A look back at the best games between the Raiders and the Patriots

A look back at the best games between the Raiders and the Patriots

In 2017, the Oakland Raiders will travel to Mexico City to play the Patriots for the thirty-fifth time in league history (counting 3 postseason games).

5: October 3, 1976: Oakland @ New England

Oakland traveled to New England and got their clocks cleaned in a 48-17 loss. How could a Raider loss be ranked on this list? The answer is simple.

The Raiders started the 1976 season with a big win over rival Pittsburgh and by week four they were undefeated and looking to add the Patriots to their list of victims. The Patriots spoiled that by upsetting the Raiders, who likely were too cocky and overconfident going into the game, by dominating the silver and black.

The Pats scored the first two touchdowns of the game and Oakland’s defense had no solution for stopping Patriots running back Sam Cunningham, who gained 101 yards on the ground and 94 yards via receptions. Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan scorched the Raider’s famed “Soul Patrol” secondary with three touchdown tosses. The Patriots defense, led by future Raider Mike Haynes, dominated the Raiders and held both Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch to only one reception combined. Other than an unbelievable performance by Dave Casper (12 catches for 136 yards) no Raider had a day worth noting or remembering.

The embarrassment both humbled and motivated the Raiders because they never lost again in 1976.

Oakland would later get its revenge by beating New England in the postseason.

4. September 29, 1985: Raiders @ New England

Los Angeles had already started the regular season off with a 1-2 record when the Patriots came to the City of Angels. At stake was the famed Raider Pride and Poise. Only three times since 1963 had the Raiders started 1-3 or worse during Al Davis’ tenure with the team. The 1985 Raiders got the win that day to avoid that dubious destiny but they didn’t get it easily.

First, quarterback Marc Wilson, threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage and left in the third period with a sprained ankle. Backup quarterback and Super Bowl hero Jim Plunkett was held out of the game with an injury, forcing the Raiders to put third stringer Rusty Hilger into the game and the young man responded with incompletions on his first six throws. By that point, the Raiders were trailing by six points and all signs appeared to be pointing to another loss.

Thankfully, the Raiders had a great defense and a running back named Marcus Allen to take the pressure off their weaknesses at quarterback. Allen rushed for 98 yards but defensively the Raiders outscored their offense by scoring three touchdowns on returns.
One of those returns could be dubbed “The Holy Roller: Part II”.

With the Raiders till trailing 20-14, linebacker Brad van Pelt knocked the ball out of a ball carriers hands and the resulting fumble was picked up by fellow linebacker Rod Martin at the Patriot 11. Martin advanced the ball to the 8 and as he was being tackled he “intentionally” fumbled the football forward towards the goalline. The ball bounced past the one yard line as a slew of Raider and Patriot players closed in to recover it. One of those players was rookie linebacker Reggie McKenzie, who reached the ball near the goal line and, rookie or not, did what any Raider does in this situation–bat the ball into the end zone. Lyle Alzado fell on the ball in the endzone for the touchdown and following the extra point the Los Angeles Raiders led 21-20.

Midway through the fourth period, the Raider special teams made a big play when Fulton Walker, returned Rich Camarillo’s 38-yard punt 23 yards to the New England 23. Hilger was having a little trouble hitting anything he was aiming at but head coach Tom Flores expertly used Marcus Allen, whose four carries powered the ball to the 2. A few moments later, facing 3rd-and-goal, Hilger rolled right to pass and nearly missed a wide open Todd Christenson in the endzone with a horribly thrown ball but the Raiders All-Pro tight end made a low, fingertip catch for the score.

A few plays later, Patriots’ quarterback Tony Eason threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off by Raider cornerback Sam Seale and returned 38 yards for the score. Los Angeles prevailed 35-20 but New England, in an eerie reversal of their fortunes in 1976 would come back to LA in the playoffs and upset the heavily favored Raiders.

#3: December 1, 1974 New England at Oakland

The Raiders were 10-2 when they traveled to face the 7-5 Patriots in 1974. New England desperately needed a win to keep its playoff dreams alive and they didn’t find one after the Raiders came to town.

In a battle that pitted Ken Stabler against future Raider quarterback Jim Plunkett was a unique one as both players combined for five interceptions. Cliff Branch caught 6 passes for 138 yards and 2 scores and Snake easily out performed Plunkett by tossing four touchdown passes. Plunkett also suffered a pick six when one of his ill-advised passes was intercepted by Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas and returned 22 yards for the score.

The Raiders destroyed New England 41-26.

As a side note, a few weeks later, Snake would go on to win the 1974 NFL MVP award.

#2: New England @ Oakland: the December 18, 1976 Divisional Playoff Game

If you’re a Raiders fan this is likely the most famous game between these two storied franchise because it was a big time playoff win during a Super Bowl winning season.

Oakland was routed by New England in week four 48-17, marking the only blemish on their 1976 regular season record. Since the Raiders finished 13-1, the 11-3 Patriots had no choice but to travel to Oakland to play the Raiders in the playoffs and many of their players were undoubtedly unhappy about that because they had already beaten the Raiders that year.

