By many fans' standards, the rivalry between the Raiders and Broncos is the greatest the league has to offer. More so than the Cowboys-Redskins, Packers-Vikings, or the Steelers-Browns, the hate between the Raiders and Broncos might only be matched by the Raiders' rivalry with, well, everyone else.
In the past, regardless of how well either team was doing, the Raiders and Broncos have always provided memorable moments and hard fought games.
Currently, the Raiders hold the all-time series lead at 54-40-2, but the Broncos have dominated of late, winning 21 of the last 27 matchups.
Let's take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the most thrilling, and sometimes exasperating, bouts between the Broncos and Raiders
The very first network broadcast of “Monday Night Football” was three years prior between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, but Denver’s first showcasing in the weekday spectacle proved to be a watershed moment in franchise history.
The two teams met with much fanfare and the hometown Broncos didn’t fail to provide their fans with some early fireworks, starting on defense. Broncos defensive back Bill Thompson recovered an Oakland fumble and scored on an 80-yard return to give Denver the early 7-0 lead, following the point after.
After Oakland got three points back on a 35-yard George Blanda field goal, they answered with an 80-yard touchdown strike of their own, this one a big pass play from Ken Stabler to Mike Siani.
From then on, the two teams traded scores, ultimately leading to a late three-point fourth quarter lead for the Raiders on a 49-yard field goal from Blanda. With little time remaining, Broncos quarterback Charley Johnson, who finished with a pedestrian game (11 of 24 for 115 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions), led his offense on a heroic final drive. In the game’s waning seconds, the Broncos kicker Jim Turner hit a 35-yard field goal to tie the game at 23-23.
In a 2005 Associated Press article, writer Eddie Pells paraphrases Turner’s reaction to the game and its significance in Broncos history, writing, “Turner called the game a turning point in franchise history.”
And a turning point it truly was. In the 13 seasons prior, the Broncos had only once finished with at least seven wins in a season and only once had they finished second or better in their division. However, starting in 1973, the Broncos would go on to finish second or better in nine consecutive seasons, including two first places finishes, three playoff appearances, and one trip to the Super Bowl.
1977 was a year of many firsts for the Denver Broncos organization. For the first time in the team’s history, they finished the regular season atop the AFC West Division with a 12-2 record and played in their first playoff game as well.
After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, the Broncos were set to take on their bitter rivals the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. The Raiders were the underdogs, having been swept by the Broncos during the regular season, but coming into the game with a stellar 12-3 record, they weren’t going to be a cakewalk for the Broncos.
Playing in Mile High Stadium, the Raiders got the early first quarter lead on a 20-yard Errol Mann field goal. However, the Broncos answered back with a score of their own, this one a 74-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Craig Morton to Haven Moses.
From then on, the Broncos never relinquished the lead, scoring twice more, first on a 1-yard run by Jon Keyworth and then on another Morton-to-Moses pass play in the fourth to ultimately win by a score of 20-17.
The Raiders made it close on two separate occasions, both of them on touchdown connections between Ken Stabler and Dave Casper, but three turnovers, including two fumbles lost, were the Raiders’ undoing.
The game didn’t go without a little controversy. On one short-yardage play by the Broncos, Rob Lytle fumbled the ball after a crushing blow by Jack Tatum. Tatum recovered the loose ball and returned it to the house for a Raider touchdown. However, the officials ruled that the ball wasn’t fumbled and the score was taken back.
The Broncos went on to their first Super Bowl, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 14-3.
Following his abrupt termination four games into the 1989 season, Mike Shanahan has been at the center of the Raiders-Broncos rivalry. Shanahan compiled an 8-12 record in less than two seasons as the Raiders’ head coach, and the bitterness between him and Raiders owner Al Davis stems from a contract dispute that exists to this day—Shanahan insists, and Davis denies, that he is still owed $200,000 for the 1989 season.
Shanahan eventually found his way back to the top of the coaching echelon, after the Broncos named him their headman in 1995. Although the contract dispute has yet to be settled, Shanahan got the last laugh against his former team, dominating the Raiders during his tenure as coach of the Broncos. In his 14-year stint in Denver, which ended with much dismay last season, Shanahan compiled a 21-6 record against the Raiders, including five playoff appearances and two Super Bowl wins.
