The defending champion Washington Redskins were being compared to the Green Bay Packers, the Miami Dolphins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only teams up until then that had won two straight Super Bowls.
The Los Angeles Raiders had other ideas.
In what later was titled “Black Sunday” by NFL Films, Marcus Allen ran for two touchdowns as the Raiders defense shut down John Riggins, Joe Theismann, and the Washington offense in a dominating 38-9 victory over the heavily-favored Redskins at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Fla., in Super Bowl XVIII.
It was Jan. 22, 1984, 37 years ago today.
“Not only, in my opinion, are you the greatest Raiders team of all time, I think you rank with the great teams to have ever played any professional sport,” Managing General Partner Al Davis told his team after accepting the Vince Lombardi trophy from Commissioner Pete Rozelle for the third time in eight years.
Riggins, Super Bowl MVP the year before, was held to 64 yards on 26 carries, ending his record streak of six straight postseason games with at least 100 yards rushing. The Redskins gained only 90 yards rushing, their fewest all season, and averaged only 2.8 yards per carry.
In addition to going around and through the Redskins offensive line known as “The Hogs” to sack Theismann six times, the Raiders limited him to 16 completions in 35 passes for 243 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
“I could see the frustration in Riggins’ face,” Raiders defensive end Howie Long said. “I could see the fear in Theismann’s face.”
Cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes took away Theismann’s big-play wide receivers, limiting Charlie Brown to only three catches and Art Monk one.
Said Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard: “Hayes and Haynes were the difference in the game.”
It started early when Raiders reserve running back Derrick Jensen blocked a punt by Jeff Hayes and recovered it in the end zone to give Los Angeles a 7-0 lead eight seconds short of five minutes into the game.
“I think they forgot about me,” Jensen said.
Jim Plunkett, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards and quarterbacked the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory for the second time in four years, hit Cliff Branch with a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 9:14 left in the second quarter.
However, what might have been the back-breaker came with seven seconds left in the half.
Theismann had hit Joe Washington for a 67-yard gain on a screen pass when the Redskins beat the Raiders, 37-35, earlier in the season. Washington was backed up on hits 12-yard line with time running out in the first half this time when linebacker coach Charlie Sumner sent reserve linebacker Jack Squirek into the game in place of All-Pro Matt Millen.
Sumner told Squirek to “follow Washington wherever he goes,” so when Theismann faked right and threw left for Washington, Squirek cut in front to intercept the pass and returned it five yards for a touchdown to make it 21-3 at halftime.
“I was mad,” Millen, who called the Raiders defensive signals, said after the game. “I’d called a blitz, and I was cranked up for it, but he told Jack to play the screen and sent him in. I guess Charlie knows what he’s doing, huh?”
Said Squirek: “I was surprised when they threw it and I was even more surprised when I caught it.”
Even though the Redskins scored on a one-yard run by Riggins with 10:52 left in the third quarter, Mark Moseley's extra point was blocked by reserve tight end Don Hasselbeck and it was 21-9.
The rest of the game belonged to the Raiders defense, which had three sacks of Theismann in the fourth quarter, and Allen.
The Raiders, who also won Super Bowl XVIII under Coach Tom Flores three years earlier, came right back to drive 70 yards to a five-yard touchdown run by Allen, who finished the game with 191 yards on 21 carries, to make it 28-9 with 7:06 left in the third quarter.
But the best was yet to come.
On the final play of the third quarter, Allen took a handoff from Plunkett and started left but found his path blocked by Redskins, so he cut back to the other side of the field as tackle Henry Lawrence turned and wiped out all of the pursuit.
Allen broke into the clear with Branch in front of him, screening off cornerback Anthony Washington who was the last remaining Redskin in the way, and Marcus went 74 yards for a touchdown on one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.
“I felt someone grab me from behind, but pulled away, and then there was an alley,” Allen said. “Darrell Green did not see me go by and I felt like I could outrun the rest of the guys. Cliff Branch brushed someone downfield … it was the greatest run I have ever had on this level.”
There was still a quarter to play, but everyone knew the Raiders were the best team and the game essentially was over.
Unfortunately, the Silver and Black have not won a Super Bowl since that day.
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