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The 40th Anniversary of Super Bowl XVIII

Act 2: Hollywood Swinging

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.

By the summer of 1983, Los Angeles had seemingly become Sports Capital, USA.

The Los Angeles Lakers were coming off their second straight NBA Finals appearance led by captivating superstars Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The UCLA Bruins football team was the Pac-10 Champion and Rose Bowl victors over Michigan. The Los Angeles Dodgers were also a couple of seasons removed from winning their fifth World Series crown in 1981.

Another historic franchise joined the City of Angels in 1982 – the Raiders. After winning a notorious lawsuit against the NFL, AL Davis and his team packed their bags for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, instantly winning the city over with their arrival.

"It's a large, diverse city, it was a 90-something thousand seat stadium. It was huge," Plunkett said of the transition from the Oakland Coliseum to L.A. "That stadium was hard to fill, but once we got there, fans filled it. It was quite exciting to see that many people in a stadium because it really was huge. It was a tremendous place to be."

Al Davis, in typical fashion, found some new shiny toys for his newly relocated Los Angeles Raiders.

The Silver and Black struck gold in back-to-back years in the draft with two eventual Hall of Fame players. The first on the defensive side: Howie Long, who quickly became a staple of the unit before Mike Haynes' arrival. The 1981 second rounder was a relatively unknown prospect from Villanova yet racked up 13 sacks in his first two NFL seasons (individual sacks officially became a stat in his second season, 1982).

There was nothing unknown about the Raiders' first-round pick the following year. With the 10th overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected running back Marcus Allen – a Heisman winner from the University of Southern California.

The rookie arrived during a strike-shortened season, but he transitioned to the NFL without a hiccup. En route to winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, he led the league in total scrimmage yards and rushing touchdowns while also finishing in third place in MVP voting.

"He was the finest running back coming out of the draft that year without question," Plunkett recalled. "He showed up and he showed out that first year. Tremendous football player, not only as a runner but as a pass receiver and a team guy. And he could block. That really contributed to his importance in the offense and the football team in general."

Both Plunkett and Allen got off to fast starts in the 1983 season, with the Raiders reeling off four straight wins. In that span, the second-year running back had nearly 300 rushing yards with two touchdowns while Plunkett had over 700 passing yards with four touchdowns.

In Week 5, the Raiders' early season honeymoon came to an end.

The team traveled to the nation's capital to face the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins. At the time, Washington boasted an elite offensive line – still regarded as one of the best units in NFL history. "The Hogs" up front helped keep a high-octane offense, helmed by Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Theismann, rolling. Coincidentally, Plunkett beat out Washington's quarterback for the Heisman Trophy 12 years prior.

Washington jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the game, seemingly handling the Silver and Black with ease. In the second quarter, the Raiders got seven points on the board to shift momentum in what's still one of the most explosive plays in franchise history.

Backed up at the one-yard line, Plunkett flushed left as the pocket collapsed. As Washington's defense turned the heat up on the quarterback in the end zone, he cranked out a deep pass to Cliff Branch who outran coverage. The Hall of Fame receiver streaked for 99 yards, still the longest pass play in NFL history.

The back-and-forth affair came down to the wire, but the Raiders ultimately suffered their first defeat of the season 37-35. While Plunkett threw for a career-high 372 yards and four touchdowns, he was outdueled by Theismann who totaled 417 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was an extremely impressive day for Washington's quarterback considering Long sacked him five times in this outing.

"Even in that loss, we still scored a lot of points," Plunkett said. "We moved the ball really well offensively. But they were also really good offensively. They could score points on anybody. … Defensively, we got shell shocked by the way they moved the ball and scored points on them."

After their loss to Washington, the Raiders nabbed five more wins, but were swept by the AFC West rival Seattle Seahawks. The defense had allowed nearly 37 points a game in those three losses. The Raiders sat at an 8-3 record when Mike Haynes suited up in the Silver and Black for the first time.

The expectations were that Haynes could step in and be an x-factor to take the defense over the top. Coming to the Raiders was not only a homecoming back to Los Angeles, but a reunion with defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner, who was his beloved defensive backs coach for three seasons in New England.

The pieces were certainly clicking in place around Haynes, starting with an unworldly defensive line that included Long, rookie Greg Townsend and All-Pro edge rusher Lyle Alzado. Haynes also had the 1980 Defensive Player of the Year Lester Hayes opposite him at outside cornerback, Pro Bowl free safety Vann McElroy, "Red Right 88" hero Mike Davis at strong safety plus Hall of Famer Willie Brown coaching the secondary.

Hayes and Haynes quickly formed a friendship and respect for each other, with Haynes crediting his teammates as having a significant impact on his study habits and adjustment to the Silver and Black.

"They looked like they were a pretty good team," Haynes said, recalling his initial thoughts of the Raiders. "But the personality and culture were completely different between the Raiders' culture and the Patriots' culture. I had to change my mindset."

His mindset quickly shifted to one of a more brash, aggressive and team-oriented spirit. Haynes described his former Patriots team as a quieter unit, with off-the-field bonding coming in the shape of Thursday night bible studies. A few months later, Haynes now found himself unwinding with his new teammates over a few beers at Pancho's in Manhattan Beach.

"I wasn't used to doing that, so I was thinking, 'I ain't going,'" Haynes said with a laugh. "They would say, 'Mike, you coming?' and I'd go, 'I don't know, man.' And then one day, they stopped me and said to me, 'Mike, you got to go.'

"I went and then I understood what it was all about. It was about bringing the guys together and playing for each other. I wasn't playing for me; I was playing for them, and they were playing for me. That's when I realized what was really special about the Raiders."

In Haynes' first Raiders game against the Buffalo Bills, the defense forced three turnovers in the 27-24 victory.

"Having a guy like Mike Haynes join the team was a tremendous asset for our defense in particular and our team overall," said Plunkett. "Now all of a sudden, we're getting turnovers and we're getting good field position off of those turnovers. It made our job easier, offensively."

The defensive unit forced another nine turnovers in the remaining four games of the regular season to finish with a 12-4 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, revving up just in time for the postseason.

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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