October 18, 2010

1981: Hendricks Blocked FG Preserves Oakland Two-Point Win Over Bucs

The Oakland Raiders had won the Super Bowl following the 1980 season, but were slumping badly as they hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 18, 1981. The Raiders had a 2-4 record and, moreover, had not scored in three straight games – the first NFL team to suffer such a slump since the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers.

QB Jim Plunkett, who had been the comeback hero of Oakland’s championship season, was benched by Head Coach Tom Flores in favor of second-year QB Marc Wilson, making his first start for the Raiders.

Tampa Bay, under Head Coach John McKay, was off to a 4-2 start and had won their last three games thanks to the fine play of QB Doug Williams and a tough defense.

The Raiders finally ended the scoring drought in the first quarter as Chris Bahr kicked a 51-yard field goal. Less than two minutes later, Oakland scored on a safety for a 5-0 lead when TE Todd Christensen blocked a punt in the end zone. Before the period was over, the Raiders drove 51 yards, capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by FB Derrick Jensen.

There was no more scoring until late in the second quarter, when Bahr connected on a 20-yard field goal to extend the Oakland lead to 15-0 going into halftime.

However, Tampa Bay rallied in the second half. QB Doug Williams started things off with a 77-yard touchdown pass to WR Kevin House in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Williams struck again, this time on a 13-yard TD pass to TE Jimmie Giles that narrowed Oakland’s margin to 15-13, although the extra point attempt failed. But Tampa Bay took the lead at 16-15 with 5:01 remaining when Bill Capece kicked a 26-yard field goal.

Now behind, Oakland’s offense came alive. Wilson, whose performance had been uneven at best, made clutch passes to set up a 44-yard field goal by Bahr with 2:21 left to play.

The Bucs still had time, and following Bahr’s field goal they drove to the Oakland 13 yard line, with a 40-yard pass play from Williams to Giles the biggest play. With eight seconds left, Capece came in to attempt the potential game-winning field goal from 30 yards out. But for the second time in the contest, LB Ted Hendricks got a hand on the kick and it fell short, preserving the 18-16 win for the Raiders.

Total yardage reflected the closeness of the score, with Oakland edging Tampa Bay, 370 yards to 356. How they accumulated their yards was very different, as the Raiders far outrushed the Buccaneers, 194 yards to 29, but Tampa Bay had much higher net passing yardage, 327 to 176. Both clubs suffered three turnovers, Oakland’s all through interceptions and Tampa Bay’s all by fumbles.

Marc Wilson completed 17 of 34 passes for 176 yards with no TDs and the three interceptions. RB Kenny King led the running game with 87 yards on 17 carries while Derrick Jensen added 56 yards on 16 attempts with a TD. TE Derrick Ramsey was Oakland’s top receiver with 6 catches for 49 yards.

Doug Williams did well in leading the Bucs from behind, completing 16 of 30 passes for 335 yards with two TDs and none intercepted. Kevin House had 178 of the yards on four catches, including the one long touchdown. Jimmie Giles also caught four passes, for 76 yards and a TD. Reflecting the poor overall running performance, RB Jerry Eckwood led the team with just 14 yards on 9 carries.

While gratifying, the win did not mark a turning point for the Raiders, who went 4-5 the rest of the way and finished fourth in the AFC West with a 7-9 record. Tampa Bay went on to win the NFC Central, albeit with a mediocre 9-7 tally, and lost badly to Dallas in the NFC Divisional playoff.

Marc Wilson, a 6’6” product of Brigham Young University, had a so-so season in what would ultimately be a mediocre career. He completed just 47.3 % of his passes for 2311 yards with 14 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, and was sacked 30 times. While he lasted in Oakland through the 1987 season, he battled Plunkett for the starting job most of the time, and when the Raiders recovered to win another championship following the ’83 season, it was Plunkett guiding the team in the Super Bowl.

Doug Williams ranked fifth in the NFC with 3563 yards passing and tossed 19 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions (mirroring Wilson’s ratio in a more positive way). Kevin House caught 56 passes for a career-high 1176 yards; his 21.0 yards per catch ranked third in the NFL and nine of his receptions resulted in touchdowns. Jimmie Giles went to the Pro Bowl for the second of three consecutive years (four overall) as he hauled in 45 passes for 786 yards (17.5 average) with six TDs.

For Ted Hendricks (pictured at top), aka The Mad Stork, it was just another highlight in a 15-year career with three teams that earned him numerous honors. He was a four-time consensus first-team All-Pro, was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times (including the 1981 season), and eventually gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.