The Oakland Raiders were the American Football League’s most improved team as they hosted the San Diego Chargers on December 8, 1963. Under new Head Coach Al Davis, the Raiders had a new look and attitude, and a 7-4 record which, for a club that had won a total of three games over the last two seasons, was noteworthy enough. The duo of Tom Flores and Cotton Davidson handled the quarterbacking and HB Clem Daniels (pictured above) had emerged as a top rusher and receiver out of the backfield while split end Art Powell was a productive receiver. The defense, although better, was still a work in progress.
San Diego, at 9-2, was the team the Raiders were trying to catch, and they had upset the Chargers earlier in the year on the road. Head Coach Sid Gillman’s club featured an explosive offense directed by 35-year-old QB Tobin Rote. The receiving corps led by flanker Lance Alworth was outstanding and the running back combination of HB Paul Lowe and FB Keith Lincoln productive. The defense was tough, led by a rugged front line that featured DE Earl Faison and DT Ernie Ladd.
There were 20,249 fans in attendance at Frank Youell Field in Oakland in what was viewed as the biggest game thus far in the Raiders’ brief history. However, it was the Chargers striking quickly on the game’s opening possession. Tobin Rote threw to Keith Lincoln on the first play to pick up 26 yards to the Oakland 26 and, while the visitors lost yardage on the next two plays, Rote passed to split end Don Norton on a third-and-16 play that resulted in a 32-yard touchdown. George Blair added the extra point for the early 7-0 advantage.
The teams exchanged punts before the Raiders, taking possession at their 40, drove to the San Diego 30. Clem Daniels threw an option pass to Art Powell for 10 yards in a third-and-seven situation and QB Tom Flores connected with Daniels for 14 yards to the San Diego 33. Mike Mercer kicked a 37-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
The Chargers again punted following a short series and Oakland was driving as the game headed into the second quarter but also was forced to punt from midfield after Flores was sacked on third down. San Diego proceeded to drive 89 yards in six plays. Rote passed to Lance Alworth for a big pickup of 54 yards to the Oakland 35 and then connected with TE Dave Kocurek for another nine yards. Rote carried for five yards and a first down, threw to Norton for seven yards, and two plays later FB Bobby Jackson ran 14 yards for a TD. Blair again successfully converted and the visitors were up by 14-3.
Oakland responded with a scoring drive of 70 yards in six plays. Flores completed consecutive passes to Daniels, the longest for 21 yards, and while a holding penalty cost the Raiders 15 yards, Flores completed a throw to FB Alan Miller for 20 yards while facing second-and-22. A Daniels carry lost a yard, but on fourth down Flores fired down the middle for Powell (pictured below) and the result was a 45-yard touchdown. Mercer added the point after and the San Diego lead was narrowed to 14-10.
Alworth returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to give the Chargers good starting field position at their 44 and Rote immediately threw to Paul Lowe for 12 yards. But the series stalled at the Oakland 38 and Blair was wide on a 45-yard field goal attempt. The Raiders reached the San Diego 39 on their next possession but turned the ball over on downs and, with time running down in the first half, the Chargers moved 61 yards in five plays. Rote hit Norton twice, for 22 and 36 yards, to reach the Oakland three and, after losing ground on a running play, it was Rote to TE Jacque MacKinnon for a five-yard TD. Blair missed the extra point but the Chargers took a 20-10 lead into halftime.
The Raiders, with Cotton Davidson now at quarterback, had the first possession in the third quarter and thanks primarily to a run by Daniels for 23 yards they advanced into San Diego territory. But a holding penalty moved them back after reaching the 24 and after a long throw by Davidson intended for Powell in the end zone fell incomplete, Mercer was short on a 48-yard try for a field goal.
The teams again traded punts before the Chargers advanced 75 yards in six plays. A pass interference penalty helped San Diego along and Rote completed a pass to Kocurek for 40 yards. Rote finished the series off with a toss to Alworth for a 15-yard touchdown and, with Blair successful on the extra point, the Chargers carried a seemingly-comfortable 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Raiders had to punt early in the final period but got the ball back when Jackson fumbled after gaining 24 yards on a screen pass and safety Tom Morrow recovered for Oakland. Daniels took off on a 35-yard run and while Davidson was sacked by Earl Faison on the next play, he connected with Powell in the end zone on third down for a 10-yard TD. Mercer converted and the Raiders were down by ten points at 27-17.
On the second play of San Diego’s next possession, Lowe fumbled and safety Joe Krakoski recovered for the Raiders at the Chargers’ 23. Davidson tossed three incomplete passes but Mercer kicked a 30-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 27-20.
A short series by the Chargers resulted in a punt and Paul McGuire, after fielding a bad snap, kicked short to his own 43. Davidson threw a swing pass to Miller for six yards on second down and scrambled for 12 yards to the 22. Another pass and a run by Daniels got the ball to the nine, and from there Davidson ran for a touchdown. Mercer added the point after and the score was tied at 27-27.
Another short San Diego possession resulted in a punt and a good return by CB Claude Gibson had 15 yards tacked on due to a face mask penalty on the Chargers. Three plays later, Davidson passed to Powell in the end zone for a 40-yard TD. With Mercer’s kick, the Raiders were now in front by 34-27.
John Hadl was at quarterback when the reeling Chargers had the ball next, and he completed his first two passes, the longest of 18 yards to Norton to reach the Oakland 38. But the next three throws were incomplete and, on fourth down, Hadl’s pass was intercepted by LB Clancy Osborne, who returned it 48 yards to the San Diego 12. Miller ran for a two-yard touchdown that was the final nail in San Diego’s coffin. With the 31-point fourth quarter explosion, Oakland came away the winner by a final score of 41-27.
The Raiders led in total yards (406 to 336) and first downs (24 to 17). They held San Diego’s vaunted running attack to just 45 yards while gaining 154 yards of their own. San Diego also turned the ball over three times, with catastrophic results in the fourth quarter, while Oakland had no turnovers. However, the Raiders were penalized eight times, at a cost of 101 yards, to two flags thrown on the Chargers.
Tom Flores was 11 of 23 for 173 yards and a touchdown before being relieved by Cotton Davidson, who completed 6 of 17 passes for 95 yards and two TDs and ran seven times for 41 yards and a score. Clem Daniels rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries and had 7 catches for another 90 yards and also completed a 10-yard pass. Art Powell caught 6 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns.
For the Chargers, Tobin Rote was successful on 17 of 25 throws for 284 yards and three TDs. Don Norton (pictured at right) had 6 pass receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown and Lance Alworth contributed three catches for 71 yards and a TD as well. However, Bobby Jackson led the team in rushing with 33 yards on five attempts that included a score while Paul Lowe was held to five yards on six carries and Keith Lincoln to no yards on two attempts.
“I didn’t really feel we were out of it at any time,” said Oakland’s Coach Davis. “We were always in there but just couldn’t do things right for awhile.”
The stunning win kept the Raiders in contention in the Western Division and they won their last two games, for a total of eight straight, to finish with a 10-4 record. However, San Diego also won its remaining contests and topped the division at 11-3. The Chargers went on to demolish the Boston Patriots to win the AFL Championship.
With Tom Flores passing for 2101 yards and Cotton Davidson 1276, the Raiders accumulated 3377 yards through the air and a league-leading 31 touchdowns. Clem Daniels set a new AFL record with 1099 rushing yards and also led the circuit by averaging 22.8 yards on 30 pass receptions. Art Powell topped the league with 16 touchdown receptions and 1304 receiving yards on his second-ranked 73 catches.