NOV. 15, 1970: Raiders 24, Broncos 19 at Denver
Coach John Madden summoned George Blanda off the bench to sub for quarterback Daryle Lamonica and Blanda moved the Raiders 80 yards in the final three minutes, culminating in a game-winning 20-yard TD pass to Fred Biletnikoff at Mile High Stadium.
<em> The following is a copy from the Oakland Tribune archives from 1970 when George Blanda played miracle worker for the Oakland Raiders. The headline is also the one that appeared in print.</em>
COACH LETS GEORGE DO IT
"I just had a feeling," said John Madden. "He's done it three weeks in a row and I thought he could do it again."
By now, even the 700 million red Chinese who normally don't care about such things must know that George Blanda did it again.
There were 1,000 people jamming the long corridor at the Oakland Airport last night who knew. One group hoisted aloft a "Blanda For President" banner and another which stated "George Did It Again."
What George did this time was move the Raiders 80 yards in the final three minutes of play and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff to beat the Denver Broncos 24-19, in Mile High Stadium yesterday.
Although Blanda, on cue, entered the game with the Raiders trailing 19-17, Madden had wanted to send him in midway through the fourth period when the Raiders were ahead, 17-12.
But then rookie Alvin Wyatt fumbled a punt on the Oakland 34 and the Broncos moved in for a go ahead touchdown. Enter Blanda, with time nipping at his heels again.
"I thought George might have the hot hand," continued Madden. "It wasn't that Daryle wasn't doing well, it's just that I thought George might give us a lift."
Lamonica had thrown two touchdown passes to give the Raiders a 17-6 edge at the end of the third period but he was having trouble with his bruised left shoulder.
"I know he wasn't 100 percent and that had to have some bearing on my decision," Madden said. "But mainly, I just had a feeling about George."
And why not? The 43-year old savior has turned around games against Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cleveland and Denver on consecutive weekends and had drawn national attention as the standard bearer of the Geritol generation.
So the Raiders are still on top of the Western Division with a 5-2-2 record, a half-game up on Kansas City. They host San Diego Sunday at the Coliseum before heading East for games at Detroit and New York.
"It's just part of our act," said Kenny Stabler, the young quarterback standing next Blanda as a horde of reporters pressed him back into his dressing stall.
For Blanda, scoring the winning touchdowns with 2:28 left was hardly heart-stopping. His big field goals of 48 and 52 yards came with just three seconds remaining.
But his drive to glory had one crossroad this time that called for a miracle as big as any he's worked this season.
Here's the situation: It's third down and 12 at the Raiders own 18, with three minutes left in the game. And the blitz is on by one of football's most vicious band of assassins.
Blanda had just thrown incomplete on a deep pass to Warren Wells so Madden, unhesitantly, sent in Rod Sherman to replace Wells.
Sherman drove Denver defender Cornell Gordon up the field and cut over the middle and Blanda fired a strike that Sherman pulled in for a 27-yard gain. It was a clutch play, without it write it finis.
Blanda dropped back on the next play, stepped on Hewritt Dixon's foot as the protective cup was forming and then, off balance, under threw a deep pass to Wells.
Wells came back on Gordon, caught the ball and completed a 34-yard gain to set up the winning throw to Biletnikoff.
Blanda explained the play:
"I knew the blitz was on and they would have to cover Warren man on man. There was no other way. They did rush hard and I just had to throw it in Warren's direction.
"But there are things that could happen. Warren could catch it behind him, there could be an interference call or Warren could come back for it. I figured the odds were pretty good.
Somebody asked Blanda about stumbling over Dixon.
"I honestly don't remember. I haven't got time to worry about those things. I set up shorter than Daryle and maybe that's what caused the confusion. I really don't care if it wasn't a good looking play, it was a big play. And that's al that counts.
Wells knew the pass would be short when he looked back to see the rush on Blanda.
"I knew George wasn't going to be able to set up in the cup. I thought he'd be off balance and the ball would be short. My man didn't see that I was able to come back for the pass," said Wells. Who had opened the scoring for Oakland on a 36-yard pass from Lamonica in the first period.
There were a lot of big plays and most of them were made by reserves, guys pressed into action.
"George was great," continued Madden. "But don't overlook what Jimmy Warren and Duane Benson did. They both came in and intercepted passes, Jimmy getting two and Duane one."
Warren so outstanding replacing injured Kent McCloughan that he got the game ball. His second interception followed the Raiders winning touchdown and ended any hope Denver had to pull it out.
Both McCloughan and linebacker Bill Laskey suffered twisted knees but neither injury was thought to be serious. Both players expressed optimism and Madden said there would be no x-rays taken.
The Broncos lost cornerback Bill Thompson late in the first half with a knee injury that may require surgery. In addition, it was learned that starting quarterback Steve Tensi had been bothered by tendonitis in the elbow of his passing arm which contributed to his poor showing (two interceptions among numerous bad passes). Pete Liske replaced him just before the half.
For a while, a short while, it appeared the Raiders had the game wrapped up when Dixon raced 46-yards with a screen pass, giving Oakland a 17-6 lead very late in the third period.
Lamonica made a brilliant call on third and two. Denver brought in an extra defensive lineman, mounting a five-man forward front, and dropping one linebacker.
Daryle dropped back, the big front flowed through and Lamonica flipped the ball out to Dixon who got key blocks from Jim Harvey and Gene Upshaw, on safety Paul Martha to go the distance.
Denver came back with the help of two big Oakland penalties to score, Liske throwing to Jim Whalen from the 10 to make it 17-12. It should have been 17-13 but Bobby Howfield missed the extra point.
In the end, that miss gave the Raiders the opportunity of winning it with Blanda's field goal but George used his arm instead.
After Wyatt fumbled, Liske passed 19 yards to Mike Haffner to the Oakland 19 and Ben Davidson drew a roughing the passer penalty that moved the ball to the Oakland 8.
Bob Anderson gained six yards to the one and the Liske dove in for the Denver touchdown, setting the stage for Mr. Miracle.