George Blanda’s miracle season

American professional football player kicker George Blanda #16 of the Oakland Raiders watches the game after he kicked the extra point against the Kansas City Chiefs that made him the first player in American football to score 2,000 points, Oakland, California, December 22, 1975. He was the only player to have done this until 2000. He also holds a record for the longest pro career at 26 years. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

George Blanda was a legend before he ever took the field for the Raiders. He had played for George Halas and the Chicago Bears and the Houston Oilers before he donned the Silver and Black for the first time in 1967. He would continue with the Raiders until his retirement after the 1975 season.

Blanda was best known for his play as a kicker and, to a lesser extent, a quarterback. He was a backup quarterback in Oakland for nine years. He retired with the most points scored by a Raider, a record that stood until 2008 when Sebastian Janikowski split the uprights with a field goal to break it.

 

George Blanda was an ageless wonder by any definition. What was most remarkable was the stretch he had in the 1970 season where he came off the bench to lead the Raiders to tie or win in five straight games– often in dramatic fashion. This won him recognition as an All Pro and earned him the Bert Bell award for the player of the year. On the surface of things that sounds like a good run for any player, but Blanda accomplished that feat at 43 years old and in his 20th year as a pro football player.

He started the string in a game against the soon-to-be arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. He came off the bench to relieve an injured Daryle Lamonica and went 7 of 12 for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Raiders steamrolled the Steelers 31-14.

In the second game of the string he kicked a 48 yard field goal as time expired to secure a come from behind 17-17 tie against the division rival Kansas City Chiefs.

The third game of the string saw “The Old Man” come off the bench to lead the Raiders to 10 unanswered points to secure a victory over the Cleveland Browns. He was 7 of 12 for 108 yards; which included a 14 yard touchdown strike to Warren Wells that tied the game at 20. He capped the game with a 52 yard, game-winning field goal.

The following week, Blanda again brought the Raiders back from the brink when he hit fellow Hall of Fame member Fred Biletnikoff for a 20 yard touchdown strike to send the Denver Broncos down to defeat 24-19.

The final game of the streak concluded with Blanda hitting a last second chip shot field goal to give the Raiders a victory over the San Diego Chargers.

With that five game run, Blanda was responsible for the growth of the Raider mystique that they would “Just Win, baby” and pull victory from the jaws of defeat. He has since become almost a patron saint to those who refuse to let age slow them down.

About Patrick A. Patterson, Senior Writer

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