Ten Memorable Games in the Chargers-Raiders Rivalry
July 16, 2020
The Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, two of the oldest rivals in the NFL and two rivals from the original American Football league, will be moving into new stadiums this fall. The Chargers are moving into the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and the Raiders will be moving into their new stadium in Las Vegas, the Allegiant Stadium.
The 60-year-old rivalry will move indoors and will no longer be an intra-state rivalry, with the Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas. The Raiders will be about 100 miles closer in Las Vegas and with a significant number of Raiders fans in Southern California, this rivalry will be just as intense as ever. The Raiders were in Los Angeles from 1982-1994 and still have a strong following in the area.
These two teams have met 121 times over the past sixty years, with the Raiders leading the series 65-54-2. There have been some classic games between the two teams and many great players have been involved. These ten games are just a sampling of the many classics between the two organizations:
The Brilliance of Al Davis – The Chargers beat the Raiders 24-14 on December 16,1965 at Balboa Stadium in San Diego. The winning touchdown came on a 66-yard touchdown reception by Lance Alworth in the fourth quarter, breaking a tie 14-14 tie with the Raiders. The victory clinched homefield advantage for the Chargers in the AFL Championship game. Alworth was drafted in 1962 by the Raiders and traded to the Chargers.
The head coach in this game for the Raiders was Al Davis, who was the same person who convinced the Chargers to trade for Alworth. Davis was the wide receiver coach for the Chargers in 1962. Alworth retired as the greatest wide receiver of his generation, making six straight All-Pro teams and was the first AFL player to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. He chose Davis as his presenter at the Hall of Fame, who by then was the owner of the Raiders.
The End of the Gillman Era – In a game played at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum on November 21, 1971, the Raiders hung on for a 34-33 win in the last game of the Sid Gillman era with the Chargers, which began in 1960 when the Chargers were in Los Angeles. John Madden was the head coach of the Raiders. The Raiders trailed twice by 14 points in the game. Gillman, who is considered the father of the modern-day passing game, led the Chargers to five AFL Championship games, winning the 1963 AFL title over the Boston Patriots.
Gillman left the Chargers with 86 wins, which is still an all-time Charger record. Davis said of Gillman: "Sid Gillman brought class to the AFL. Being part of Sid's organization was like going to a laboratory for the highly developed science of professional football." Gillman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Holly Roller Game – In a Week 2 match-up played on September 10, 1978 at San Diego Stadium in San Diego, the Chargers led 20-14 with ten seconds in the game. The ball was on the Chargers 14-yard line, quarterback Kenny Stabler dropped back and with no one open and feeling the pressure of the pass rush, Stabler fumbled or rolled the ball forward. Running back Pete Banaszak then knocked the ball further ahead from about the 13-yard line and toward the goal line.
Tight end Dave Casper kicked the ball forward at the 5 and then fell on it in the end zone with no time remaining. The Raiders had tied the game at 20-20 and with the extra point the Raiders had stolen a victory, 21-20. The game spawned rule changes that now allow only the player who fumbled the ball to advance it in the final two minutes of a game.
Bill King, the Radio Voice of the Raiders at the time, summed it up best: "The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play. There's nothing real in the world anymore. This one will be relived, forever." The loss also cost the Chargers the AFC West division title that season.
Glimpse into the Future – In a game played on September 14, 1980, the Chargers held on to win in overtime at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, 30-24, over the Raiders on a Dan Fouts 24-yard touchdown pass to John Jefferson. Fouts had an awful game, throwing five interceptions, but his errors were offset by Raider kicker Chris Bahr, who missed five field goal attempts. With the Raiders trailing 24-17 late in the game, quarterback Dan Pastorini drove the Raiders to the Chargers 23-yard line, but an injury forced him to leave the game.
Backup Jim Plunkett came in and on a 4th down throw from the Chargers 18-yard line connected with tight end Raymond Chester for a game-tying touchdown with 39 seconds left. Although the Raiders would lose in overtime, Plunkett would eventually become the Raiders starting quarterback in week 6 and lead them to a Super Bowl Championship, at the expense of the Chargers.