Just to show how embroiled Mike Shanahan is in the rivalry, one of the most memorable games between the two teams happened when Shanahan was the head coach in Oakland. In his first year as head coach, Shanahan took his 1-2 Raiders into Denver to take on his future team in what was the Monday night matchup in Week Four.
Paced by two touchdown runs by Tony Dorsett, a touchdown pass from John Elway to Steve Sewell, and a Rich Karllis field goal, the Broncos went into halftime with a 24-0 lead.
Needless to say, the Raiders were a mess in the first half, but from the third quarter on, the Raiders took control, scoring 24 unanswered points against a stunned Broncos defense. Quarterback Jay Schroeder and Steve Smith connected on two touchdown strikes of 40 and 42 yards, respectively, and Marcus Allen ran for a 4-yard score to tie the game.
After Denver retook the lead on Karlis’ second field goal, the Raiders answered back with a 44-yarder of their own courtesy of Chris Bahr. The field goal sent the game into overtime where the Raiders called upon Bahr once more, this time from 35 yards out to win the game.
For Shanahan and the Raiders, the comeback was a record-setting one as it tied the Raiders’ franchise mark as the biggest comeback in team history. The teams met again in Week 14, and once more, the Raiders came away with the victory, 21-20.
In what was the regular season finale, the Raiders and Broncos entered the game with identical 9-6 records and were battling for second place in the AFC West.
The game was a shootout as the teams combined for 869 yards of total offense. Denver held the lead for much of the game with the Raiders playing catch-up. Denver got off to an early 13-0 lead on two Jason Elam field goals and a 27-yard touchdown pass from John Elway to Cedric Tillman.
From there on, the two teams traded touchdowns and field goals. Elway connected with tight end Shannon Sharpe for two touchdown passes while Jeff Hostetler finished with three total, twice to Tim Brown and another to Alexander Wright.
The Raiders clawed back in the fourth, and in overtime, Jeff Jaeger hit a 47-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 33-30 win and sole possession of 2nd-place in the division.
It was a huge game each team’s pair of stars: Elway finished with 361 yards on 25 of 36 passing with three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Sharpe caught six passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. For the Raiders, Hostetler matched Elway with three touchdowns and no interceptions while also passing for over 300 yards. Brown was the recipient of two of those touchdowns, 11 catches, and 173 yard receiving.
A week later, the two teams met again in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but this time around, the game wasn’t as close. Despite another standout performance by Elway, the Broncos gave up six touchdowns to the Raiders, three apiece for Hostetler and running back Napolean McCallum, and the Raiders came away with a 42-24 victory to advance to the Divisional Playoffs where they fell to the Buffalo Bills.
In what was the year the Raiders returned to Oakland, the Broncos spoiled their rivals’ homecoming in the regular season’s final game.
The Broncos were one game behind the 8-7 Raiders, and a win for Denver would make it a season sweep over the Silver and Black.
The Broncos held a 17-14 lead coming out of halftime, but the Raiders retook the lead and then some with two touchdown passes from quarterback Billy Joe Hobert to Tim Brown.
In the fourth quarter, the Broncos answered back, first with a Jason Elam 27-yard field goal, and then a 4-yard pass from John Elway to Ed McCaffrey. Instead of the point after, Shanahan and the Broncos opted to go for the two-point conversion and were successful as they tied the game on a run by Elway.
The Broncos nailed the coffin on the Raiders’ playoff hopes, winning the game on another Elam field goal, this one from 37 yards out. With the win, the Broncos tied the Raiders for third place in the division with identical 8-8 records.
The 1997 season was one of polar opposite fortunes for the Raiders and Broncos. The Raiders finished with a 4-12 record, their worst since 1963, while the Broncos went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Still the Raiders did their best to sully the Broncos’ eventual Super Bowl run, providing the first blemish for Denver that season. The Broncos were the talk of the NFL having won their first six games in dominating fashion. The Raiders, on the other hand, were limping in at a 2-4 record and were severely overmatched against the Broncos’ fearsome offense that featured John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and company.
