Raider Classic Games – Raiders Beat Packers in Opener in 1987 20-0 Last Raiders Win Against Packers

If we were to look at Raider Classic games against the Packers you might think I might look at Super Bowl 2, or the Brett Favre game after his father passed away on Monday night or the 1999 game when the Packers came back against the Raiders in Rich Gannon’s first game in Silver and Black. 

You may wonder why I am writing about a forgotten opener on September 13th, 1987 when the eventual 5-10 Raiders beat the eventual 5-9-1 Packers 20-0 (there were only 15 games in 1987 due to one game being missed due to the NFL strike). The reason being is believe or not this was the last time the Raiders beat the Packers! Yes, the Raiders have not beaten the Packers since 1987 and lost 8 straight games over the span of 36 years since!

How long ago was it? In 1987 George Michael and INXS were topping the charts with Faith and Kick. Speaking of music, most people were still playing records and cassettes as CDs were just starting out. The Internet wasn’t even a thing yet.  Ronald Reagan was still president. Beverly Hills Cop 2, Platoon, The Untouchables and Fatal Attraction were the top grossing movies of the year. Finally, when the Raiders and Packers met on September 13th the 1987 Stock Market Crash was still over a month away from occurring and I was 2 weeks away from my 10th birthday. 

The Raiders started Rusty Hilger this game YES RUSTY HILGER!!! He had played well late in the 1986 season finale and they gave him a shot as a starter. Jim Plunkett was on IR and the team had started to give up on Marc Wilson as the long term solution at QB (1987 would be Wilson’s last year in Silver and Black). Hilger started the game miserably going 2 for 7 12 yards and being sacked twice in the first half. He was benched for Wilson in the second half. 

The Raiders led 7-0 at the half as they smothered the Packers’ offence. Randy Wright the Packers starter would go 8 for 21 and 3 Ints. The Raiders lone first half touchdown was a 1 yard run for Marcus Allen, who would rebound this game after a miserable 1986 season, rushing 33 times for 136 yards and the lone offensive TD of the game. 

Wilson took over the second half and went an efficient 9 for 16 97 yards. James Lofton, who on the season had 880 yards in only 12 games, (most starters missed the 3 games the scab players played in 1987 during the strike) caught his first pass as a Raider and one of the all time great Raider safeties Van McElroy returned a Wright INT for a TD and the Raiders won 20-0.

Since then the Packers have won 8 straight games with most of them being blow outs. Only one of the Raiders losses to the Packers have been by less than one score, this being the 28-24 comeback win by the Packers in week 1 of the 1999 season. What is also ironic is before beating the Raiders in 1990 the Packers had gone 23 years without beating the Raiders!!! These teams know how to have long winless streaks against each other! 

Can the Raiders break the losing streak in 2023? The game is in Las Vegas on Monday night. The Packers have been nothing to write home about this year and Jordan Love is struggling. The Raiders don’t look very good themselves. However, if there is a time to break this nearly 36 year long losing streak this is it! 

Below are highlights of that 1987 season opener. 

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!

The Need For Speed – WR Rod Barksdale – The Sprinter with No Football Experience 

One of the series we will have on is the “Need for Speed” about all of the speedsters that played for the Raiders. After Cliff Branch retired Al Davis,  who was always already consumed and obsessed with fast players, became even more obsessed with Speed and finding the next Branch (a world class sprinter who could also catch passes and run routes). This led to players such as Willie Gault being traded for and signing former sprinters such as Ron Brown, James Jett and Sam Graddy. However, maybe no other speedster in Raiders history has a better story or sums up the Raiders obsession with speed better than Ron Barksdale. 

Barksdale never played College or High School football. Barksdale was an all American track athlete in 1982, 1983 and 1984 finishing third in the 4×100 NCAA finals and tried out for the U.S. 4×100 team. 

He wrote the Raiders saying he was a world class sprinter and would like to try out even though he had never played football informing Al Davis he ran a 4.3 40.  He tried out for the team and they signed him in 1985. Rod was placed on IR that year (giving him a year to learn the WR position). Rod made the team in 1986, starting 15 games. In his first ever NFL game in 1986 he caught a 57 yard touchdown pass from Marc Wilson against the Denver Broncos. 

