October 19, 1970
K George Blanda boots a field goal.
Traffic was heavier than usual on the Nimitz Freeway as added to the normal early evening traffic was a sellout crowd of 54,471 Raider fans heading to the Oakland – Alameda County Coliseum for the team's very first Monday Night Football game. The new ABC-TV primetime series was coming to Northern California for the fifth game in its initial season.
This was also the first year of interconference league games, the first year of play that counted between the former AFL teams that made up most of the new AFC and the old NFL teams that now formed the NFC. And on this Monday night – October 19, 1970 – the Raiders would take on their first old-line NFL team in regular season play. The Oakland Raiders, founded in 1960, hosted the Washington Redskins, founded in 1932.
In the television booth on the 50-yard line at the press box level, the newly formed ABC-TV Monday Night Football announcing trio of play-by-play man Keith Jackson and color commentators Howard Cosell and Don Meredith were being primped and readied.
In the cold, concrete bowels of the Coliseum, second year Head Coach John Madden and his staff – defensive line coach Tom Dahms, linebacker coach Sid Hall, strength coach and assistant offensive line coach Marv Marinovich, defensive backfield coach John Polonchek, offensive line coach Ollie Spencer and receiver coach Dick Wood – prepared their troops.
A year earlier, in 1969, the Raiders had gone 12-1-1 and went to the AFL Championship game. But now, four weeks into the 1970 season, they were struggling, with a 1-2-1 record. Early injuries had taken their toll with All-Conference defenders Willie Brown, Dan Conners, and Dan Birdwell sidelined.
Two rookies were now in the starting lineup – Raymond Chester at tight end and Tony Cline at defensive end. But eight players who had received All-AFC honors in 1969 were suited up and ready to go – C Jim Otto, G Gene Upshaw, T Harry Schuh, WRs Fred Biletnikoff and Warren Wells, QB Daryle Lamonica, DT Tom Keating and S David Grayson. Raiders Managing General Partner Al Davis had built the team well. In the three previous seasons, the Oakland Raiders had built a 37-4-1 regular season record – still the best three consecutive seasons record in National Football League history.
RB Hewritt Dixon follows G Gene Upshaw's block for a gain.
The visiting Washington Redskins were coached by Bill Austin, now in his first season after succeeding Vince Lombardi. On offense the Skins were led by a pair of future Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees – QB Sonny Jurgensen and WR Charley Taylor.
The Raiders scored shortly after the historic kickoff at 6:10 p.m. A quarterback sack by Keating cut short the Redskins first possession. And on the fourth down punt a high snap forced a wild, incomplete pass attempt by P Mike Bragg. It was Raiders ball on the Washington 39-yard line.
DT Tom Keating and rookie DE Tony Cline make the tackle.
On the Raiders first offensive play ever in a Monday Night Football game, big RB Hewritt Dixon swept left, burst by the linebacker, cut back to his right against the flow of the pursuit, got a key downfield block by Biletnikoff and pounded into the end zone for the score. After George Blanda's extra point conversion, the Raiders had the first seven points of the 962 points they would score in the first 25 years of Monday Night Football.
The Redskins were stopped cold on their next possession. The Raiders took over on their own 30-yard line. Four sweeps by Dixon and Charlie Smith ate up 36 yards. Then, on a second-and-nine from the Washington 28, Lamonica found Wells open in the end zone for the touchdown to earn the Silver and Black a 14-point lead.
The Skins marched 78 yards, but the tough Raiders defense forced Washington to settle for a short field goal, cutting the Oakland margin to 11 points, 14-3, as the first quarter closed.
Dixon continued his power running as Lamonica moved the Raiders into position for Blanda to boot a 35-yard field goal, increasing the Raiders lead to 17-3. The Redskins matched the field goal, with a 34-yarder of their own on the next possession. Raiders 17 - Redskins 6.
Washington CB Mike Bass intercepted a Lamonica pass meant for Wells, then lateraled off to S Rickie Harris who took the ball down to the Oakland 35. Three plays later Redskins WR Charley Taylor outwrestled Raiders CB Kent McCloughan to record a 39-yard touchdown on a pass from Jurgensen to cut the Raiders lead to just four points, 17-13.
"As I went up for the ball somebody was holding me down," recalled McCloughan. "It had to be Taylor; he was the only one around."
But in the final 1:52 of the first half, the Raiders pulled farther ahead, driving 66 yards in ten plays to allow the 43-year-old Blanda to make good on a 21-yard field goal. The Raiders were ahead 20-13 as the first half ended.
At halftime the nation heard ABC's analyst Howard Cosell praise the Raiders "plethora" of talent, especially Dixon, who had rushed for 104 yards on just ten carries in the game's first 30 minutes of play.
TE Raymond Chester moves down the field after making a catch.
The Oakland Raiders returned to action under the Coliseum lights and quickly lit up the scoreboard again. With meticulous precision, the mighty offense drove 76 yards after taking the second half kickoff and scored in just seven plays to move ahead 27-13. The touchdown came on a 24-yard pass from Lamonica to Wells. Thirty seven yards in the march came on two pass completions to Chester.
"They were concentrating on stopping Freddie Biletnikoff and Warren Wells deep," commented Chester. "I was pretty much alone. I'd just run up 15 yards, pivot and Daryle would put the ball there. He was reading the defense perfectly."
On their next series, the Raiders put the game out of reach, going 70 yards in nine plays. Dixon continued to punish the Washington defense, rushing for 44 yards on four carries. The touchdown came on a beautifully designed and executed screen pass from Lamonica to Smith, covering the final 16 yards. The third quarter ended with the Raiders ahead, 34-13.
Midway through the fourth quarter the Redskins added a final touchdown. The game ended with the Raiders on top 34-20. ABC had enabled the huge national television audience to witness the beginning of a new tradition in the National Football League – Raiders domination of Monday Night Football.
This win would help the Raiders get control of their 1970 season and go on to the postseason playoffs for the fourth straight year. This win was also the first of 31 by the Raiders during the quarter-century of Monday Night Football that began in 1970.