out in high gear, taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and stretching it to 13-0 early in the second stanza. Place kicker Jason Elam first put Denver on the scoreboard with a booming 52-yard field goal to conclude the Broncos' initial possession.
The opportunistic Broncos then converted a Raiders fumble into seven points, when Elway hit WR Cedric Tillman from 27 yards out with 10:41 elapsed in the first quarter to open a 10-point lead.
DE Greg Townsend puts the pressure on Broncos QB John Elway.
Elway's arm and his feet moved the Broncos into scoring territory at the top of the second quarter. The Raiders defense stiffened, with big plays by DEs Howie Long and Greg Townsend. Elam popped a 24-yard field goal to go up, 13-0.
QB Jeff Hostetler then took the Raiders 82 yards on eight plays, with runs by Tyrone Montgomery and passes to world class sprinters Alexander Wright and James Jett to finally putting the ball inside the Broncos 10-yard line. A Hostetler pass to Pro Bowl-bound WR Tim Brown covered the last four yards. The Raiders now trailed by six, 13-7.
Elway found TE Shannon Sharpe for 54-yards and a touchdown on Denver's next possession, to put the Broncos ahead again by 13 points, 20-7.
The Raiders stayed within striking range, with a 43-yard field goal by team-scoring leader Jeff Jaeger at the end of a 53-yard march. Passes to Jett and Brown were the big ground gainers.
Just before halftime the Broncos capitalized on a 49-yard kickoff return to spark another touchdown trip. With just 26 seconds left in the first half, Elway passed to Sharpe from one yard out to earn Denver a 27-13 lead as the teams headed for their dressing rooms at halftime.
The third quarter opened with the Broncos widening their lead to 17 points on a 27-yard field goal by Jason Elam.
"We had a lot of adverse things happen early," noted Hostetler. "But we kept plugging away, plugging away. Coach Shell challenged us to show our character and we did. We showed a lot of character."
The Raiders defense sets at the line of scrimmage in preparation for the Broncos offense.
With help from the crowd of 68,000 who never quit on their team, the Raiders began a rally after the Denver field goal. Hostetler opened the drive by scrambling for seven and later completed passes to Brown for 26 yards and 15 yards before finding Brown open for the final 24 yards and the touchdown. The Raiders now trailed by 10 with 9:34 elapsed in the third quarter. On Denver's next possession the Raiders overcame a 15-yard pass interference penalty to keep the Broncos at bay. The fourth quarter opened with the visitors ahead by 10 and in possession of the football.
Raiders were strong defensively and forced the Broncos to punt. Brown scampered back 13 on the return and the Silver and Black offense settled down to work on their own 49. Hostetler went to Brown for 25 yards on a third-and-seven to keep the drive alive. Then, on a third-and-11, the "Hoss" got nine yards on a strike to wide receiver Alexander Wright. A penalty moved the Raiders back to the Denver 20 and Coach Shell took the three-point opportunity, with Jaeger delivering from 39 yards. Denver Broncos 30 – Los Angeles Raiders 23, with 9:23 left in the season finale.
The Raiders offense prepares for the next play.
Aundray Bruce partially blocked the Broncos next punt, but the Raiders were unable to capitalize. The Broncos regained the ball on their own 20 with 5:14 left and a seven-point lead. LB Winston Moss—the Raiders defensive captain—made one stop. Big DT Chester McGlockton made the next. And, on third-and-six, S Eddie Anderson dropped the Broncos ball carrier for a loss of one. A long 54-yard Broncos punt pinned the Raiders back on their own thirty.
"It got to the point where it was now or never," said Raiders TE Ethan Horton. "And we'd have the whole off-season to think about it. Nobody panicked. We had to get it, but if we didn't we were going to go down fighting."
Coach Shell, his able staff, the Raiders squad and the thundering crowd all had confidence in the offense and their quarterback.
"He's the most determined individual I've been around," exclaimed Coach Shell. "You can't knock him down, but if you don't cut his legs off, you're going to regret it, because he's going to jump back up and be ready to go again."
Hostetler and company faced 70 yards with 2:59 on the clock, the two-minute warning time out and three time outs of their own.
Receptions and runs by versatile tailback Tyrone Montgomery moved the Raiders out to the Denver 40. Then, a 13-yard pass to Brown put the Silver and Black on the Broncos 27. Thirteen more through the air from Hostetler to Brown and a Napoleon McCallum reception for three set up a second-and seven from the 11-yard line. A seven-yard strike to Brown made it first and goal on the Broncos four.
The final time out was used and two incompletions brought up a third-and-four from the four, with just eight ticks of the clock remaining.
Hostetler took the snap from Don Mosebar, set up quickly, looked left for Brown, who was covered, then checked the middle but saw no one open. The clock was running out. This would be the final play. The season was on the line.
K Jeff Jaeger connects from 47-yards out in OT to secure the win and a spot in the playoffs.
Hostetler then looked right and spotted Wright open just inside the goal line. Hostetler fired right; Wright went tall for the ball and came down with it in the end zone as the thrilled crowd—and the Raider sideline—exploded. Jaeger drilled the point-after and the game headed for overtime, 30-30. The Raiders had twice come back from 17-point deficits to earn the tie.
Denver won the coin toss and chose to receive to open the "sudden death" period. The Broncos worked their way downfield, but missed a 40-yard field goal that 68,000 fans willed wide left. The Raiders took over on the Los Angeles 22.
A 19-yard scramble by Hostetler and a 20-yard completion to Horton had the Silver and Black surging into Bronco land.
With fourth-and-seven from the Denver 29, Coach Shell sent in the field goal unit.
"It always seems to come down to the last minute, or some kind of kick," noted Long. "It's been that kind of a season."
The Broncos called a time out to "ice" Raiders place kicker Jeff Jaeger.
"When I first came into the NFL and they'd called a timeout, I'd think of everything but the kick," Jaeger said. "I like it now when they do that, however. It gives you time to acclimate yourself. It's like a putt in golf. You pick out a spot and try to hit it good."
The center snap was from special teams captain Dan Turk to holder Jeff Gossett. The ball was placed, it was kicked and it was perfect from 47 yards out. The Raiders triumphed, 33-30. The sellout crowd and the national television audience had witnessed another brilliant comeback, another example of the Raiders tradition of greatness.