The Super Bowl is just 37 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 37 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Louisiana’s Superdome hosted Super Bowl XV on January 25, 1981. The game pitted the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles against the Oakland Raiders of the American Football Conference. The game was played amid the backdrop of the more serious world events. That week, US hostages were released from Iranian control adding to the emotional nature of the game.
Philadelphia Eagles 37 Years Ago
For Eagles’ fans, winning the NFC championship was a culmination of Dick Vermeil’s culture change. Philadelphia had long been home to a losing football team. But, Vermeil instituted a winning attitude from the day he arrived from UCLA.
They were not an overnight success. In 1978, they chocked in a Wild Card loss at Atlanta. In 1979, they lost as a road favorite in Tampa. But, in 1980, they were the NFC’s best from day one. Their offense centered around three Pro Bowlers. Wilbert Montgomery was a sensational, young running back, the team’s best player. At quarterback, Ron Jaworski was rugged and had a rocket for an arm. They also had a giant. Veteran wide receiver Harold Carmichael was virtually uncoverable at 6’8”.
The 1980 Eagles had the #1 defense in points allowed and #2 in yards allowed. They did not play a bad game on that side of the ball all season. Nose tackle Charlie Johnson was the best of a very experienced bunch.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Eagles came out very flat. The youthful Vikings pounced on their mistakes and took a shocking 14-0 lead. However, Philadelphia got down to business in the second half. They won going away, 31-16.
In the NFC championship game, Philadelphia hosted Dallas in ice-cold Veterans Stadium. One minute into the game, Montgomery scored on a burst through the middle. He wasn’t even touched on the play that gave Philly a 7-0 lead. The Eagles’ defense punished Danny White and ‘dem Boys. The win sent Philadelphia to their first Super Bowl appearance.
Oakland Raiders 37 Years Ago
The 1980 season saw a changing of the guard in the AFC. The usually formidable and two-time defending World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers had a down season. Thus, the conference was wide open. It was so tight that each of the five playoff teams finished with identical 11-5 records.
The Bills won the AFC East behind a great defense. The Chargers had a historically good offense. The Browns were known as the “Cardiac Kids” for their amazing comebacks. Yet, the two best overall teams in the AFC in 1980 probably played in the Wild Card game.
It was Houston with ex-Raider Ken Stabler at quarterback at Oakland. The Raiders had a tumultuous 1980 season under Tom Flores. Their starting QB was former-Oiler Dan Pastorini. But, Pastorini broke his leg in week 5. Who was next on the depth chart? Ten-year veteran Jim Plunkett. Plunkett proceeded to put together a season Cinderella would have been proud of.
On defense, the Raiders had a cornerback named Lester Hayes. Hayes’ 1980 season is arguably the best-ever by a defensive back in NFL history. Counting the playoffs, the Raiders played in 20 games in 1980. Hayes recorded an insane 18 interceptions for 318 yards! What a performance!
In the Wild Card game against Houston, Hayes intercepted his former teammate Stabler and scored. Oakland won, 27-7. The win sent them to Cleveland. In one of the coldest games in NFL history, the players look like they are just trying to survive the elements. The Raiders led 14-12 late in the game. The Browns were in field goal range, but kicker Don Cockcroft was having a miserable day, so they took a shot at the end zone. Safety Mike Davis stepped in front of Brian Sipe’s pass and Oakland advanced.
They would play at San Diego for the AFC title. The Chargers beat the Bills on a TD pass with two minutes left in their divisional round game and were slight favorites to defeat Oakland. The Chargers moved the ball all game against the Raiders. But, the Raiders took the ball away three times on defense and made huge plays on offense. Oakland jumped out to a 28-7 lead and hung on to win 34-27 sending Al Davis’ club to their third Super Bowl.
Just Win Baby
The Super Bowl itself was a letdown. Vermeil and his Eagles played tight and nervous, completely opposite to their performance in the NFC championship game. The Raiders were cool, calm and collected. Plunkett was masterful dissecting the Eagles’ top-ranked defense. On the other hand, Jaworski was late on his reads. At other times, he misread the defense entirely. Raiders’ linebacker Rod Martin picked him off three times on the day.
The games’ most exciting play occurred late in the first quarter with Oakland already ahead, 14-0. Plunkett was under some pressure. Halfback Kenny King snuck behind Eagles’ DB Herm Edwards and Plunkett lofted a gorgeous pass down the far sideline. King took it in stride and was off to the races for the longest TD in Super Bowl history to that point – 80 yards.
The second half was an anti-climactic borefest. The Raiders sealed the deal with a Cliff Branch score and two field goals. The final was 27-10, but could have been much worse.
Philly would not get back to the Super Bowl for 24 years. The Raiders would be back three years later and win again. By that time, Al Davis moved his ball club to Los Angeles. Their next Super Bowl as the Oakland Raiders came after the 2002 season.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the Super Bowl from 36 years and the birth of a different dynasty from the Bay area!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills