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The 40th Anniversary of Super Bowl XVIII

Act 3: The crowning moment

By Levi Edwards | Digital Team Reporter

January 22, 2024, marks the 40th anniversary of the Los Angeles Raiders' 38-9 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. It was the Silver and Black's third World Championship of Professional Football and the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history up to that point.

Through the lenses of Jim Plunkett and Mike Haynes, this is the story behind the Super Bowl XVIII triumph.

On New Year's Day 1984, the Raiders steamrolled the Pittsburgh Steelers, 38-10, in the Divisional Round. With over 90,000 fans packed into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Silver and Black totaled over 400 yards of offense, plus two turnovers and five sacks from the defense.

A new, yet familiar, challenge awaited in the AFC Championship against the Seattle Seahawks. Throughout 1983, the Seahawks frankly had the Raiders' number. In the two regular season losses to their AFC West foe, the Silver and Black were outscored 72-57.

The Seahawks' high-octane offense was led by quarterback Dave Krieg, who took over as the starter for Pro Bowler Jim Zorn after Week 8. Krieg finished the season with a 5-3 record and 20 total touchdowns.

The top dog in their passing game was eventual Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent. He'd just completed his fifth career season of over 1,000 receiving yards. Largent had put a bit of fear in the Raiders secondary, averaging nearly 70 receiving yards a game against the franchise up to that point in his career.

"I didn't have that fear," said Mike Haynes, recalling his emotions ahead of his first game against Seattle as a Raider. "I had huge confidence. I knew I could cover him, and I wasn't afraid to cover him. I said to [my teammates], 'All I need is help' and that help comes from the pass rush. If you give that guy [Krieg] all day to throw the football, it's going to be a tough day. But if you put pressure on that quarterback and he's afraid to stand in the pocket, that's helping me and my coverage on these other guys."

Another factor behind the two regular season losses to Seattle was lack of production from Jim Plunkett. He threw three interceptions against the Seahawks in Week 7 and was replaced by 1980 first-rounder Marc Wilson as the starter Week 8 at Dallas, thus missing the Week 9 matchup against the Seahawks. Wilson threw four interceptions in that 34-21 defeat.

Plunkett highly anticipated the rematch and prepared for the AFC Championship as if it was the Super Bowl.

"They had beat our butts pretty good," Plunkett said. "They got a lot of turnovers and we had a lot of changes to make. For me in particular, I couldn't turn the ball over and get our defense in trouble.

"I had a really bad game against the Seahawks the first go around; I wasn't about to make those same mistakes again."

Mistakes were few and far between as the Raiders dominated the Seahawks from the jump. Los Angeles scored 27 unanswered points to start the game, and fortunately, the defensive line fulfilled Haynes' request. The unit sacked Krieg three times before he was benched for Jim Zorn in the second half. The two Seattle quarterbacks threw a total of five interceptions in the Raiders' direction. As for Largent, his final stat line was two catches for a measly 25 yards.

"They had a bunch of super talented wide receivers and a great quarterback in Jim Zorn, but we just had a better defense," said Haynes. "We just put them under."

As for Plunkett, he went 17-for-24 for 214 passing yards and a touchdown throw to Marcus Allen. With the 30-14 win, the former Super Bowl MVP and the Raiders punched their ticket to represent the AFC in Tampa, Florida, in their quest for a third Lombardi Trophy.

"Our offense tightened up and defensively we shut them down," recalled Plunkett. "It was a complete turnaround for our football team against the Seahawks after the way they beat us that season."

Plunkett tried to keep a low profile during Super Bowl week in Tampa, Florida.

He and the team had a bit more of a rambunctious time in New Orleans, Louisiana, for Super Bowl XV. But this time around was much different for the 36-year-old quarterback.

When he wasn't doing media or practicing, he stayed put in the hotel – enjoying an occasional cocktail or two with his family and watching more game film than usual in anticipation for Washington.

Simply put, this was strictly a business trip.

"I paid more attention to the details," he said. "You like to think that you do that for every game, but this was special. This was important. Not that all the other games aren't, but here you are on the biggest stage in professional football, and I didn't want to go out there and make any mistakes. My job was to lead this team offensively and not make any errors. I knew if I did that, we'd probably win the game."

Plunkett's mentality echoed into the defensive back room and Mike Haynes. The cornerback recalls preparing for this game like none other before in his career. He viewed this moment as the reason Al Davis brought him to Los Angeles – to be the final piece to a Super Bowl winning team.

