Two fierce rivals, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, were featured in a Monday night NFL game on September 20, 1976. The visiting Raiders had won their opener over Pittsburgh the previous week while Kansas City lost to the Chargers, but beyond that, the two clubs were in very different places as they met for the 35th time.
Oakland, coached by John Madden for the eighth season and coming off an 11-3 record in ‘75, had topped the AFC West in five of the previous six seasons. QB Ken “The Snake” Stabler (pictured above) was an able, if immobile, passer and had fine wide receivers available in Cliff Branch and the aging Fred Biletnikoff, plus up-and-coming TE Dave Casper. There was also a good, if unspectacular, group of running backs operating behind an excellent line. The defense was tough and aggressive.
The Chiefs had not done so well in recent years. They finished at 5-9 in each of the previous two seasons, including their first under Head Coach Paul Wiggin, successor to the esteemed Hank Stram, in ’75. QB Len Dawson had finally retired after an outstanding career and longtime backup Mike Livingston was taking over the reins, but there were still too many aging players on the roster.
It was a clear Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium with 60,884 fans in attendance. The teams traded punts before the Raiders drove 67 yards in 12 plays. Ken Stabler completed six passes, including two that converted third downs and the last for a 15-yard touchdown to Dave Casper. Fred Steinfort added the extra point.
Following another short possession leading to a punt by the Chiefs, Oakland put together another 12-play scoring drive that extended into the second quarter, advancing 72 yards. FB Mark van Eeghen (pictured below) and HB Pete Banaszak ran effectively and Stabler connected twice on passes to Cliff Branch, the first for 13 yards to convert a third down and the second for a 10-yard TD. Steinfort again converted and the Raiders were ahead by 14-0 and clearly the dominant team.
The teams exchanged punts until the Raiders got the ball back at their 14 with three minutes to play in the half. HB Clarence Davis ran for the necessary 14 yards in a third-and-14 situation and Banaszak followed up with a 15-yard carry. Completions to Branch, Casper, and Fred Biletnikoff advanced the ball to the Kansas City 20 and, with the clock down to 27 seconds Steinfort kicked a 37-yard field goal to stake Oakland to a 17-0 halftime lead. Kansas City had managed just 37 yards of offense thus far.
The Chiefs had the first possession of the third quarter and, with Mike Livingston completing passes to TE Walter White for 25 yards and WR Henry Marshall for 21, reached the Oakland 23. However, they came up empty when Jan Stenerud was wide on a 41-yard field goal attempt.
CB Tim Collier intercepted a Stabler pass on the next series, but the Chiefs fumbled the ball right back. Oakland went three-and-out and had to punt, and Kansas City put together another good drive of 54 yards in nine plays, and this time didn’t fail to put points on the board. HB Woody Green ran the ball four times for 35 yards and FB MacArthur Lane carried for the last yard and a touchdown. Stenerud added the extra point and it was a 17-7 game after three quarters.
The Raiders responded by driving 72 yards in eight plays. A 16-yard Stabler completion to Biletnikoff had an unnecessary roughness penalty on FS Gary Barbaro tacked onto it to advance Oakland to the KC 14, and from there Stabler connected with WR Mike Siani for a TD. Steinfort’s PAT again made it a 17-point margin favoring the visitors, although “The Snake” was injured from a hit by DE Wilbur Young on the scoring play.
The Chiefs had to punt following their next series and the Raiders, now with Mike Rae at quarterback for Stabler, punted the ball back in turn. With 3:41 left on the clock, Kansas City took over and drove 87 yards in 12 plays. Livingston completed three passes but it was the running of Green and Lane that fueled KC’s advance. Livingston ran the ball himself for a one-yard touchdown and, with Stenerud again adding the extra point, Oakland’s lead was narrowed to 24-14.
That still appeared formidable as the Raiders took possession, but Banaszak ran the ball three straight times, fumbled on the last carry after gaining first down yardage, and LB Billy Andrews recovered for the Chiefs at the Oakland 25. On the next play, Livingston threw to TE Billy Masters in the middle of the end zone for a TD, Stenerud converted, and the home team was only behind by a touchdown.
That was as far as Kansas City’s surge would carry, however. The ensuing try for an onside kick failed and, with the Chiefs out of timeouts, the Raiders were able to run out the clock as van Eeghen carried four times for 27 yards and two first downs. Oakland held on to win by a final score of 24-21.
The Raiders dominated in total yards (446 to 280), with 211 of that total coming on the ground, and also had the edge in first downs (25 to 18). Oakland also recorded the only three sacks of the game, but also turned the ball over twice (to one by KC) and was penalized 11 times at a cost of 104 yards, to 8 flags thrown on the Chiefs.
Ken Stabler was highly efficient as he completed 22 of 28 passes, including 11 of his first 12, for 224 yards and three touchdowns while giving up one interception, until a strained right knee forced him from the contest. Mark van Eeghen ran for 84 yards on 19 carries, Pete Banaszak contributed 61 yards on 11 attempts, and Clarence Davis gained 59 yards on his 12 runs. Cliff Branch had 5 catches for 62 yards and a TD and Dave Casper was right behind at 5 receptions and 57 yards with a score.
For the Chiefs, Mike Livingston was successful on 12 of 21 throws for 190 yards and a TD with none intercepted. Woody Green ran for 75 yards on 14 attempts and caught three passes for 28 more yards while MacArthur Lane (pictured below) gained 34 yards on 9 carries that included a touchdown and had a team-leading four pass receptions for 69 yards.
“I can’t account for the first half,” said Kansas City’s Coach Wiggin. “I wish I could. It was just a solid indication we were playing a superior football team.”
The Raiders lost only once all season, again topping the AFC West at 13-1 and advancing to a win over the Vikings in the Super Bowl. Kansas City compiled a third straight 5-9 record to place fourth in the division.
Ken Stabler missed the following week due to his injury but came back to lead the NFL in passing (103.4 rating) in addition to completion percentage (66.7), yards per attempt (9.4), and TD passes (27). He was chosen to the Pro Bowl and received the Bert Bell award as NFL Player of the Year. Cliff Branch (46 catches, 1111 yards, 24.2 avg., 12 TDs) and Dave Casper (53 catches, 691 yards, 10 TDs) were both consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl selections. Mark van Eeghen ran for 1012 yards on 233 carries (4.3 avg.), his first of three straight thousand yard ground-gaining seasons.
Woody Green’s career ended four weeks later due to a knee injury that required surgery while 34-year-old MacArthur Lane led the Chiefs in rushing with 542 yards and topped the NFL with 66 catches, for 686 yards.