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A Look Back: Raiders Open Season Against Longtime Rival


Running Back Darren McFadden

You may not think of the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans as intense rivals. However, the two teams have engaged in a very unique rivalry, a rivalry that has spanned six decades and has played out in five different cities - Oakland, Los Angeles, Houston, Memphis and Nashville. In fact, younger NFL fans may not be aware that the Tennessee Titans were the Houston Oilers from 1960 - 1996.

The Raiders and the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans history is intertwined and woven into the fabric of AFL and NFL lore. It all began with the AFL's allocation draft to stock the Raiders with players after an Oakland ownership group was awarded the eighth AFL franchise after Minneapolis-St. Paul pulled out in late 1959. The Raiders tried to sign former Chicago Bears quarterback George Blanda, but the future Hall of Famer opted to sign with Houston. The Raiders offered more money, but Blanda preferred the chance to play for Bud Adams' Oilers.

The Oakland Raiders opened their inaugural season with a 37-22 loss to the Oilers on Sept. 11, 1960, at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Two weeks later, the Raiders recorded their first franchise victory with a 14-13 decision over the Oilers in Houston. The Oilers would go on to win the next four in the series. One of Houston's top players during this time was running back Billy Cannon, who had won a lawsuit against the NFL for the right to play for the Oilers instead of the Los Angeles Rams. Blanda and Cannon led Houston to the first two league championships and a berth in a third straight.

Photos from the Raiders vs Titans all-time series.

After posting a 9-33 record in their first three seasons, the Raiders hired former San Diego Chargers assistant coach Al Davis as head coach and general manager. He led the now Silver and Black to a 10-4 record in his first season and claimed 1963 AFL Coach of the Year honors. The Raiders quickly became perennial AFL West contenders. Davis stepped down as head coach and general manager to become AFL commissioner in 1966. John Rauch was appointed head coach in '66. Blanda joined the team in 1967, three years after the Raiders had traded for Blanda's Oilers backfield mate, Billy Cannon.

The 1967 Raiders dominated the AFL, becoming the first one-loss team in league history by posting a 13-1 record and earning the franchise's first AFL Western Division title and first ever playoff berth. The defense, nicknamed the "11 Angry Men" turned in one of the most dominant performances in professional football history with 67 sacks (unofficially, sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982), six defensive touchdowns, and led the league in total defense. After finishing the season with the league's best record, the Raiders faced the Houston Oilers in the 1967 AFL Championship game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 31, 1967.

Quarterback Daryle Lamonica, whom the Raiders acquired from Buffalo in March 1967 in exchange for quarterback Tom Flores and wide receiver Art Powell, became the first Raiders quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Lamonica and running back Hewritt Dixon, who replaced an injured Clem Daniels in Week 9, paced the offense and the defense turned in another dominant performance as the Raiders hammered the Oilers 40-7 to claim the franchise's first championship and a berth in Super Bowl II against the Green Bay Packers.

The 1969 Raiders, the only other one loss team in AFL history (12-1-1), met the Oilers in the 1969 AFL playoffs and turned in another amazing performance, defeating Houston 56-7, en route to a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL title game. Lamonica, coming off his best season, tossed six touchdown passes on the day, including one to Cannon, and safety George Atkinson returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown.

The Raiders owned the rivalry from 1963-1979, going 15-4 against the Oilers. In an iconic NFL moment in 1979, Oilers running back Earl Campbell and hard-hitting Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided near the goal line. Despite knocking one of the most powerful backs to ever play the game back momentarily and turning him sideways, Tatum couldn't keep Campbell out of the end zone during a 31-17 Oilers win.

In early 1980, the two teams did the unexpected - they swapped starting quarterbacks. The Raiders traded future Hall of Famer Ken Stabler to Houston for Dan Pastorini. Stabler led the Oilers back to the playoffs in 1980, while Pastorini broke his leg in Week 5, leading to one of the greatest Cinderella stories in NFL history. Journeyman quarterback Jim Plunkett came off the bench and led the Raiders to an 11-5 record and a Wild Card playoff berth. On their way to a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV, the Raiders thrashed Stabler and the Oilers in the AFC Wild Card round, 27-7.

Also in 1980, the Raiders shipped another future Hall of Famer, tight end Dave Casper, to Houston, in exchange for the Oilers No. 1 and No. 2 draft choices in 1981 and No. 2 selection in 1982. The Raiders also traded Tatum to Houston for running back Kenny King that year.

From 1981 - 1996, the two teams split the series 4-4. The Raiders had moved to Los Angeles in 1982, and back to Oakland in 1995. In 1989, while based in L.A., the Raiders played an exhibition game in Oakland against the Houston Oilers.

In 1997, the Oilers moved as well, temporarily to Memphis where they played under the moniker "Tennessee Oilers," and then permanently to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans.

And who was Tennessee's first opponent after the move? The Oakland Raiders.

The Oilers won their 1997 season opener at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, 24-21 in overtime, over the Raiders. Tennessee won three straight against the Silver and Black as running back Eddie George enjoyed career performances in two of those games - 216 yards in 1997 and 199 in 1999. The two teams squared off twice in Oakland during the 2002 campaign, a 52-25 Raiders victory during the regular season and in the AFC Championship game. It may have taken 36 years, but once again the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans stood in the Raiders way of a Super Bowl berth.

NFL MVP quarterback Rich Gannon led the Raiders to a 41-24 win over quarterback Steve McNair and the Titans as the Raiders clinched their fifth Super Bowl berth.

From 2003-16, the Raiders and Titans have played eight times, with the Titans enjoying their second-longest winning streak in the series (and longest since the move to Tennessee), three games (2007, 2010, 2013). Houston won four in a row from 1961-62. The Raiders longest winning streak in the rivalry stands at seven (1966-69, 1971-73). The Silver and Black have won the last two meetings, two hotly contested games at Nissan Stadium in 2015 and 2016. This is the third year in a row the Raiders will face the Titans in Nashville and the second time they have opened the regular season in Music City in the last seven years (2010). The Raiders lead the all-time regular season series 25-20, and have a 4-0 edge in postseason match-ups.

Despite playing in different divisions, the Raiders and Oilers/Titans have found each other on the schedule more often than not with what will be 46 regular season match-ups in 57 years when these two original American Football League franchises tee it up on opening day for the 10th time almost 57 years to the day since the first time.

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