December 16, 2009

1962: Raiders Defeat Patriots in Season Finale to End 19-Game Losing Streak

The 1962 AFL season was the nadir for the Oakland Raiders franchise. Entering the final game on December 16 at Frank Youell Field against the visiting Boston Patriots, they had lost 19 consecutive games going back to the ninth contest of 1961.

At least the franchise was finally playing home games in Oakland. A late addition to the American Football League, after the Minneapolis group dropped out to join the NFL, the Raiders had played in San Francisco the first two seasons (Kezar Stadium in ’60, Candlestick Park in ’61). Amid rumors that the team would relocate to another city, Oakland officials assured the owners that a new stadium was in the works (what would eventually be the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) and a temporary home would be made available in the meantime (Frank Youell Field, capacity 22,000).

On the field, the team had struggled. Marty Feldman had succeeded original Head Coach Eddie Erdelatz after the Raiders were blown out in the first two games of the ’61 season, but he was let go five games into the 1962 campaign after compiling a 2-15 record. Assistant Red Conkright was promoted into the top job, which was a thankless proposition. Starting QB Tom Flores was forced to sit out the year with a lung infection. While the team made an early season deal with the Dallas Texans for QB Cotton Davidson (pictured below), who had lost his starting job to Len Dawson, he had problems with chronic injuries and a weak receiving corps.

To be sure, there was talent on the team. C Jim Otto was a first team All-AFL selection in 1960 and ’61, and would be once again in ’62 (and beyond). Guard Wayne Hawkins was considered one of the best in the league as well. Clem Daniels (pictured above) emerged as a talented halfback and chief running threat. On defense, CB Fred “the Hammer” Williamson and DT Chuck McMurtry were standouts.

In the finale against Boston, the Raiders received a couple of breaks in that starting QB Babe Parilli (an original Raider in ’60) was injured and wouldn’t be facing them, and the team had been eliminated from postseason contention the day before. Boston had been in a close race with the Oilers in the Eastern Division all year, but Houston defeated the New York Titans in a Saturday game that clinched the division title with an 11-3 record. The Patriots had no incentive to win, and it was apparent – as backup QB Tom Yewcic, who started on that day, put it later, “nobody wanted to play”.

It was a rainy, miserable day with 8000 fans in attendance. Oakland won resoundingly, 20-0. Daniels was the standout, scoring both touchdowns, one on a 74-yard pass play from Davidson in the second quarter, and the other on a seven-yard run in the third quarter. 43-year-old placekicker Ben Agajanian (whose career spanned stints in the AAFC and NFL as well as AFL) booted field goals of 19 and 21 yards to round out the scoring.

The Raiders accumulated 288 yards of offense, with Daniels gaining just 54 yards on 26 rushing attempts but, thanks to the long TD pass, catching three passes for 95 yards. Davidson completed 9 of 23 passes for 230 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Boston’s Yewcic had 13 pass completions in 35 attempts for just 108 yards and two pickoffs. The Patriots gained 82 yards on the ground in 18 carries, with HB Jim Crawford leading the way at 6 rushes for 35 yards. Split end Gino Cappelletti led all receivers with 5 catches, for 53 yards.

The win not only ended the long losing streak, but was the first shutout of an opponent in franchise history. Happy fans blared their car horns to celebrate in the parking lot afterward.

The Raiders ended up with a 1-13 record and, naturally, in last place in the Western Division. Boston finished at 9-4-1 and second place in the East. Clem Daniels ranked fourth in the AFL with 766 yards rushing.

Things got better for the Raiders in the offseason. The owners finally coaxed Al Davis away from Sid Gillman’s coaching staff at San Diego, and the 33-year-old head coach and general manager made personnel changes and brought a whole new attitude to the team. The immediate turnaround was impressive – Oakland astounded the pro football world in 1963 by going 10-4. They were still a few years away from being a true contender, but it would not be long before the sad state of affairs that culminated in the 1-13 season in 1962 would become a distant memory.