While starting most of the year he also rotated with Dokie Williams and Jessie Hester (another speedster). In the final game of 1986 the Raiders were 8-7 and out of the playoff hunt so they decided to give Barksdale more extensive playing time. Rod played the majority of the snaps against the Colts catching 6 passes for 179 yards in a 30-24 loss. Not bad for a player who never played in high school or college!!! On the season he caught 18 passes for 434 yards and 2 touchdowns (of 57 and 34 yards) averaging an outstanding 23.1 yards a reception.

The Colts game was the high point of his career.  The following season he was signed by the Cowboys (Tom Landry also loved speed and was always on the lookout for the next Bob Hayes, having picked Carl Lewis in the 12th round of the 1984 NFL draft) caught 12 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in 1987 and never played in the NFL again. 

Rod will always be remembered as the player who never played football at any level till playing for the Raiders in 1986 and his monster game at the end of the 1986 season.

The Raiders Colts game is in the first link below on Youtube where you can see some of his monster long catches! I have also enclosed the highlights of the 1986 Week One Raiders Broncos game where you can view his 57 yard touchdown catch at the 14 minute 50 second mark! In the final Youtube video I have posted his final NFL touchdown which comes in at the 2 hour 45 minute mark (he beats Darrell Green on the play)! 

Classic Games – Raiders Comeback to Defeat Steelers in Season Opener in 1976

There were many classic playoff games between the Raiders and the Steelers in the seventies and eighties. In all they met 6 times in the Playoffs between 1972 to 1983, including 3 consecutive AFC championship games from 1974 to 1976. They split those playoff games with 3 wins going to each team. In 4 of those 6 playoff games the winner went on to win the Super Bowl. Outside of the Immaculate reception none were close games. All three AFC Championships were decided by two scores or more. In the divisional playoff games in 1973 and 1983 the Raiders blew the Steelers out. 

In all the team two teams met 13 times during their heydays from 1972 to 1983 with the Raiders winning 8 times and the Steelers 5. After losing 5 of the first 7 meetings from 1972 to 1975 the Raiders won 6 straight against the Steelers from 1976 to 1983 during which time they also won 3 super bowls.

This Sunday the Raiders play the Steelers in their home opener. The most forgotten and perhaps the most classic of all the great games of the legendary Raider and Steeler super bowl teams of the 1970s and 1980s was the 1976 season opener.

The Steelers dominated from the start running all over the Raiders to the tune of 196 yards and adding another 253 in the air from Terry Bradshaw. They stuffed the Raiders run game and picked off Ken Stabler 4 times. 

With just over 4 minutes left in the game the Steelers lead 28-14. So you would figure against the vaunted Steel Curtain defence there was no way the Raiders could come back right? Wrong.

The comeback began when Franco Harris fumbled at the Raiders 21 and Otis Sistrunk recovered.  Stabler began to work his magic with a circus catch by Dave Casper and strikes to Fred Biletnikoff.  The touchdown drive ended with a 10 yard TD to casper. 

The Steelers got the ball and attempted to run out the clock up 28-21.

The Raiders forced a three and out, partially blocked a punt and Stabler hit Branch on a crossing route which got them down to the two yard line. Stabler ran in a bootleg to tie the game. The Snake offset his 4 ints with 342 passing 3 tds (two to Casper one to Biletnikoff) and a rushing TD. 

Bradshaw turned over the ball on the next drive and Frank Steinfort kicked the game winning FG and the Raiders won 31-28 in a dramatic comeback setting the scene for their 1976 super bowl winning campaign. 

The game was also infamous for a George Atkinson hit on Lynn Swann. Atkinson didn’t try to tackle Franco O’Harris on a run, instead running away from Harris and clotheslining Swann knocking him out of the game. This hit led to Chuck Noll taking the Raiders to court and referring to them as the criminal element.

Below is the full game, which you can watch on Youtube. The Raiders comeback starts around the 1 hour and 40 minute mark. Enjoy!