In a sloppy game that featured 17 penalties, the Raiders managed a meager 81 yards passing. However, paced by Napolean Kaufman’s 227 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown run, the Raiders came away with a 28-25 win and gave Denver its first loss of the season.
The 2000 season marked the Raiders’ return to the playoffs for the first time since 1993 and their first appearance in the AFC Championship Game since 1990.
Riding high on a six-game win streak, the Raiders looked to improved to 8-1 on the season and solidify their first place standing in the division against the eventual second place finishing Broncos.
The Raiders held a three-point lead coming out of halftime, but the Broncos answered in resounding fashion with two scores in the third. On a punt attempt by the Raiders, linebacker Ian Gold burst through the Raiders’ protection and blocked Shane Lechler’s attempt and returned it for a score. Of the play, Lechler said, “I had my head down and by the time I made eye contact, he was there.”
Denver scored once more in the third on an 11-yard connection from Brian Griese to Byron Chamberlain to take a 21-10 lead and added another three points in the fourth on a 23-yard field goal by Jason Elam.
But what looked like an easy win for the Broncos was anything but. Behind the arm of Rich Gannon, who had struggled to find any consistency for much of the game, the Raiders drove 51 yards in the fourth to punch it in from the one-yard line on a Zack Crockett run.
The Raiders tied the game on their next offensive possession, this time on an 11-play, 86-yard drive that was culminated by a 22-yard pass from Gannon to Tim Brown.
But for all their late game heroics, the Raiders left the Broncos with too much time. With more than a minute left, Griese, who was playing with a separated clavicle, drove the Broncos offense down to the 24-yard line from where Elam kicked a game winning 41-yard field goal.
After the game, head coach Jon Gruden acknowledged his disappointment for the loss, but gave credit to the Broncos and said of the thrilling conclusion, “It was an exciting game.”
2002 must seem like light years for Oakland Raider fans. It’s been six seasons since Super Bowl XXXVII, and the Raiders have failed to eclipse the five-win total during that span.
Despite losing in the Super Bowl, Raider Nation owns many fond memories from that year, including its Week 10 victory over the Broncos on Monday night.
On what was the 500th broadcast of “Monday Night Football”, the Raiders easily handled their hated rivals by a score of 34-10. The Raiders started things off right with a quick 13-0 lead. Six of those points came off a huge 98-yard interception return by Rod Woodson courtesy of Brian Griese.
It was all about Rich and the Jerry’s for the Raiders that night. Rich Gannon threw three touchdown passes, twice to Jerry Rice and another to Jerry Porter. Gannon finished with 352 yards passing on an astounding 34 of 38 passing (an unheard of 89% completion rate). Gannon also set a franchise record for consecutive pass completions with 21.
Neither team did much on the ground as the Broncos only managed 77 yards rushing while the Raiders faired worse with a measly 27.
It was the worse loss of the season for the Broncos and when the teams met later in Week 16, the Raiders handed Denver their second worst lost of the season, 28-16.
This Week Two matchup is proof that even in a year in which neither team makes it to the playoffs, pride is always on the line when the Raiders and Broncos square off.
Again, it was Mike Shanahan who came back to haunt the Raiders, this time on a timely timeout call in overtime. The Raiders took the first possession of overtime and gave themselves a shot to win it from the get go. On the first play, LaMont Jordan took the handoff 33 yards to set up Sebastian Janikowski with a shot to win the game on a 52-yard attempt.
Janikowski certainly did nail the field goal, and the Raiders crashed the field to celebrate their overtime win. However, that exuberance was short lived as line judge Byron Boston signaled that a timeout had been called by Denver before the kick.
Then-Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin said of the whistle, “Nobody was aware of it. No one heard it”, and while many Raiders felt the same way, there were a few, including tackle Barry Sims and wide receiver Jerry Porter, who acknowledged that they hard heard the whistle but kept on playing.
Regardless, the timeout was valid and all part of the plan for Shanahan. Janikowski’s next attempt was no good, and the Broncos used their newfound life to win on the next possession with a Jason Elam 23-yard field, 23-20.
For the Raiders and their fans, it was a bitter pill to swallow. After the game, Raiders quarterback said of the negated field goal, “You go from total elation, and then it takes the wind right out of you. It’s just a bummer.”