November 22, 2014

1982: Raiders Overcome 24-Point Deficit to Beat Chargers in LA Debut

The Raiders made their long-delayed regular season home debut as a Los Angeles team against the San Diego Chargers on November 22, 1982. Having made the move from Oakland to LA in the face of much resistance from the NFL, the Raiders won their first two games on the road before the 57-day players’ strike put the entire league on hiatus.

The Raiders, coached by Tom Flores, fell to 7-9 in ’81, which was their first sub-.500 record since 1964, and were looking to rebound. QB Jim Plunkett had been troubled by injuries but was healthy again and HB Marcus Allen (pictured above), the first draft choice out of USC, was a welcome addition to the offense – indeed, the game against the Chargers marked his return to the stadium where he had starred in college and won the Heisman Trophy. Todd Christensen took over as starting tight end in place of the injured Derrick Ramsey with promising results. On defense, DE Lyle Alzado was obtained from the Browns and combined with second-year DE Howie Long to provide an enhanced pass rush.

San Diego came into the game at 1-1 following the long layoff. Under offensive-minded Head Coach Don Coryell, the Chargers boasted the league’s most prolific passing attack, guided by QB Dan Fouts and including TE Kellen Winslow and wide receivers Charlie Joiner and Wes Chandler. RB Chuck Muncie provided power and all-purpose RB James Brooks speed.

Skies were overcast for the nationally-televised Monday night game at the Memorial Coliseum with just 42,162 fans in attendance. Fans were disgruntled from the long work stoppage and, as was the case at other locales in this first post-strike weekend, there were many no-shows. The Chargers had the first possession and drove 79 yards in 12 plays. Dan Fouts was quick to go to the air and completed six passes along the way, the longest to TE Eric Sievers for 21 yards, and two penalties on the Raiders helped the visitors along. But with first-and-goal at the one, three carries by Chuck Muncie netted a loss of a yard and Rolf Benirschke kicked a 19-yard field goal.

The Raiders were forced to punt following their first series and San Diego moved quickly to another score, advancing 83 yards in just four plays. Following a five-yard run by Muncie, Fouts (pictured below) connected on passes of 12 yards to Sievers and 22 yards to Charlie Joiner. A personal foul on the Raiders added another ten yards and then Fouts threw to WR Dwight Scales for a 29-yard touchdown. Benirschke added the extra point and the Chargers were ahead by 10-0.

QB Jim Plunkett was intercepted by FS Tim Fox on the next possession, but while Fouts completed passes to Muncie for 27 yards and three to WR Wes Chandler that picked up a total of 41 yards, the Chargers ultimately had to punt. As the game headed into the second quarter, the Raiders also punted and, with good starting field position at the LA 48, San Diego moved quickly down the field. Fouts had completions to Chandler for 24 yards and Kellen Winslow for 19 yards to reach the five yard line, and two plays later Muncie ran up the middle for a two-yard TD. Benirschke added the point after to make it a 17-0 contest.

The Raiders moved well on their next series as Plunkett completed three passes, the longest to WR Malcolm Barnwell for a gain of 25 yards. Marcus Allen picked up 15 yards on a sweep and HB Greg Pruitt ran for another 13, but after reaching the San Diego 29, Plunkett was sacked by DE Leroy Jones for an 11-yard loss and then was intercepted by LB Cliff Thrift. The Chargers made the most of the turnover, going 57 yards in six plays, although it was a 42-yard pass interference penalty on CB Ted Watts that moved them all the way to the LA two. Muncie dove for a one-yard touchdown shortly thereafter and, with Benirschke’s PAT, the visitors extended their lead to 24-0.

Now in a deep hole, the Raiders stormed back. Plunkett completed five passes, with throws to WR Cliff Branch for 16 yards and FB Kenny King (pictured at left) for 28. Allen ran effectively, including a 17-yard carry on a trap play. But Plunkett was again thrown for a loss while rolling out on a third down play and Chris Bahr missed wide to the left on a 36-yard field goal attempt.

LA got a break on the next play, however, as Muncie fumbled the handoff and LB Ted Hendricks recovered for the Raiders at the San Diego 17. Five plays later, Plunkett connected with TE Todd Christensen for a one-yard touchdown to finally get the Raiders on the board. Bahr converted and the score was 24-7 at halftime.

