Welcome to a special offseason edition of Ballers & Busters. This time we break down the Raiders’ play in Super Bowl II versus the Green Bay Packers. It will be another month or so before the first preseason game and therefore the next B&B. Last offseason I gave the Raiders’ three Super Bowl wins the B&B treatment. So now with the offseason lull this year, I figured I would do the same for their first Super Bowl appearance.
The Raiders were the upstart young team against the perennial NFL powerhouse Packers and their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi. There is a reason why the trophy bears his name. This was to be his last game as an NFL head coach before retiring. And he and his players were determined to make it a good one.
The Raiders were led by their defensive front four and their All-Pro, first-year gunslinger at quarterback, Daryle “Mad Bomber” Lamonica. They had finished the season 13-1 and had a swagger and confidence about them even though they were facing the the five-time NFL champion and returning Super Bowl champion Packers.
It was a tough game to say the least for these young Raiders. But as in most trials by fire, this game would bring the heroes to the forefront and show the rest that they had a lot more to learn.
Let’s start with those who aspired to be heroes.
Of the field, Keating was known for being a gourmet chef and a connoisseur of fine wines. On the field, he would do in this Super Bowl what he had done for the Raiders all season — wreak havoc. It seemed every time he made a play, it was a big one. His first big play came in the beginning of the second quarter. After the Packers had a long sustained drive and were knocking on the door at the 13 yard line, Keating sacked Bart Starr for an 11 yard loss, forcing Green Bay to settle for a field goal. Later in the second quarter, just after the Raiders had scored their first touchdown, he had his second sack of the day. Then on the very next play, he stuffed the runner at the line, forcing a three and out. The Raiders would get the ball back in Green Bay territory and miss a long field goal that would have put them within three points. Late in the game, with a win seemingly out of reach, Keating had another couple of back to back plays. First he stuffed the runningback at the line for no gain and then on third down he had his third sack of the day. It gave the Raiders the ball back with just over a minute to save a little pride.
He led the Raiders in tackles that day, which is not typical for a defensive end. Davidson had eleven tackles for the Raiders, many of which were far from his area of assignment. He had three tackles in the first quarter before he got his first shot at the quarterback. He came flying up the middle using his 6-7 stature to block any chance Bart Starr would have of passing the ball. Unfortunately Starr eluded him and rolled out for a 16 yard gain. Davidson was quiet for the second quarter as his teammate, the aforementioned Tom Keating, went to work. But like a tag team, once the third quarter came around, it was all Big Ben Davidson. It was with the Raider backs to the endzone that he had his second tackle of the quarter. On first and one from the one yard line, he shot through and tackled the Packer runner for a loss to put them in second and two. The Packers would take it to the other side of the line to score on the next play. Two drives later, to begin the fourth quarter, he began a drive with his second sack of the day. The drive would end in a three and out. He would stop one more drive that day with a run stuff for no gain and two plays later end with a tackle for a short gain. He wanted this win more than anyone on the field that day and left everything out there to get it. Can’t ask for anything more than that.
Miller led all receivers with five catches for 84 yards. His two biggest plays were both 23 yard catches for touchdowns, the only scores the Raiders would have on the day. His first catches came on the Raiders’ second drive. Along with those two catches, he also drew a pass interference on the Packers. Those two catches and the PI penalty put the Raiders in good field position where the punter, Mike Eischied, was able to pin the Packers at their own 3 yard line. In the second quarter, Miller had a 16 yard catch on the drive that ended with his first 23 yard touchdown. His final catch was his second touchdown but it turned out to be too little, too late.
He was second on the team with ten tackles. That alone doesn’t say much considering he was the Raiders’ middle linebacker. The quality came in the quantity of yards — or rather the lack thereof. Almost all of his tackles were at or very near the line of scrimmage, which means he was not waiting for the play to develop, he was finding the gap and attacking. I honestly didn’t see a moment in which he was caught out of position. It often seemed like he was the only linebacker on the field for the Raiders. He had at least one run stuffing tackle on the first SIX Packer drives. That was tackles for one yard, no gain, a loss of one, two yards, two yards (on third and three), two yards, and one yard. Seven tackles; seven yards. The Packers didn’t have a drive without a Conners run stuff until the fourth quarter. To be fair, his other three tackles went for seven yards, five yards, and five yards. But hey, nobody’s perfect.
Birdwell is the third piece of the Raiders’ powerful four-man front. He got plenty licks of his own that day. He ended the Packers’ first drive with a tackle for a loss, which held them to a field goal. Then, to begin the second quarter, he teamed up with Keating to sack Bart Starr and hold the Packers to another field goal. To continue the theme, Birdwell had another tackle for loss to end the third quarter and hold the Packers to yet another field goal. One more time, he got into the backfield to contain the quarterback for a sack to end the Packers’ final drive. He would finish the day with six tackles — third on the team.
The Raiders’ leading rusher in this game, Dixon set out to punish any Packer defenders who got in his way whenever he carried the ball. He had 54 yards rushing which isn’t a lot but he did it on 12 carries. The Raiders played from behind most of the day and were forced to air it out. But, let’s be honest, this is the Raiders we’re talking about. They were going to be airing it out regardless. Hewritt’s first nice run went for 9 yards right up the gut on third down and gave the Raiders a crucial first down en route to their first touchdown of the day. Hewritt started off the third quarter with a 14 yard run that would end up being the only positive yards the Raiders gained in the quarter. He began the fourth quarter with a 15 yard run but the promising drive ended with an interception returned 60 yards for a touchdown. He began the next drive with an 8 yard run and a 2 yard run for a first down. Two plays later, the Raiders scored a touchdown. Dixon churned out yardage when the Raiders needed him to in this game, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
I rarely use this category. It only fits when there is a player who is involved in a lot of big plays that all need to be mentioned but are equally positive and negative, and therefore can’t be placed in either category. Lamonica had one of those days. He came off a season that saw him named All Pro in not only his first season with the Raiders but his first full season as a quarterback in the NFL. Prior to that season, he was the punter for the Bills. Quite a change from punter to “Mad Bomber” to be certain. But nonetheless, he was the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl and that is plenty to be nervous about.
He didn’t get off to a good start, throwing incomplete on his first two passes to go three and out to start the game. Lamonica would shake it off and completed two passes on the Raiders’ next drive. However, the drive ended on another errant pass. In the second quarter he showed some of what earned him All Pro honors when he completed passes of 4, 16, and 35 yards before throwing a 23 yard strike for a touchdown to bring the Raiders to within a score. He was back and forth in this game, ending the next drive with another high incompletion on a drive that ended with a missed long field goal attempt. He didn’t complete a single pass in the third quarter with two more high incompletions on a three and out.
It got even worse on the first drive of the fourth quarter when he threw an interception that was returned 60 yards for a Packer touchdown. On the Raiders’ ensuing drive, he showed he wasn’t shaken by the big interception by throwing two long completions, the first for 41 yards and the second was a 23 yard touchdown. The Raiders were down 33-14 at this point and their chances were slim. After the Raider defense held the Packers to a three and out, Lamonica would have to work efficiently if he hoped to lead the Raiders back. After a five yard run and two completions of 10 yards and 6 yards, things were looking good. But a low pass and a second incompletion later and those hopes dried up. The Raiders would have one more drive on the day to save pride and it ended with yet another pass into the turf.