There is talk of other places being the haunt Raiders players and fans despise more than that place a mile above sea level but that's what it is, just talk. Denver is the place, with its lung-burning thin air and sea of neon orange.
The two teams became natural rivals when both entered the AFL in the same division in 1960. The Chiefs were the more bitter rival in the 1960s because the Broncos never won. It took 13 seasons for Denver to register their first winning season. In the 1970s, the Raiders rivals became less about the division and more about dominance in the AFC. The Steelers became Oakland's main plague.
The Broncos and Raiders finally become true rivals during the 1977 season when they would play three times. After splitting the season series 1-1 with both teams winning on the other team's home field, the two teams met in the AFC Championship game in Denver on January 1st 1978 for the right to go to Super Bowl XII in New Orleans.
The biggest and most controversial play of the game was a fumble on the goal line by Broncos running back Rob Lytle. With Denver leading 7-3 in the 3rd quarter, Lytle dove over the top from the Raiders one yard-line where he collided in mid-air with Raiders safety Jack Tatum. Tatum jarred the ball loose before Lytle had crossed the goal line replays revealed and Oakland recovered. Erroneously, the officials determined the back's progress had been stopped and the play had been blown dead. Denver scored on the next play to take a 14-3 lead on the way to a 20-17 win. The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl and the rivalry had "a play." All rivalries need a controversial play. This was the one that took the spark and transformed it into a fire.
In 1983, the rivalry would reach five-alarm status when the Broncos acquired #1 overall pick John Elway. The future Hall of Famer and Raiders nemesis refused to report to the Baltimore Colts. Rumors persist Al Davis and the Raiders had a deal done before the Broncos did for one of the best quarterback prospects ever, but that the NFL had revoked the deal.
The former Stanford star going to Denver changed everything about the franchise. The Broncos became consistent winners and two-time Super Bowl champions, the tug-of- war reached new heights. During Elway's 16-year tenure as Broncos starting quarterback, the Raiders would win three division titles and a Super Bowl. The Broncos would win seven division titles and two Super Bowls.
If Elway, the orange and blue villain in this story, wasn't enough of a thorn in the Silver and Black's side when he played, he now is responsible for launching the last darts out of Peyton Manning's golden arm as team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations. You think the rivalry is just relegated to the players? Former Raiders offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, (now on the Raiders radio broadcast team as a sideline analyst), told me the story this week of the time when he went into the stands after a 1999 game in Denver to confront fans who can pelted him in the face with snowballs after an Oakland overtime loss in Denver.
"I saw my teammates running off the field after being pelted with snowballs and I said to myself I'll be damned if I'm going to run off this football field." Kennedy said. "Just as I turned around I saw a guy cock back and hit me right in the face with a snowball, there was blood on my nose and I was [angry]," he continued. "I just wanted an apology, he called me a blankety-blank Raider so a right-cross knocked him out, his brother jumped up so I knocked him out."
Lincoln might think about finding his old Raiders helmet for his sideline duties Monday night in Denver.
A true rivalry in some order has proximity, respect, history, hatred and most of all the teams have to more times than not play for something - a division title, a playoff spot, a Super Bowl. All the elements are there when the Raiders and Broncos have strapped it on through the years.
When the Orange Crush hosts the classic Silver and Black Monday night more logs will be thrown on this heated rivalry fire.
Here are my top 5 Raiders moments in Denver:
5. October 24, 2010. Raiders 59 Broncos 14: The Raiders scored 24 points in the first quarter and 38 points in the first half en route to the most points scored in franchise history. Darren McFadden ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns. As a team the Raiders ran for 328 yards, the third highest total in team history.
"You love to go out there and have a big game and coming against a rival is even better." McFadden said after the blow-out win in Denver.
4. November 11, 2002. Raiders 34 Broncos 10: In the 500th broadcast of Monday Night Football, Rod Woodson returned an interception 98 yards for a score and Rich Gannon threw for 352 yards on 34 of 38 passing, including 21 straight completions, with three touchdowns. To top it off, Bill Romanowski wrestled with former Broncos teammate Shannon Sharpe and the take-down dislocated Sharpe's elbow, forcing him to miss three games.
3. November 10, 1991. Raiders 17 Broncos 16: The Raiders blocked two key kicks in the win. The Broncos trailed midway through the 4th quarter when John Elway hit Vance Johnson for an apparent game tying touchdown. Raiders defensive tackle Scott Davis blocked the extra point to leave the score at 17-16. The Broncos then blocked a Raiders field goal with 1:55 left. Finally, Raiders offensive tackle James Fitzpatrick blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt by Broncos kicker David Treadwell as time expired to preserve the one-point victory.
