Raiders Super Bowl XVIII Ballers & Busters: Defense

This game was to be the Raiders third Super Bowl trophy in seven years. And little did anyone know coming into it that it would be their most dominant of all. The Raiders defense absolutely obliterated the Redskins in this game. Which was quite an accomplishment considering not only were these same Redskins the reigning Super Bowl champions, but they had the best record in football that season. Needless to say, they were heavily favored.

Redskins had a team full of Legendary players and future Hall of Famers. Their offense was led by Joe Theisman(actual pronunciation: Theezman). He had a Hall of Fame running back in John Riggins to hand off to and a Hall of Fame receiver in Art Monk to throw to. Art Monk had a pretty fine wideout joining him in the Redskins receiving corps in Charlie Brown.

These players had time to throw and space to create in which to dominate thanks to the Redskins “Hogs” on the offensive line. But that fateful day in Super Bowl XVIII, none of that would matter. The Raider defense was relentless and smothering.  Riggins had nowhere to run, and the receivers could not get open for Theisman to get them the ball.

In the end, the 38-9 score was not only the most points scored in a Super Bowl prior to that, but more importantly it was the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history up to that point (29 points).  This game was pretty much over by halftime and it was all thanks to the defense.

Ballers

Rod Martin

Yes, that’s right, for the second consecutive Raider Super Bowl, Rod Martin is the top Baller. The dude is so underappreciated. The NFL as a whole and Raider fans in particular always talk about Ted Hendricks as the greatest ever and Matt Millen being a beast and Greg Townsend. All of them are great but Rod Martin stepped up and played his best football when it mattered the most– Twice. He had 3 interceptions in Super Bowl XV and in my opinion deserved to be named MVP over Jim Plunkett. In this Super Bowl he proved he could stuff the run as well. Tackles were not kept as stats back then but I saw him with 5 tackles that were either for little gain, no gain or a loss. His first of those tackles, he shot into the backfield to get a tackle for a loss of 3 yards. It was a hole the ‘Skins could not dig out of and they were forced to punt. His second tackle came when he read a sweep perfectly and stuffed the runner for no gain. His next tackle was a sack for a 7 yard loss. Tackle number four was on a Redskin flee flicker attempt that ended up a broken play that Martin stopped for almost no gain. His final tackle was his best. He shot into the backfield and stuffed the Redskin runner dead in his tracks at the line of scrimmage on a 4th and 1 to force a turnover on downs. He wasn’t done yet though. He ended the next drive as well when he had a near interception on third down. Then his final deed came when he recovered a fumble on a sack late in the 4th quarter to add some insult to injury. He was indeed everywhere on that day.

Michael Haynes

This game was the lynch pin that sealed his induction into the Hall of Fame. He truly displayed his shutdown abilities on that day. He lined up on the left side receiver all day and gave up two catches all game. One of those catches he had great coverage but the ball was placed perfectly along the sideline to Charlie Brown. He had a pass defended that he nearly intercepted on the first Redskin possesson of the game. Theisman was a little gunshy after that and the Redskins drive ended with a punt two plays later on off target incompletions. Theisman stayed away from him for a while after that but then Haynes ended another drive a couple possessions later on a pass defended. After getting a stinger on the first play of the 3rd quarter, he went out for one play and came back in. Theisman didn’t throw to his receiver the entire rest of the quarter. But after the Raiders went up 35-9 heading into the 4th quarter, desperate times called for desperate measures. The ensuing Redskin drive attempt lasted all of four plays. The second play, Haynes had tight coverage on an incompletion and the third, Theisman looked to throw to his man and ended up getting sacked because Haynes had the receiver blanketed. The next drive, Haynes did give up the longest pass play of the game(60 yards) by the Redskins. But the Raider defense shut down their scoring attempt anyway. The final drive by the Redskins ended after three plays when Haynes made a gorgeous leaping interception that would put an exclamation point on the victory.

Charlie Sumner

He was the architect of it all– the defensive coordinator. His defensive schemes and playcalling had the Redskins completely confused and befuddled. On the sidelines after the interception for a Touchdown at the end of the first half, Matt Millen could be seen wildly congratulating Sumner for a masterful play call. And then of course, Millen bear hugged little old Charlie and lifted him off the ground in celebration. Aside from that interception TD, Sumner made the perfect call later on that resulted in another turnover. He called a safety blitz that had Mike Davis shooting in on Theisman’s blindside. The embattled quarterback didn’t see Davis sprinting toward him at all and it resulted in a vicious sack that knocked the ball loose for a fumble and a Raider recovery. He game planned for the Redskins potent attack perfectly. They never had a chance. Every single play, the Raiders brought pressure while there was still no one open to get the ball to. It was like the Raiders were playing with 13 guys on the field the whole time.  It is a concept that has been sorely lacking with the Raiders for quite a while.

