SI Vault
Edwin Shrake
January 08, 1968
For years the Oakland Raiders bounced from one stadium to another, playing all but unnoticed in the shade of that other professional football team from the town across the Bay. But last week, now firmly settled in their own fine new home, the Raiders finally got what they had been seeking during those darker times—their first American Football League championship. After waiting so long, the Raiders turned the event into an almost casual rout. They beat the Houston Oilers 40-7 and left the impression they could have easily doubled the score if they had not been looking forward to their showdown Super Bowl match with the Green Bay Packers.
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January 08, 1968

Another Old Pro Kicks For Sixteen

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By then Lamonica had found out what he wanted to know. The left side of the Houston defense—Cornerback Miller Farr, rookie Linebacker George Webster and End Pat Holmes—was difficult to crack. Last year the Oilers gave up 25 touchdowns at their left cornerback position, but this season newcomer Farr had chopped that number down to one. But the right side was a different matter. On the first play of the second quarter Oakland Fullback Hewritt Dixon (see cover) went around left end on a sweep, got a clearing block from rookie Guard Gene Upshaw and raced 69 yards for a touchdown. Lamonica kept hitting to his own left. The Raiders sent 12 running plays to that side in the second quarter and gained 131 yards, but it took a fake field goal and a 17-yard pass from Lamonica to Dave Kocourek to get Oakland a 17-0 half-time lead.

"We blew it, that's all," said Lemm. "Our error on that fake field goal was just as important as our fumble on the second-half kickoff."

The fumble occurred when Houston's swift Zeke Moore, racing laterally across the field and looking for running room, dropped the ball after being tackled on the 30, and Oakland's Ken Herock recovered. Seven plays later Lamonica carried over from the one on a quarterback sneak—just as Starr had done against Dallas.

At this point Houston tightened up its defense against the Raider rushing game, but by now Blanda simply could not miss. He kicked another field goal from the 40 to put Oakland ahead 27-0. Then in the fourth quarter he kicked two more, one from the 42 and the last from the 36. And to cap it all off, Lamonica threw a final 12-yard touchdown pass to Bill Miller.

In the meantime the Houston offense, as well as its defense, had almost disappeared. Just as Tom Keating had suggested, the Raiders were able to counter the Oilers' power running with their own overpowering force. Keating, Davidson, Dan Birdwell and Ike Lassiter—the Oakland front four—refused to budge, the linebackers kept the Oiler running attack inside and the best secondary in the league came up to help out. Over the season Granger had gained 1,194 yards rushing, second best in the league. On Sunday he was held to 19 yards in 14 carries.

With no running game, Beathard had to scramble. He threw only one pass to his flanker, Ode Burrell, and that was incomplete. But he threw 18 rimes to Split End Charlie Frazier, who caught seven. After a disappointing season Frazier, Houston's fastest receiver, was the Oilers' only hope for quick touchdowns. He got one in this game on a five-yard pass after a 34-yard interference penalty against Oakland, but usually he was covered closely by Oakland Cornerback Willie Brown and could not get free.

With six minutes left, the Raiders were so comfortably situated that they put Blanda in at quarterback. "It's very sweet to win against people who let you go," Blanda said later in the Oakland locker room, where the Raiders doused themselves with the traditional champagne shower. But the Raiders—who had earned $6,000 apiece for their victory and could now look forward to a chance at $15,000 more against Green Bay—were a little restrained even in their celebration, as though the victory party had been a foregone conclusion—which, to them, it was.

Lamonica said Dixon's long run and the following Oakland touchdown drive—which also was directed toward Houston's right side—were the deciding factors. "We discovered a weakness, and a quarterback has to hit the weakness as long as he can," he said. " Upshaw's blocking had a lot to do with our going to our left, but we were just executing well in that direction."

" Upshaw," said Dixon, "is one beautiful player. On my run, he kicked out the corner and there was nothing in front of me for miles."

Lamonica admitted thoughts of playing in the Super Bowl had been lurking in his head even earlier in the week as he marked his diagrams and considered Oakland's defensive plan against Houston. "I wouldn't be human if I didn't think about going to the Super Bowl," he said. "I'm looking forward very much to playing Green Bay. I was drafted by the Packers when I got out of college, but I chose the AFL. I think I would rather play Green Bay than any other team."

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