QB Jim Plunkett steps back to pass.
September 24, 1984
The five teams in the former AFC West harbored few, if any, amicable feelings towards each other. For 12 years between the 1980s and 1990s, the Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers played host to some legendary match-ups on a fairly regular basis. Fans were in for a real treat September 24, 1984 when these divisional enemies duked it out in LA in a classic slugfest featuring stellar play all around on this Monday night. The Raiders confidently rolled in off a three-game win streak while the Chargers were just a game back for the division lead.
The passionate home crowd of more than 76,000 let their boys in the Silver and Black knew where they placed their loyalty when the Raiders won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. A solid return by second-year receiver Dokie Williams led the way for the dynamic duo of QB Jim Plunkett and RB Marcus Allen. The running back's first down run on second and seven combined with Plunkett's 27-yard left sideline bullet to the wily veteran WR Cliff Branch had the Raiders in the opposition's territory. San Diego halted the drive at the 25 but Chris Bahr blasted a 42-yard field goal through the uprights for a 3-0 Raiders lead with 11:17 left to play in the 1st quarter.
Rookie RB-WR-KR triple threat Lionel James returned the ball to the 25 for future Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts, RB Earnest Jackson and company to take over. The hard tackling of S Vann McElroy could not stifle the Chargers drive as Fouts capped his 61-yard throwing performance on the first series with an 11-yard TD pass to Kellen Winslow. A 7-3 Chargers advantage would be the second of five lead changes on the day.
TE Todd Christensen recorded eight catches for 120 yards.
Plunkett and TE Todd Christensen (8 receptions for 120 yards) reciprocated the QB-TE theme with an eight-yard connection on first down. The quarterback followed up on Allen's first down run by knocking the defense for a loop with a 47-yard bomb to Branch along the left sideline. The defense wasn't down for long as it held the prolific Silver and Black attack to a loss of three yards on the next set of downs. Bahr held up his end of the bargain yet again with a 36-yard field goal. The Raiders trimmed the deficit to just one.
Legendary linebackers Rod Martin and Jeff Barnes flexed their muscles the following series. Martin nearly picked off a Fouts pass on 2nd and 12. Barnes stormed into the backfield shortly thereafter and hauled down the QB for a 10-yard loss as time expired in the opening quarter. Only 12 seconds separated each squad's time of possession, but the home team held the slight advantage and received a punt to usher in the 2nd quarter.
To the dismay of the home crowd, the next series was a quick three-and-out. Punter Ray Guy ran in and fulfilled his duties admirably with a soaring 49-yard punt to the SD 20-yard line. A return of four by James and an illegal block penalty against the Chargers placed them deep within their own territory.
Jackson and Fouts alternated gains of positive yardage for eight consecutive plays. SS Mike Davis and LB Jeff Barnes temporarily put a stop to the momentum with a takedown of RB Buford McGee for a one-yard loss. Rod Martin made it permanent with an eight-yard sack of the opposing QB after the first string running back had previously gained some forward progress. Kicker Rolf Benirschke, former 1977 12th round draftee of the converted a 51-yard boot, extending his team's lead to 10-6.
Now it was time for the home team to execute its own seven-minute-long drive. The acquisition of the scoring advantage was in their foreseeable future.
Former Comeback Player of the Year and two-time Super Bowl champion Jim Plunkett utilized that vast quarterbacking experience with completions to five different receivers, reaching the three-yard line for a 1st and goal. Allen and Frank Hawkins exchanged one-yard gains. But with nine seconds remaining, the scoreboard displayed a 4th and goal at the one. Allen made good use of his lauded skills with a one-yard dive for the score. Raiders 13, Chargers 10 with four seconds to go in the half.
Fouts then fell on the ball for a loss of three as time expired. The home team had the lead.
Interestingly enough, opposing position players accumulated fairly identical first-half numbers. Allen and Jackson each rushed 13 times, both Plunkett and Fouts were 10 for 13 and both tight ends had at least three receptions for over 30 yards.
Whatever Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Flores articulated to his team about holding the lead during halftime materialized in quick fashion. Fouts, Jackson and the number six ranked offense failed to accrue necessary first down yardage against the Raiders defense, 4th best in the league in 1984. It has been said that a good defense always beats a good offense. At least that adage held true for the time being.
QB Jim Plunkett gets ready to hand off the ball to RB Kenny King.
By two minutes into the 3rd, the home team retained the ball at the 28. Plunkett stepped up and absolutely shined. In two memorable plays he, WR Malcolm Barnwell and Marcus Allen burned CB Gill Byrd. Barnwell hauled in a right sideline strike for 36. At 11:10, Allen played a role akin to that of his teammate's and came down with a 30-yarder in the end zone for six. Bahr nailed the PAT. A 72-yard drive in four plays and the scoreboard flashed Raiders 20 Chargers 10.
