October 27, 2012

1963: Raiders Upset Chargers in Wild Cliffhanger

The Oakland Raiders were a franchise transformed in 1963. After three seasons in the American Football League that produced a 9-33 record and little fan support, 34-year-old Al Davis was hired away from the San Diego Chargers to become head coach and general manager. He brought a new attitude as well as a new look to the club, and it was beginning to show on the field. By the time the Raiders faced Davis’ old team, the Chargers, on October 27 the record was just 3-4 – but that was two more wins than they had in all of 1962.

San Diego, under Head Coach Sid Gillman, was a powerful and well-balanced team with a 5-1 record. Veteran QB Tobin Rote directed an offense that was potent both on the ground with HB Paul Lowe and all-purpose FB Keith Lincoln as well as through the air thanks to flanker Lance Alworth. Moreover, the Raiders had never beaten the Chargers, going back six games in series history, and most of the scores had been lopsided.

There were 30,182 fans at Balboa Stadium in San Diego. They saw the Raiders get a major break following a first quarter interception by LB Archie Matsos, who lateraled to CB Claude “Hoot” Gibson for a 13-yard return to the San Diego 25. After two short carries by HB Clem Daniels, split end Art Powell, who was double-covered all day, put Oakland on the board by catching a 20-yard pass from QB Tom Flores.

Keith Lincoln returned the ensuing kickoff for San Diego 43 yards to near midfield. In a series highlighted by a 17-yard run by Paul Lowe and 13-yard Keith Lincoln carry, the Chargers advanced to the Oakland 16 where the defense stiffened and George Blair kicked a 23-yard field goal.

A punt by the Raiders from deep in their own territory gave the Chargers good starting field position at their own 42 on their next possession. Rote threw to Alworth for 15 yards and Lowe ran for 10. On first down, Rote fired to Alworth in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown and, with the successful extra point, San Diego was in front by 10-7.

Following the touchdown by Alworth, Al Davis moved CB Fred Williamson to cover him, with good results as the fleet receiver was essentially shut down the rest of the way.

In the second quarter, Williamson set up Oakland’s second touchdown with an interception at the San Diego 30. Daniels got the ball to the 10 on two carries and, after advancing to the five, Flores threw to FB Alan Miller for a TD. The Raiders were back in front at 14-10.

The Chargers retook the lead by 17-14 after a pass from QB John Hadl, subbing for Rote, to TE Jacque MacKinnon that covered 69 yards and concluded the first half scoring. In addition, Oakland’s Flores had to leave the game late in the second quarter due to a head injury and was replaced by Cotton Davidson.

On the second play of the third quarter, CB Dick Harris returned an interception 23 yards for a TD to make it 23-14. Blair’s extra point attempt failed following a bad snap. A fumble recovery by Gibson set up a 39-yard scoring pass from Davidson to flanker Dobie Craig that, with Mike Mercer’s successful PAT, brought the Raiders back to within two points behind. George Blair kicked another field goal for San Diego, this time from 36 yards, to make it a five-point game at 26-21 heading into the final period.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Powell (pictured below) scored another touchdown, this time on an outstanding 46-yard catch on a pass from Davidson in which he pulled the ball in over his shoulder while well-covered by two defenders. The Raiders were back in front at 28-26.

Oakland’s lead didn’t last long, however. San Diego’s Lincoln took off on a 51-yard scoring run on the next series. Following a key defensive stand by the Raiders, they got the ball back with just under four minutes remaining on the clock. Daniels took off on a 41-yard run to the San Diego 20. Davidson, unable to find any receivers on the next play, ran for 11 yards to the nine. Two plays lost a yard before Davidson, with 1:52 left on the clock, scrambled for time and threw to FB Glenn Shaw in the end zone for a ten-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but Oakland had the lead.

There was still time for the Chargers, but Rote was tossed for a 20-yard loss and then Gibson intercepted a pass with a minute left to seal the exciting 34-33 win for the Raiders.

The Chargers had more total yards (380 to 296) and first downs (18 to 13) than Oakland, but they also turned the ball over six times against three turnovers by the Raiders.

In relief of Tom Flores, who was successful on three of 11 passes for 31 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, Cotton Davidson (pictured at left) was very effective, completing 5 of 10 throws for 115 yards with three good for TDs against one intercepted. He also gained 27 yards on five runs. Clem Daniels was outstanding as he rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries. Art Powell caught three passes for 77 yards, two of them for scores.

As for the Chargers, Tobin Rote, who encountered heavy pressure, had a subpar performance as he completed 6 of 14 passes for 67 yards and a TD with four interceptions. Keith Lincoln was sensational in rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, but while Paul Lowe gained 82 yards on 12 attempts, most of that came in the first half - he was largely a nonfactor in the last two quarters. Thanks to the long TD reception, Jacque MacKinnon had 111 yards on three catches while Lance Alworth gained 50 yards, also on three receptions.

San Diego’s a great football team, but we’ve got a great bunch on our club and they just wanted that game so badly today they wouldn’t quit,” summed up Al Davis.

The win for Oakland was the second straight of an eventual eight in a row to close out the season and included another victory over the Chargers at home. The Raiders, at 10-4, ended up second to San Diego (11-3) in the AFL Western Division. The Chargers routed the Boston Patriots in the league’s title game.

Clem Daniels went on to lead the AFL in rushing with 1099 yards on 215 carries (5.1 avg.). Art Powell ranked second with 73 pass receptions for a league-leading 1304 yards and 16 touchdowns. Both were All-AFL selections and Daniels received Player of the Year consideration from The Sporting News.