AFC Championship Game – In the only time that the Raiders and the Chargers have met in a Conference Championship game, the Raiders held on for a 34-27 victory over the Chargers. The game was played in San Diego on January 11, 1981. The Raiders took an early 28-7 lead on the Chargers but looked to be in trouble when the Chargers closed the gap to 34-27. With 6:43 left in the game, the Raiders could not afford to give the ball back to Fouts and the high-octane Charger offense.
As it turned out, the Chargers offense did not see the field again. The Raiders never gave the ball back, converting five first downs. Plunkett completed a pass six-yard pass on a 3rd down and had a five-yard run on another third down to clinch the victory. Plunkett completed 14 of 18 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns in one of the best games of his career. Fouts threw for 336 yards in the loss.
Best team to never win a Super Bowl – In a game played in Oakland on November 21st, 1981, the Chargers trailed 21-14 in Oakland in the second quarter to the defending Super Bowl Champion Raiders. Then the Air Coryell offense caught fire and scored 41 unanswered points in an impressive 55-21 blowout win over the Raiders. Fouts threw for six touchdown passes. The Chargers would go on to lose to the Bengals in Cincinnati 27-7 in the "Freezer Bowl," a game that was played in the coldest temperature in NFL history in terms of wind chill, at −59 °F.
The 1981 season was chronicled on September 18, 2008 for America's Game: The Missing Rings with the Chargers, considered one of the five greatest NFL teams to never win the Super Bowl. The 1979-1981 Chargers, also known as "Air Coryell," won three straight AFC West titles and should have made at least one Super Bowl. The 1981 Chargers led the NFL in scoring, total offensive yards, total passing yardage, passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.
Comeback on Monday Night Football – In a game played on November 22nd, 1982, the Raiders trailed 24-0 to the Chargers in their home opener in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Monday Night Football game was nationally televised on ABC. The Chargers were unstoppable in the first half, with Dan Fouts throwing for 357 yards in the game. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the Raiders defense stiffened in the second half and behind running back Marcus Allen, who rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, completed an incredible comeback on Monday Night Football, stunning the Chargers 28-24.
Changing of the Guard – The Chargers beat the Raiders in the final game of the 2003 season, in a meaningless season-ending home game Qualcomm Stadium on December 28. The game marked the beginning of a 13-game winning streak for the Chargers against the Raiders and the end of the recent Raider dominance in the series. The winning streak over the Raiders did not end until the 2010 season. In the game, Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for a career-high 243 yards and added two rushing touchdowns.
The game featured seven players that are either in the Hall of Fame or are certain locks to be first-ballot Hall of Famers. The Chargers had current HOF member Tomlinson and future HOF members Drew Brees and Antonio Gates. The Raiders had current Hall of Famers Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Rod Woodson on their roster. They also had Charles Woodson, who is eligible in 2021.
Chargers Kill Raiders' Playoff Hopes - Playing on New Year's Day in 2012, the Raiders needed a victory at home to win the AFC West and clinch a playoff berth. The Chargers had other plans, breaking the hearts of Raider fans with a 38-26 upset victory in Oakland, giving the Denver Broncos the division title. Rivers had a terrific game, completing 19 of 26 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns passes.
With the Chargers leading 31-26 in the 4th quarter and the ball at the one-yard line, Rivers drove the Chargers 99 yards, with the drive culminating on a 43-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Floyd, clinching the win for the Chargers. The loss kept the Raiders out of the playoffs for a ninth straight season.
The End of the Oakland Era – On November 7, 2019, the Chargers played their final game at the Coliseum in Oakland, losing 26-24 to the Raiders. Charger quarterback Philip Rivers reflected on the game and the memories afterward: "It was not the way you want to end your time coming here," he said. "It's one of the last-standing, one of the last few active old school NFL stadiums, kind of one of the originals. The atmosphere tonight was awesome."
It was also the beginning of the end of an era for Rivers, as the Chargers decided against re-signing Rivers in the offseason. Rivers threw three interceptions, two in the game that put the Chargers behind early and one late in the game when the Chargers still had a chance to win. In the final drive, the Chargers ran seven offensive plays and gained zero offensive yards. A defensive holding call gave the Chargers a first down. Despite having all three timeouts available, Rivers was 0 for 7 passing on the final drive.