Defense ruled the day up until two minutes remaining in the quarter. The Silver and Black held the opposition to a mere 21 yards and a Buford punt. If it weren't for the short field attained via PR Greg Pruitt's fumble and Pete Holohan's return to the Raiders 15, the opposition would have not had the opportunity to score. Despite going backwards for three yards, the pesky Benirschke came in and was only 33 yards away from a three point bump on the scoreboard – 20-13.
The concluding seven minutes of the 3rd ticked away without any change to the scoreboard. It must have been the calm before the storm. The final two quarters could not have been any more dissimilar.
RB Marcus Allen dives over the pile into the end zone for a TD.
The 4th quarter began with San Diego advancing towards the end zone from the nine-yard line. A personal foul assessed against DL Lyle Alzado negated a 3rd and one stop by the Raiders near the end of the previous quarter. Jackson's 33 yards on the ground also helped them attain the fortuitous field position. In the span of the next three plays, the Chargers QB-TE-RB combo pushed the ball across the goal line, with Jackson getting the honors with a one-yard run around right end. Knotted at 20 within the first minute and a half into the 4th and all of a sudden it was a whole new ball game.
Raiders fans could not have foreseen the next three drives. Jim Plunkett misfired on a short five-yard pass to Allen on 1st down, then was sacked by LB Woodrow Lowe and DE Keith Ferguson on the next two plays.
The Chargers capitalized on Fouts' 31-yard pass to TE Pete Holohan on the opening play of the drive with Benirsche nailing a 48-yard field goal at 11:02. The Raider Nation hoped that this three-point deficit would not be the final lead change.
Following a holding penalty against the home squad and a Plunkett incompletion, San Diego extended their lead in one of the most disheartening of ways. Lowe displayed his defensive prowess again by stealing a pass away from Cliff Branch and scampering 32 yards into the end zone for the score. Down 30-20 with a little over 10 minutes left to play, the Raiders needed a spark.
Ask and you shall receive. Dokie Williams blasted off the 3-yard line for a 44-yard return to near midfield. It was time for the home team to show off its own QB-RB-TE trio. The former (Plunkett and Allen) accounted for the first 12 yards, while Plunkett and his TE Christensen connected on an inspiring 27-yarder on 3rd and 10. Allen took over from there. He launched himself over the pile for a two-yard TD. An efficient 53-yard, 8-play drive in just over two minutes had the Raiders down by four after a missed extra point at 8:20.
There was ample time left in the game for both teams to score but the Raiders needed a stop to retain the momentum.
It did not appear that would occur as the Fouts, Jackson and Holohan combination had the visiting team charging with a vengeance to midfield. Not under Rod Martin's watch. With Townsend's help, the two defensive stalwarts hauled down McGee for a loss of four. Martin then went on a solo mission for a sack of the opposing QB for a loss of seven. Fouts couldn't utilize those vaunted skills on a rather insurmountable 3rd and 26. Pruitt's short return of a Buford punt placed the Raiders on their own 24 with 3:33 left to play.
The situation called for a long, sustained drive ending with a go-ahead TD and little time left on the clock for the opposition. As the Raiders tradition dictates, they would stop at nothing to fulfill that scenario.
Three consecutive completions of 15, 6 and 16 to Hawkins, Allen and Christensen had the Raiders rolling into San Diego territory with two minutes left on the clock. After his one incompletion of the series, he artfully connected on four more passes, three of them again going to his star running back and tight end. The scoreboard flashed 47 seconds. Marcus Allen would not be denied his rightful place amongst this dominating QB-TE-RB trio. Another one-yard dive over the middle and Bahr PAT and the Silver and Black instituted the go-ahead and final lead change of the night. A 76-yard, 10-play drive eating up all but 45 seconds in the game was precisely what they needed to be in a position to win.
However, the SD offensive trio also refused to back down. Fouts' passes to RB Jackson and TE Winslow had the Chargers in Raiders territory. San Diego timeout with 24 seconds on the clock. Would Fouts live up to his celebrated status or would the Silver and Black seal the game's fate with their own legendary renown?
All-Pro cornerback Lester Hayes made sure it was the latter of the two by intercepting a pass intended for Wes Chandler. Raiders 33 Chargers 30.
The Raiders had executed another world-class comeback victory. The immediate effect amounted to a 7-1 record and gave them the confidence to finish at a playoff-worthy 11-5. Helping secure a postseason birth against a division rival made it all the more enjoyable, especially when said rival missed the playoffs themselves.