2. November 28, 2004. Raiders 25 Broncos 24: In a Sunday night blizzard game, the Raiders came back from a 24-13 4th quarter deficit when offensive tackle Langston Walker blocked a game-winning field goal attempt in the game's final seconds for a 25-24 Oakland win. "The stars must have been lined up because gravity brought the ball right to me," Walker said after the game. Kerry Collins threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns, three went to wide receiver to Jerry Porter.
1. January 2nd and 9th 1994. In the 1993 season finale in Denver, the Raiders came back from a 30-13 deficit to win 33-30 in overtime to make the playoffs at 10-6. Tim Brown had 11 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders were at home the next week in the only career playoff game versus John Elway. The Silver and Black prevailed 42-24.
Here is what you need to know about the rivalry:
First meeting: October 2nd 1960, won by the Broncos 31-14.
Regular Season Meetings: 105, Raiders lead series 59-44-2
Postseason meetings: 2, tied 1-1 All-time record by decade:
1960s Raiders 15-4-1
1970s Raiders 14-6-1
1980s Raiders 10-9
1990s Raiders 11-10
2000s Broncos 13-7
2010s Tied 3-3
Monday Night Football: The Raiders and Broncos have met 16 times on Monday Night Football, the most frequent Monday night matchup in NFL history. The game has been played 11 times in Denver and 5 times in Oakland. The Broncos lead the series 8-7-1.
AFC West Titles: Each team has won 12 AFC west crowns.
Super Bowl appearances and wins: The Broncos have appeared in the Super Bowl six times and have won two. The Raiders have appeared in four Super Bowls and won three. FOUR DOWNS: THE KEYS TO A WIN ON MONDAY FOOTBALL VS. THE BRONCOS
1. SLOWING DOWN MANNING: Because of his record-setting start, I will admit we are grasping at straws here, but here are the facts. Peyton Manning has thrown 9 touchdown passes through two games which ties the NFL all-time record. For the season he has zero interceptions a 131.1 quarterback rating and completes 67.1% of his passes. He is human though. He doesn't like to move much in the pocket and he doesn't complete nearly as many passes when pressured or blitzed. He has dropped back 88 times this season and has been under pressure on 20 dropbacks. On those plays he is 10 for 17 good for a 58.8% completion rate and one touchdown. The Raiders like to blitz and against extra rushers Manning is 10 for 19 good for only a 52.6% completion rate with three touchdowns. Another key to slowing the Broncos passing attack is themselves. Eric Decker leads the NFL with five drops, Wes Welker is tied for 5th most drops through two games with two. It's not much, but you need pressure on Manning and some help.
2. UNDER PRESSURE: Something has to give. The Raiders have an NFL high-tying nine sacks and are number one in the NFL in sack percentage (The number of sacks versus dropbacks), at 12.2%. The Broncos have only given up three sacks all-season. However with Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady out for the season, Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston could have a big night. Houston has only one sack on the season, but if you take a deeper look he has been a pass rushing terror in his new position on the right side of the line going against the opponent's left tackle. Houston has an NFL high 12 overall quarterback hits and is second overall with 16 total pressures. Houston will be facing Chris Clark, who has never started an NFL game at left tackle, but does have three career starts as a tight end. He should be saying hello to Peyton Manning on a regular basis on Monday night.
3. WHAT A RUSH: Another way to slow Peyton Manning down is to not give him the ball. The Raiders lead the NFL in rushing averaging 198.5 yards per game and are also number one averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Darren McFadden is fourth in the NFL with 177 yards rushing and he is first in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 223. For his career, McFadden has 723 yards rushing against Denver, the most against any team in his career. Terrelle Pryor is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards with 162. Pryor has run the zone read 13 times, keeping the ball 9 times. On those plays, Pryor averages 7.6 yards per rush. The problem could be the Denver defense against the run. Denver only yields 40.5 yards per game on the ground at 2.0 yards per carry, both #1 in the NFL. 4. SLOW THE PACE: If Oakland can control the run game, they can control the clock. Denver wants to run a fast-break offense. Running plays fast and running as many as they can. The Broncos run the second fastest offense in the NFL, averaging a play every 23.2 seconds and 70 plays per game. The Raiders run the slowest offense in the league, averaging a play every 31.2 seconds and 62 offensive plays per game. Oakland is 8th in the NFL in time of possession at 32:17. The Raiders need to play the game at their pace for a chance to win in Denver.
ONE FOR THE ROAD:
Since 1990, NFL teams who start a season 2-1 have a 54% chance of making the playoffs. Teams who start the season 1-2 have a 24% chance of making the playoffs. The Raiders are 1-1.
Listen to John on The Wheelhouse with Greg Papa on 95.7 The GAME and follow him on Twitter - @JohnLundRadio.