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NO MIRACLE REQUIRED
Tex Maule
December 21, 1970
For weeks the Oakland Raiders stayed in the race by means of a series of almost supernatural last-second wins, but when they beat Kansas City for the Western Division title their tactics were au naturel
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December 21, 1970

No Miracle Required

For weeks the Oakland Raiders stayed in the race by means of a series of almost supernatural last-second wins, but when they beat Kansas City for the Western Division title their tactics were au naturel

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This time, anyway, Oakland had the right people. A giant among them was Marv Hubbard, a burly running back who went to Colgate, can you imagine. He carried the ball 16 times, gained 93 yards and scored the first and winning touchdown.

The Raiders rarely use Hubbard, who is listed on their depth chart as a substitute for Hewritt Dixon. Until last week, he had carried the ball only 35 times, but 18 of those (for 98 yards) had come in the first game against Kansas City. "I'm at my best against these guys," Hubbard said, an assessment with which Coach John Madden is evidently in accord. "I love to beat them more than anything else."

Hubbard moves as mercilessly as a bowling ball and is a strongly motivated man. "All afternoon I was looking for Willie Lanier [the Chiefs' middle linebacker]," he said after the game, blithely ignoring his running heroics. "He's supposed to be the best and I want the best. Finally I got him on a block and I knocked him right on his butt." Lanier, to be fair, replied in kind on a couple of occasions.

In another key matchup, Oakland Wide Receiver Fred Biletnikoff had the edge on Jim Marsalis, the Kansas City cornerback. Marsalis has fine speed, water-bug-quick reactions and a nose for the ball, but Biletnikoff caught a 36-yard touchdown pass with Marsalis a half-step behind him. Earlier, Biletnikoff had run the same pattern, but Marsalis went up with him and tipped the ball away. The difference between the two plays was that Lamonica's pass hung the first time.

In midweek Jim Tyrer said, "This is going to be a fistfight. It will be won on the front line. The thing about our offense has been blown out of proportion—the moving pocket, all the rest of it. It still comes down to Jim Tyrer blocking Ben Davidson. It's like serving the same dish with different dressing, a little different preparation. When the dressing is removed, it comes down to eight Chiefs being All-Pros. We're a Sears, Roebuck team. Coach Stram looked through the catalog and picked the people he needed to fit his needs."

Tyrer did a fairly good job on Davidson. Big Ben, known for his handlebar mustache and flair for wreaking havoc on quarterbacks, was unable to talk after the game. He whispered he had laryngitis from shouting at the officials. Like all defensive linemen, he was howling about being held. "We were very loose before this game," Davidson croaked. "I've played on a lot of pro ball clubs, but I never saw anything like this. It was amazing. In the dressing room the radio was going wide open and guys were dancing buck-naked. It was something."

The first half of the game was less than that, a reversion to the days of punt, pass and prayer. Neither team wanted to take chances, and because both stuck to the ground the first quarter zipped by in 22 minutes. At the end of this period Kansas City had its only lead of the day, 3-0. Those points came on a 20-yard field goal by Jan Stenerud. Later Stenerud missed a 29-yarder, one of the few times he has missed a gimme. Blanda put the Raiders ahead in the second quarter with his two field goals, one coming typically with three seconds to play in the half, a kick that created an extraordinary exultation in the crowd of 54,596, a stadium record by a margin of two fans.

The second half was no contest. The Raiders had established physical and psychological superiority; the Chiefs responded to intimidation with increasing lethargy. Although behind, Strain—the gambler in the red vest—played his cards so close to that vest that the red must have rubbed off on them. Even when he fell far back, Dawson was reluctant to go to the bomb; perhaps he was haunted by the memory of Frank Pitts dropping two long balls in the first half, one of which should have been a touchdown. Yet it might have turned the trick. The Raiders play bump-and-run, and if the bump doesn't work near the line of scrimmage, the run must be fast indeed to cover receivers like Pitts and Otis Taylor racing deep into the secondary.

The Raider touchdown drive in the third quarter was a good example of how Lamonica mixed up his plays, thoroughly confusing the tendency chart the Chiefs had plotted on him off the first game. Late in this period, with the Raiders having a first and 10 on their 20—a situation usually calling for a conservative move—Lamonica threw to Warren Wells for an 18-yard gain and a first down. Next, Hubbard went outside right tackle for 14 yards and through left tackle for eight more. On the following play Hubbard went up the middle for two and a first down. Then Lamonica threw again, to the surprise and ultimate dismay of the Chief defense. On this play Marsalis was caught interfering with Biletnikoff and the Raiders had the ball on the Kansas City 16. From there Hubbard carried four times in a row, scoring from six yards out.

Gene Upshaw, the Raiders' left guard, said after the game, "We picked 'em and picked 'em and picked 'em. One time I went into the huddle and said, 'Run 65, man-to-man blocking.' At the start I didn't think we could do it, but we did it. We had to do it—for ourselves."

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