When the Las Vegas Raiders play the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., they will be facing one of their oldest rivals.
The Raiders, Chargers, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs (who started as the Dallas Texans) were all charter members of the American Football League in 1960 and remain together today in the AFC West.
The Chargers started in Los Angeles, moved to San Diego, and are back in L.A., while the Raiders were founded in Oakland, moved to Los Angles, and back to Oakland before relocating to Las Vegas last season.
The Raiders have played the Chargers 123 times through the years, including only once in the post-season. The Silver and Black holds a 66-55-2 lead in the series, including three in a row before losing, 30-27, in overtime last December in their first meeting at Allegiant Stadium.
However, it didn’t start that way.
The Chargers beat the Raiders the first six times the teams played by 52-28, 41-17, 44-0, 41-10, 42-33, and 31-21, finally holding them to under 40 points. In those first three seasons, the Raiders were 6-8, 2-12, and 1-13.
Then the Raiders brought in Chargers assistant coach Al Davis to turn their fortunes around.
Coach Sid Gillman led San Diego to an 11-3 record in 1963, and they demolished the Boston Patriots, 51-10, in the AFL Championship Game when running back Keith Lincoln rushed for 206 yards on 13 carries caught seven passes for 123 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Even though the AFL was only four years old, some believed the Chargers could have beaten the NFL champion Chicago Bears that season with a team that included wide receiver Lance Alworth and tackle Ron Mix, both future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, the Bolts (as some of their fans call them) couldn’t beat the Raiders in 1963.
Perhaps using inside information that Davis knew about the Chargers from his three seasons, the Raiders handed the Chargers (5-1 at the time) a 34-33 defeat at Balboa Stadium in San Diego.
Quarterback Cotton Davidson threw three touchdown passes, and Davis alternated him with Tom Flores, who connected for two more, as wide receiver Art Powell caught a scoring pass from each of them. Powell led the AFL with 1,304 yards and 16 touchdown receptions that year.
In addition, running back Clem Daniels rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries, including a 41-yard burst, on his way to leading the AFL to 1,099 yards rushing that season.
But perhaps the most significant statistic was that the Raiders intercepted five passes thrown by San Diego quarterbacks Tobin Rote and John Hadl, two of the picks by cornerback Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.
The Chargers were looking for revenge when they came to Oakland later in the season and rolled to a 27-10 lead after three quarters as Rote passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
Frank Youell Field in Oakland had a listed seating capacity of 22,000, but it was estimated that nearly 25,000 fans were at the game that day. After three-quarters, many of the fans began to leave because it looked like a second upset of the Chargers was not going to happen.
However, the Raiders embarked on a game-winning comeback, which became a tradition in their glory years.
Safeties Tommy Morrow and Joe Krakoski recovered Chargers fumbles early in the fourth quarter, and San Diego also lost the ball with a bad snap on a punt. Davidson turned those into a 40-yard touchdown pass to Powell, his nine-yard scoring run, and a field goal by Mike Mercer that tied the score 27-27 with 7:54 left in the game.
Following a Chargers punt, Davidson hit Powell with a 41-yard scoring pass to give the Raiders their first lead of the game, 34-27, with 5:35 left. After an interception by Clancy Osborne, they tacked on a two-yard touchdown run by fullback Miller for the final points with 1:06 remaining.
Frank Youell Field was about half-full early in the final quarter. Still, fans listening to the game on the radio in the parking lot and their cars on the way home returned, and the stadium was nearly full again as Oakland celebrated at the finish.
Even though the Raiders and Chargers have had many other memorable games, they met in the playoffs only in the 1980 AFC Championship Game at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.
The Chargers, led by quarterback Dan Fouts, won the AFC West with an 11-5 record that season and beat the Raiders, 30-24, in overtime on Fouts’ 24-yard touchdown pass to John Jefferson, while the Raiders got even with a 38-24 victory later in the season at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders also finished 11-5 but with the tiebreaker that was good for only a wild card spot in the playoffs, and they had to beat the Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns in the post-season to get another shot at the Chargers.
San Diego was a heavy favorite playing at Jack Murphy Stadium after beating the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs. Still, the Raiders scored first when tight end Raymond Chester caught a deflected pass from Jim Plunkett and went 65 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Chargers got even when Fouts hit Charlie Joiner with a 48-yard scoring pass, but the Raiders scored on Plunkett’s six-yard run, his 21-yard scoring pass to running back Kenny King and fullback Mark van Eeghen’s three-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead late in the first half.
San Diego rallied, but Chris Bahr kicked field goals of 27 and 33 yards in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders held on for a 34-27 victory that longtime members of Raider Nation rank with the greatest in franchise history.
Two weeks later, the Raiders became the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, in SB XV.
Not nearly as much is at stake on Monday night, but the Raiders want to beat the Chargers to reach 4-0 for the first time since 2002, the last season in which they went to the Super Bowl.
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