Raider Classic Games – Raiders Shock Chargers in 1980, Begin Super Bowl Run

Entering week 6 of the 1980 season no one thought much of the Raiders. They were 2-3, coming off 2 seasons of not making the playoffs and their starting quarterback Dan Pastroini had suffered a season ending broken leg. In addition, Jim Plunkett, their starter had not started a game since 1977 and failed as a starter with the Patriots and 49ers and just came off a 5 int game in relief of Pastroini in a loss to the Chiefs the prior week. 

The Chargers on the other hand were the talk of the NFL. The Air Coryell offence was throwing bombs all over the league. The Chargers were 4-1 and favourites to win the AFC with the Steelers on the decline. They had even beaten the Raiders earlier in the year in overtime despite 7 turnovers and 5 ints from Dan Fouts. 

The Raiders went into the game beaten up, a mediocre 2-3 and coming off a turnover laden loss to the Chiefs. 

The Raiders began the game jumping all over the Chargers. In the first quarter they drove down the field and Kenny King, acquired in a trade from Houston earlier in the year, broke a 31 yard TD run. A 43 yard TD bomb to Cliff Branch was then followed by a drive in the third quarter which was capped off with a 3 yard TD run by Mark Van Eagen to give the Raiders a 24-10 lead.

However, the Chargers explosive offence could not be contained all game. Dan Fouts led them on two TD drives, one which ended in a TD pass to John Jefferson and the other in a Fouts 1 yard TD run to tie the game at 24-24. 

In the 4th quarter the Raiders put the game away. Kenny King exploded for an 89 yard TD run. On the day King would end up with 12 carries for 138 yards and two TDs. This was one of his 3 100 games in his NFL career and the 138 yards were his  career high as were his two rushing TDs. Plunkett only threw the ball 14 times but completed 11 for 164 yards and a TD. 

Todd Christensen who in 1980 was just a backup tight end and special teams player recovered a fumble on ensuing kickoff after the King TD run in the endzone for his first professional TD. This clinched the game as the Raiders shocked the Chargers 38-24.

On defence the Raiders forced 6 turnovers, including 4 recovered fumbles. Fouts threw for 388 yards and a TD but was sacked 7 times and picked off twice by Mike Davis and Monte Jackson.

This game would start the Raiders turnaround and their Super Bowl season. After starting 2-3 with Pastroini this game began a 6 game winning streak and a 13-2 run (including 4 playoff wins) which would result in a 27-10 win in the super bowl over the Eagles! 

As we enter week 3 of the 2023 season the Raiders are 1-2 and no one expects them to do anything. Their big name QB signing Jimmy G has thrown 5 tds and 6 ints in 3 weeks. In 1980 the Raiders were 2-3 after 5 weeks and their big name QB signing Pastroini had thrown 5 tds and 7 ints before Plunkett took over. There is a good chance that 4th round pick Aiden O’Connell will start this week at the Chargers, in a game, like in 1980 against the Chargers, no one thinks the Raiders will win. Will history repeat itself? Is O’Connell the next Plunkett? Only time will tell. 

The condensed game of the Raiders and Chargers in 1980 can be watched below!