In a back and forth struggle, the Patriots made the biggest plays while the Raiders steadily kept themselves in the game. Oakland led at halftime by a 10-7 score but in the third quarter things changed dramatically for both teams.

The rowdy fans that filled the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum could do very little as the Patriots drove 80 yards to pay dirt. The drive was capped off with a 26-yard touchdown reception by tight end Russ Francis. Five minutes later, both the fans and the Raiders were humbled by a three-yard rushing TD by former Raider fullback Jess Phillips. The Patriots now led 21-10 with 1:14 left in the third.
Deep down both the Raiders and their fans were not worried. They had Ken Stabler.

Snake drove the Raiders deep into Patriots territory and fullback Mark van Eeghen put the silver and black back into the game when he plowed over the goal line for a score. The Patriots weren’t finished though and a solid drive was cut short by a missed field goal. Four minutes and twelve seconds remained with the Raiders trailing by four points.

The stage was set for another Stabler comeback.

Snake quickly drove the Raiders down the field, connecting with Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch, then a 21-yard completion to sure-handed tight end Dave Casper. On the very next play, defensive end Mel Lunsford – who was drafted by the Raiders in ’72 – sacked Snake for an eight yard loss with just 1:24 left to play. The football was on the Patriots 28.

Snake misfired his next two passes and the Raiders were faced with a third and 18 and the season seemed all put over.

The Snake then dropped back to pass and Patriots defensive tackle Ray “Sugar Bear” Hamilton, who later served the Raiders as a defensive line coach, came charging in on him. Snake got off his pass but Hamilton got a piece of the ball intended for former Patriot halfback/kick returner Carl Garrett down at the goal line. The pass fell incomplete but the Patriots short celebration was tamed by an eruption of cheers from the Raider faithful. The Patriots knew that Raider fans wouldn’t cheer against their own team, then a Patriots player noticed the yellow flag on the field.

A roughing the passer penalty on Hamilton gave the Snake four more plays to get his team into the endzone. To this day Hamilton argues that his paw never touched Stabler but both Snake and head coach John Madden have stood by the call.

IF the call was real or bogus it didn’t matter because the Patriots still had a chance to stop Oakland. Instead, the crafty Snake completed a short pass to Casper and then running back Clarence Davis ran for 4 yards before getting stopped short of the goal line with 40 seconds to go. The Raiders called timeout.

Snake called on short yardage specialist Pete Banaszak but the Patriots defense sniffed out the play and Banaszak was stuffed for no gain. With 14 seconds left, Snake called his own number and despite his surgically repaired knees he still was able to fool the Patriots defense enough to follow Gene Upshaw into the endzone for the score.

The Patriots got the ball back with seven seconds but linebacker Monte Johnson intercepted Steve Grogan’s pass attempt and sealed the 24-21 victory.

The Raiders enjoyed the victory and they would go on to win the Super Bowl three times in the next eight seasons. The Patriots would have to wait for their first Super Bowl win but they would get their revenge two-fold against the Raiders by upsetting the silver and black in the 1985 and 2001 playoffs.

And we won’t talk about either game because for me they are memories too foul to relive.

#1: New England @ Oakland: November 17, 2002

I have referred to this game as the “Tuck Rule Revenge” game for obvious reasons.

The Patriots took the new life given to them via the “Tuck Rule” to beat the Raiders and they would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Ten months later the Raiders and Patriots would square off in the Oakland Coliseum in what would be a very important game for both squads.
The Patriots were 5-4 and another loss would likely eliminate them from playoff contention. Oakland was 6-4 and another loss would likely dim their playoff hopes too. In effect, this turned out to be a playoff game in front of a nationwide audience on Monday Night Football.
The teams exchange field goals in the first quarter until Raider running back Zack Crockett broke the deadlock with a touchdown plunge. Just before halftime, Rich Gannon ran the ball into the endzone for another score to give Oakland a 17-6 advantage. A second Crockett touchdown run extended the Raider lead to 18 points and Tom Brady, who was pressured all day, did very little to justify the lofty heights that he eventually would reach. Brady finished the day 18 for 30, was sacked four times and if it wasn’t for the Patriots defense, the New Englanders would have been routed.

Future Raider defensive end Richard Seymour blocked a field goal and Rich Gannon was picked off by Tedy Bruschi and returned 48 yards for the score. Oakland added a field goal in the fourth quarter to extend their lead a bit but the ensuing kickoff return was taken all the way back for a touchdown by Patriots’ running back Kevin Faulk. The score was now 27-20 Oakland and the Patriots still had life.

Unfortunately, Tom Brady just wasn’t the player that he was destined to become that day.

The Patriots attempted an onside kick, but it was recovered by the Raiders’ Tory James with less than a minute remaining. A few plays later James had made another big play when he broke up a pass intended for David Patten on fourth and 1 early in the fourth quarter. That play ended any hope of a Patriot comeback and two kneel downs by Rich Gannon gave the Raiders their revenge.

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