Hours were spent in film study with Lester Hayes, Mike Davis and Vann McElroy. The secondary knew they would have their hands full with a Washington offense that boasted the NFL MVP quarterback Joe Theismann and had scored 37 points against them in the regular season.

This time around, the Silver and Black were ready to pull something from up their sleeves for "The Hogs."

"We studied together, and we had our confidence way up," said Haynes. "We knew that we could cover them man-to-man, because of all the film that we watched nobody covered them man-to-man. Nobody played bump-and-run against these guys. So, we knew they wouldn't be used to that.

"That's what we did, and I think that was the gamechanger."

January 22, 1984. Super Bowl XVIII at Tampa Stadium.

Despite going 12-4 in the regular season and winning their two playoff games by at least two scores, the Los Angeles Raiders were still the underdogs.

On the field before the game, Haynes felt an aura of arrogance coming from Washington's sideline as they warmed up on the field. A feeling he described as disrespect, as he watched Washington laugh and joke with a sense of assurance and lack of urgency heading into kickoff.

Quite frankly, Haynes believed Washington thought they already had the game in the bag.

"I had never seen a team with more confidence than they had that day," said Haynes. "Every team that we played had respect for us, and you could tell they respected us by the way they ran around the field and spoke to us. Not the Redskins.

"When we went back in the locker room [before kickoff] I said, 'Look, you better have your game face on from jump street because these guys have no respect for us. We're going to have to bring our A-game from the gate.' Everyone was onboard. They had realized the same thing."

What transpired over the course of four quarters is one of the greatest defensive showings in Super Bowl history. The Raiders jumped out to a 21-3 lead at halftime, with two touchdowns coming from a Derrick Jensen blocked punt and recovery in the end zone plus a pick-six by linebacker Jack Squirek shortly before the half.

Theismann was sacked six times and completed just 45.7 percent of his throws. The icing on the cake was Haynes catching a garbage time interception.

"I was hoping to have more interceptions," joked Haynes. "But it's all about winning, doing your part and doing something to help your team win."

Plunkett and the offense put together a complete game to match the defense's energy. He threw for 172 yards and a touchdown pass to Cliff Branch, while accomplishing his goal of no turnovers.

The main attraction in Super Bowl XVIII was undoubtedly Marcus Allen, who set a then-Super Bowl record 191 rushing yards while averaging a whopping 9.6 yards per carry and scoring two rushing touchdowns.

The Super Bowl MVP's third quarter 74-yard reverse touchdown run is still fresh in his teammate's memory.

"I tried to lead the blocking as he came around back the other way in reverse field," said Plunkett. "I was out there trying to block somebody, and I don't know if I did, but they followed me because they thought he was going to go wider than he did, but he cut back inside.

"I'd like to think I was of some help," Plunkett added with a laugh. "He went the distance, and it was a great run."

As the clock hit triple zeros, the Raiders secured the 38-9 victory and there was a flurry of emotions on the sideline.

But for Plunkett and Haynes, they both shared the same one: unrestrained joy. Haynes could finally relate to the feeling that Plunkett had been tirelessly chasing again for three years.

"It was total ecstasy," said Haynes. "I'd not had that feeling, and I guess I'll never have that feeling again. In college I played in three Fiesta Bowls and won all three, but there is no comparison. Winning a Super Bowl with those guys was a 10 and comparing it to those Fiesta Bowl wins – that was a five or six.

"You're world champs. It doesn't get any better than that."

It's been 40 years and two franchise relocations since that Super Bowl XVIII victory. But one thing that remains is the Raiders still being Los Angeles' team. Even in the newly built Allegiant Stadium sitting adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip, members of Raider Nation still come in droves from Southern California to watch their team play.

It's the same fans that flood SoFi Stadium when the Raiders come back to town to play the Chargers or the Rams.

And it's many of the same fans who witnessed that Super Bowl XVIII win – whether in person or on TV.

Plunkett and Haynes are also still admired by Raider Nation for their contributions to bringing the city of Los Angeles its first Super Bowl. After experiencing trials and tribulations early in their careers, they can forever call themselves champions.

"It's great to look back on success, a goal that a few players and people get to experience," said Plunkett. "I would like to see the Raiders continue that legacy, get back to the Super Bowl and win some more."

Both Plunkett and Haynes have the crystal-clear image in their mind of late Owner Al Davis walking into the locker room postgame with elation. As the team celebrated together, Davis was handed the Lombardi Trophy and exclaimed three words with an ear-to-ear grin.

"Just Win Baby!"

An exclusive look back at the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38-9 in Tampa, Florida.

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