The Raiders punted after a short series to start the third quarter and the Chargers lost ground due to two penalties and a sack of Fouts by Hendricks. Maury Buford punted and the shanked kick traveled only 27 yards to the LA 36. Plunkett came out throwing, hitting Christensen twice for 11 and 12 yards. King and Allen then combined for 40 yards on the ground with the star rookie gaining the last three for a TD. Bahr added the PAT and San Diego’s lead was cut to ten points at 24-14.

Following the kickoff, Fouts threw to Winslow for 21 yards to midfield, but three plays later Winslow fumbled when hit by DB Odis McKinney after catching a short pass and NT Ruben Vaughn recovered for the Raiders. LA scored again in four plays, highlighted by King running for a 21-yard gain up the middle, and Allen swept for the last three yards and another touchdown. Bahr’s extra point made it a three-point game.

The teams traded punts to finish out the period and San Diego started off the fourth quarter with a drive to the LA 15. James Brooks picked up 23 yards on three carries and Fouts had passes to Winslow for 15 yards and Chandler for nine. But the Chargers came up empty when Benirschke missed a 22-yard try for a field goal.

The Raiders responded by going 80 yards in nine plays. Plunkett was successful on three passes, including one to Christensen for 24 yards on a third-and-three play, and Barnwell gained 14 yards on a reverse. FB Frank Hawkins ran for a one-yard TD, Bahr added the point after, and the home team, once down by 24 points, was in front by four with 5:54 remaining to play.

San Diego fought back as Fouts fired to Chandler for completions of 30 and 24 yards. But after getting to the LA 18, Fouts threw into the end zone under a heavy rush and was intercepted by FS Vann McElroy. It in effect clinched the game for the Raiders as, with 1:56 remaining on the clock, they were able to maintain possession until the final seconds when Fouts threw a last desperation pass into the end zone that was batted away to nail down the 28-24 comeback win for Los Angeles.

The Chargers gained more total yards (411 to 326) and had the edge in first downs (26 to 23), but they also turned the ball over four times, to two by LA. The Raiders were dominant on the ground (181 yards to 72).

Marcus Allen rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries that included two touchdowns and caught 5 passes for 37 more yards. Jim Plunkett completed 18 of 25 passes for 163 yards and a TD while giving up two interceptions. Kenny King contributed 68 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Todd Christensen topped the club with 8 catches for 83 yards and a TD.

For the Chargers, Dan Fouts was successful on 24 of 42 throws for 357 yards and a touchdown while tossing two interceptions. Kellen Winslow (pictured below) caught 8 passes for 105 yards and Wes Chandler gained 118 yards on his 7 receptions. Chuck Muncie had six catches for 50 yards but was held to 23 yards on 15 rushing attempts that included two for TDs. James Brooks topped the club with 49 yards on eight carries.

"I don’t know what it is about Monday night football, but we’re very proud of our Monday night record,” said Coach Tom Flores, commenting on the fact that the come-from-behind win gave the Raiders a 19-2-1 record in Monday night contests.

The Raiders lost at Cincinnati the next week but didn’t drop another game during the remainder of the truncated regular season, finishing atop the AFC with an 8-1 record. With the divisions set aside, LA was the top seed in an eight-team conference postseason tournament and handily defeated the Browns in the first round before losing to the Jets in the second. San Diego, which lost to the Raiders again in the season finale, ended up at 6-3 and fifth-seeded in the AFC. The Chargers also won their first round game at Pittsburgh and lost to Miami in the second round.

Marcus Allen continued to have an excellent first season, receiving consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors as well as Rookie of the Year recognition. He rushed for 697 yards on 160 carries (4.4 avg.) and caught 38 passes for another 401 yards to lead the league in yards from scrimmage with 1098. His 14 touchdowns also led the circuit, as did his 84 points, making him the first rookie to lead the NFL in scoring since Gale Sayers in 1965.

As he had in each of the previous three seasons, Dan Fouts led the NFL in passing yards with 2883 and also topped the circuit in TD passes (17, tied with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana) and yards per attempt (8.7). Kellen Winslow led the AFC in pass receptions (54) and Wes Chandler topped the league in pass receiving yards (1032). All three received consensus first-team All-NFL honors and were selected to the Pro Bowl.