Raiders vs Broncos: a Storied Rivalry

Scott Winter
Jack Tatum Oakland Raiders Denver Broncos rivalry
The infamous Jack Tatum hit that should have been ruled a fumble.

It’s a rivalry with a rich history – and one that renews itself each year inside the AFC West. Here’s a look back – and forward – at the Oakland vs. Denver grudge match.

The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders rivalry is one of the longest and most historic in the NFL. Having meet 113 times in the regular season, and twice in the post-season, the two teams have had bitter contests throughout the years with the Raiders holding the edge in overall wins. Currently, the Raiders hold a 61-50-2 record versus the Broncos in regular season play, and 1-1 in post season play.

The Rivalry game between the Broncos and Raiders could have playoff implications.

Rivalry games in the AFC West are some of the toughest and most exciting NFL games each year. The Wild West – even in down years – is always a rough and tumble division where the teams really have a mutual respect but also a healthy dislike for one another on the field.

Not only is the AFC West crown a coveted prize, the team that wins the division is also guaranteed at least one home game in the playoffs. Home games in the playoffs are valuable and make a key difference with a team looking to make a run at the Super Bowl.

Even though it is only Week 4 of the 2017 NFL slate, this game could have serious playoff implications. Both teams enter this week with playoff aspirations and a 2-1 record, and, barring a tie, one team will come out 3-1, with a divisional game win. The other team will slide to 2-2 with a divisional loss. Tack on the fact divisional games are also conference games, a win is vital for playoff seeding implications as well.

Both teams enter this Week 4 match up coming of a loss, in which both were favored. The Broncos are an astounding 39-10 when playing at home after a loss on the road. The big reason for this: altitude. Sports Authority Field at Mile High is nestled in the Rocky Mountains at 5280 feet above sea level. The thinner air has plagued visiting teams by leeching energy, dehydrating and tiring opponents out faster than they are accustomed to. The Raiders, on the other hand, were 6-2 on the road last year and are currently 1-1 this season as the sinister road visitor. In addition, Oakland is much more accustomed to winning in Mile high than most other NFL teams, sporting a 29-25-2 record lifetime in Denver.

The Raiders and Broncos have only faced each other twice in the post season.

Two games in the post-season might not seem like many but the two games were epic.

The first, and most controversial ,was the AFC Championship game on New Years Day in 1978. Named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 25 Conference Championship Games of All Time, the Raiders were the defending Super Bowl Champions and had just come off an emotionally and physically draining win, beating the Baltimore Colts the week prior. That contest went into double overtime and ended with the famous “Ghost to the Post” play.

The Denver Broncos had been dominating all season with their vaunted “Orange Crush” defense, lead by future Raider Lyle Alzado. The rough and tough Denver defense wasn’t about to be intimidated by the Raiders wager. They hammered the Raiders running game all day, and then used plays out of Al Davis‘ vertical playbook to take a 14-3 lead.

It was the second touchdown by the Broncos that sparked the controversy.

The Broncos were 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line when running back Rob Lytle was crushed on a hand off by Raiders safety Jack Tatum. Upon that devastating hit the ball immediately popped out and the Raiders recovered. It was instantly clear on the replay this was a fumble by any standard measuring it.

However, the officials said that the whistle had blown and gave the Broncos the ball back, plus moved it half the distance because of an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Raiders. The Broncos would score on the drive and hold off a 4th quarter rally, to defeat the Raiders 20-17. They then were completely dismantled by the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII.

The second and last playoff encounter between the two teams resulted in a 42-24 Los Angeles Raiders shellacking of Denver. Al Davis said before the game that Denver was “scared to death of us.”  The Raiders would then lose a heart breaker in Buffalo the following week in what is still the coldest post season game in Buffalo Bills history.

Sunday’s Match up.

The Raiders enter Mile High after an embarrassing 27-10 loss to the Redskins on Sunday Night Football. The Broncos host after getting beat in Buffalo. In recent history, this has been a tough battle for the Raiders. The last two season the Broncos and Raiders have split 2-2, and 1-1 in Denver.

Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack looks to feast off of former Raider offensive tackle Menelik Watson. Mack has had seven sacks against Denver and five in one game in 2015. Watson has given up a league leading six sacks and eight pressures this year.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mack said. “I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Michael Crabtree, who suffered a bruising chest injury in D.C., also looks to get the better of Broncos corner back Aqib Talib. Last time these two met, Talib snatched and broke a gold chain that Crabtree was wearing. Astonishingly he was not penalized during or after the game.

“You’re snatching chains in front of the police [the referees] and take off running,” he continued. “That was childish, man.” Michael Crabtree on

The Broncos have a top-five defense, and the Raiders have one of the best offensive units in all of football – but something has to give. One of the keys to this game will be which one does.

Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders rushing attack absolutely need to establish themselves, and do it early. The Raiders offensive line needs to regain its dominance. Neither of these will be easy, but both are a must for the Raiders to leave Denver 3-1.

Even though this game is early in the season, expect it to have the feel of a playoff game.

My prediction: 30-21 Raiders.