October 27, 1974
As professional sports' winningest team over a four-decade span, the Raiders have been a prime target for every opponent. Beating the big, bad Silver and Black is often a special goal for other NFL organizations. Some rivalries are more intense than others, particularly with the San Francisco 49ers. Geography, of course, has played a major role in developing this deep rivalry – locally and nationally.
In 1974, the NFL schedule-makers had the Raiders crossing the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco's Candlestick Park in late October. The Raiders went into the game with a 5-1-0 record, with the only loss being by one point in the season's opener in Buffalo. This would also be the fifth game in seven weeks on the road for the Raiders due to the baseball Oakland Athletics playoff involvement.
The 49ers entered the game in a "must-win" situation. After starting strong with two wins, the Niners lost four games in a row and playoff hopes were fading fast.
WR Cliff Branch was pressed into service due to injuries.
Rookie QB Tom Owen and the 49ers would go against the reshuffled Raiders lineup on offense and defense. Injuries to HB Clarence Davis, WR Mike Siani, S Jack Tatum and defensive linemen Tony Cline and Kelvin Korver would force Raiders head coach John Madden to go to his bench. Managing general partner Al Davis had stocked the bench wisely and well, and capable reserves like veterans Jimmy Warren and Pete Banaszak and youngsters like Dave Casper, Mark van Eeghen, Cliff Branch and Morris Bradshaw, would have to rise to the challenge.
It was a cloudy, cool afternoon but the 49ers opened hot, driving 80 yards after the opening kickoff to go ahead 7-0 on a five yard pass from Owen to running back Larry Schreiber.
A 30-yard kickoff runback by Banaszak allowed the Raiders to open offensive action at midfield. It took only four plays for QB Kenny Stabler to move the explosive Raiders to the end zone, with FB Marv Hubbard bursting off right tackle for the final 17 yards to tie the score at seven all.
The first quarter ended and the second began with the 49ers moving the ball well. A 37-yard field goal then put the San Francisco 49ers ahead, 10-7.
The Raiders, with at least as many supporters in the soldout stadium as had the home team 49ers, fired right back. Just four downs later a play that would bring fear to the hearts of defenders for a full decade unfolded as Stabler found a flying Branch open deep and combined with the rookie wide receiver for 64 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Raiders 14 – 49ers 10. The first half ended with the visiting Raiders up by four.
Early in the third quarter, the Niners regained the lead by three as HB Delvin Williams sped 71 yards off right tackle. They then widened their lead to 10 points, capitalizing on a recovered Oakland fumble and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Owen to Terry Beasley.
The Raiders worked to even the score. Powerful Hubbard opened the march with a sweep left breaking tackles enroute to an 18-yard gain. A Stabler pass to HB Charlie Smith picked up 30 more yards. Four plays later, reliable veteran Banaszak banged in from the one-yard line and George Blanda added the point after. San Francisco 24 – Oakland 21.
QB Kenny Stabler eludes the rush while leading the Raiders into scoring territory.
On the next kickoff a big hit by LBs Gary Weaver and Monte Johnson forced a fumble that S George Atkinson picked up and returned to the San Francisco 23-yard line. Stabler passed to Branch for 16 yards and later found TE Casper wide open in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown. The Raiders had clawed their way back, taking the lead, 28-24, late in the third quarter.
A quarterback sack by DT Art Thoms on the first play of the final period stopped one Niner drive. Then, a pass interception in the end zone by LB Dan Conners halted another.
On fourth down, from the Raider 25-yard line, Ray Guy kicked a punt downfield that Niner returner Ralph McGill fumbled. Raiders RB Harold Hart, down quickly on coverage, scooped up the free ball on the San Francisco 40 and sped untouched for the touchdown. Raiders 35 – 49ers 24.
"I got held up and stumbled trying to get downfield to cover the punt," recalled Hart. "Just as I got there, there was the football in the air. It was like 'Hey, look what I found.' It was bobbling around and the 49ers had it, and I took it away from him and just took off."
An interception by Raiders CB Nemiah Wilson thwarted the next San Francisco attempt to catch up. Then, Bubba Smith recovered a Owen fumble to curtail possession. The game ended with the Raiders a winner, 35-24.
These Raiders had again proven that no lead is secure when the Silver and Black begin a classic comeback. Whether it's cross-country or just across San Francisco Bay, the Raiders go to war when they go on the road. They travel to win, regardless of injuries, challenges, rivalries or the like. This organization in the decade of the '70s, then later in the '80s and '90s, had earned its lofty position as professional sports' winningest team.