Reggie Kinlaw

They said he was too small to play nose tackle. Tell that to John Riggins and see what he says. The Redskins tried to run Riggins up the middle of the Raiders line a few times in the first half of this game. But Kinlaw was having none of it. He was equal parts immovable mass and mass mover. He would hold his gap while brushing aside offensive lineman like pests. He set the tone with the first tackle of the game by the Raiders on a run stuff for minimal gain. Riggins and the Redskins were in for a long day after that. The reason I only mention the first half is for a couple of reasons. First of all, at 21-3, the game was essentially over by halftime. And second of all, the Redskins almost completely stopped trying to run the ball down the center of the line after that. Kinlaw had done his damage early on and after that, the Redskins spent the rest of the game trying to play catch up. A task they would fall well short of.

Howie Long

He struck constant fear into Theisman. Every time the ball was snapped, Theisman knew that Howie was coming for him fast and fierce. Howie ended the ‘skins first drive when he pressured Theisman into an incompletion on third down. He ran down Theisman again a few drives later and contained him to allow Matt Millen to sack him. The following drive he had another QB pressure and was held by the offensive tackle for a penalty to back the Redskins up 10 yards. Later in the possession he had a run stuff and the drive ended on the next play. And all before half time. In the third quarter he was back at it with another run down and containment of Theisman that resulted in another Raider sack. He would have yet another QB pressure before the day was over. Theisman probably still sees Howie Long in his nightmares to this day. I know I would.

Jack Squirek

With the Raiders up 14-3, the Redskins got the ball with a few seconds left on the clock before halftime. The Redskin offense lined up with trips right(three receivers). Theisman rolled right as if he were going to throw to one of them but instead, turned left and threw to the tight end. The intention was to get the Raiders defense committed to the right side of the field leaving the tight end with nothing but open field to perhaps take it the distance. Squirek didn’t bite. He stayed at home, like they drill into players over and over. The result was he stepped in front of the intended receiver to pick the ball off and ran 5 yards into the end zone. Half over. Raiders up 21-3. Redskins went to the lockeroom with the life sucked out of them. Squirek also had a tipped pass at the line in the third quarter to end a drive and a run stuff on 3rd and 2 to set up a failed 4th and 1 attempt for a turnover on downs. And then he put a cherry on top when he pressure Theisman into throwing into coverage for the interception by Michael Haynes that cemented the final score and lopsided Raider victory.

Derek Jensen

He got the Raiders on the board first when he sprinted into the Redskins backfield, leaped and blocked their punt attempt. He then got up and ran down the free ball into the endzone for a blocked punt, recovery and touchdown– the trifecta. He was also a beast on special teams. He had two gunner tackles on kick returns. The first one came on the ensuing kickoff immediately following his blocked punt touchdown.

Honorable Mention

Lester Hayes

Hayes did give up a few catches in the game as well as a pass interference penalty that set up the Redskins early field goal. But overall he was great. Evidence of that was the fact that he often lined up opposite Art Monk and the Hall of Fame receiver didn’t have his first catch until  the beginning of the 4th quarter. The 26 yard reception turned out to be his only catch of the day.

Mike Davis

Looking like the spirit of Jack Tatum had possessed him in this game, he was a terror all over the field. He is widely considered one of the better safeties in Raider history. And he brought his A-game on this day. He only had one big play on the day when he was sent on a safety blitz and nailed Theisman to force a fumble which was recovered by the Raiders. But he always seemed to be around the ball, reminding the Redskins that he was there. He had a coverage incompletion, a pass defended and a run stuff to go along with his sack/force fumble.

Buster

Ted Hendricks

I hate to put him on the Buster list here. Afterall, he is a Hall of Famer and the greatest Raider linebacker of all time. But this isn’t about overall body of work, it is about one game performance. His Pro Bowl season certainly earned his right to be on that team but by any measurement, Hendricks should not have been on that field in this game. He was not fully recovered from an injury so you can make the argument that it is the fault of the coaches if you so choose. But there is no denying he was a hinderance to this team in this game. While the rest of the team was all over the field and attacking, his feet were in cement. He had three plays go through him in this game. The first he was just handled on the block in a way that he would never have had happen normally and the run gave the Redskins a first down. The next two blown plays came on the same drive and were the most damaging. The first of them was with the Redskins on the 13 yard line looking to score. It was an edge rush that not only could Hendricks not make the tackle but he got in the way of Millen making the tackle and the 8 yard run set the Redskins up on the 5 yard line. Two plays later the Redskins ran right at him again and he couldn’t fill his gap, giving the Redskins their only touchdown of the day. Hendricks would retire after the Super Bowl.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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