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Dashed Dreams: The 1967 Oakland Raiders

History remembers the victors much better than it does the losers. the teams that win it all are instantly immortalized as one of the sport's greatest while the loser can only stand on the sidelines watching as their legacy is forever tarnished all the while thinking: "Was all that work wasted?". Sometimes they find redemption, but for the most part, the losers of the Super Bowl never return. But this article is not about what happened before or after the Super Bowl. Instead, this is the story of a single, forgotten team: the 1967 Oakland Raiders

The Lead-Up

Times were changing in Oakland. After leaving the organization to take over the AFL a year earlier, Al Davis had returned to Oakland in late 1966, having both won the war over the NFL and failing to keep the old AFL intact. Reinvigorated, he returned to Oakland not as their coach, but as their general manager and part owner, intent on making his mark in professional sports from a single entity: the Oakland Raiders.

By 1967, the Raiders locker room was vastly different than just a couple of years earlier. John Rauch had taken over the reins when Davis left for the commissioner's office in 1966 adn after finishing his rookie season, looked to improve on a very up-and-down first impression. In his first year as the Raiders head coach, Ralston had led the team to an 8-5-1 record, second best in the AFL West.

However, the record hardly displayed the tumult as three of their losses were by 21 or more points and they ended the season with a 31-10 loss to the Bills, a 28-28 tie to the Jets and a 28-10 win over the Broncos. As a result, not much was expected of a franchise that, behind closed doors, was very much on the rise.

That offseason, Davis hired an unknown linebackers coach from San Diego State named John Madden. And with that, a new era was ushered in for the Silver and Black. As the franchise bid adieu to longtime running back Clem Daniels, they welcomed fresh faces in the locker room such as Daryle Lamonica, George Blanda, Gene Upshaw and Willie Brown.

Among other players that began to make names for themselves that year was second year running back Pete Banaszak and third-year receiver Fred Biletnikoff who would earn his first All-Star invitation that year. Yes, the Raiders locker room was bustling with talent old and new, but could they win the division, the AFL or even the Super Bowl? Like a ticking time bomb, the Raiders were about to explode.

The Regular Season

The Oakland Raiders kicked off their 1967 season in a flurry, winning their first three games. But while two of them (both blowouts) were played in front of sparse crowds with the cavernous Oakland Coliseum being less than half full, the same could not be said for their matchup against the defending AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs.

In the first decade of their inter-division rivalry, the two teams had already waged many wars with both sides intensely hating the other. With the Coliseum filled to capacity in the third week of the season, the Raiders came ready to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the AFL. After a scoreless first quarter, the Raiders scored ten unanswered points, buoyed by Clem Daniels' one-yard plunge. But the Chiefs refused to go down quietly as Len Dawson connected with Gene Thomas for a 20-yard touchdown to close out the half.

The third quarter was relatively quiet, albeit momentarily awakened by a George Blanda field goal. After he repeated the feat at the start of the fourth, the Chiefs offense came to life as running back Mike Garrett connected with Otis Taylor on a halfback option pass to narrow the Raiders lead to 16-14.

The scoring binge continued well into t he fourth when Lamonica zipped a 29-yard touchdown pass to Billy Cannon to again give the Raiders a nine-point lead. the Chiefs still had some life left as they embarked on a last gasp attempt at victory. Although their ensuing drive ended with Garrett running it in from the six-yard line, the Raiders won the game 23-21.

The Raiders were ecstatic after their statement-making victory over their arch nemesis. But football has a way of humbling even the best of teams and the week after beating the Chiefs, the Raiders left Shea Stadium with a loss. So much went wrong that game. the Raiders great offense started off sluggish and their weary defense could only do so much as the Jets built a 20-point lead that stood through much of the third quarter.

That's when the Raiders offense came to life. Seeing their chances at victory slipping away, Daryle Lamonica took matter in his own hands throwing touchdown passes of five (to Bill Miller) and 25 yards (to Warren Wells) in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. But despite his best efforts, Lamonica's defensive counterparts couldn't contain the tremendous ground game of the Jets., led by Emerson Boozer's 98 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 attempts. The Raiders' 27-14 defeat would be the only blemish of an otherwise perfect regular season.

Awakened by the defeat, the Raiders set out to conquer the rest of their schedule. In the coming weeks, they would win in convincing and hard fought styles, beating Buffalo (24-20), Boston (48-14), the Chargers (51-10), Denver (21-17), the Dolphins (31-17), Kansas City (44-22), San Diego (41-21) and Houston (19-7).

By the second to last game of the regular season, the Raiders were ready to exorcise the only blemish on their otherwise perfect record. Once again, the Coliseum was filled to capacity for a much anticipated matchup, this time against the rising Jets.

Although the Raiders played better in the first half than they had in the first game, they still entered their locker room at halftime down 14-10. Oakland woke up in the third quarter, scoring two unanswered touchdowns thanks to Lamonica who threw two touchdown passes of four and 47 yards to Banaszak and Cannon to give the Raiders a ten point advantage heading into the fourth.

Little used Raiders running back Roger Hagberg answered the call at the start of the final period, rushing the pigskin into the end zone from six yards out to give Oakland a commanding 17-point lead. Joe Namath refused to go down easily that day and promptly led the Jets down the field, culminating in a 24-yard connection to George Sauer to narrow the deficit to two scores.

The Raiders answered right back as Hewritt Dixon plunged into the end zone from the three-yard line on the very next drive to, again, give Oakland aa three-score advantage. Although Namath threw another touchdown pass, a five yarder to Don Maynard, it was too little, too late for the Jets.

The Raiders won 38-29. After beating the Bills at the Coliseum 28-21, the Raiders secured the best record in football and their first division title. All told, they had 11 AFL All-Stars and six first-team All-Pros. In his first season wit hth. organization and as a full-time starter, Daryle Lamonica was named AFL MVP after throwing for 3,228 yards and 30 touchdowns. Needless to say, the Raiders were rolling with their sights set on something much bigger. Next up, the AFL Championship Game.

The AFL Championship Game

As far as championship games go, this one was a complete blowout. Before a packed Oakland crowd, the Raiders blew out the Oilers 40-7. Empowered by Hewritt Dixon's first quarter 69-yard dash into the end zone, the Raiders didn't look back one all game. however, despite the lopsided score, it didn't feature any of the long passes that Al Davis's Raiders would become known for.

Instead, the Raiders dominated on the ground, led by two hall of Fame linemen, center Jim Otto and left guard Gene Upshaw, the Raiders rumbled to the tune of 263 yards. After their resounding victory on the final day of 1967, the Oakland Raiders were AFL champions and were headed to Miami for Super Bowl II.

Super Bowl II

All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders, their magical season would end smashed into a brick wall. Oh they had the talent to upset the favored Packers. But what they had in talent, the Raiders lacked in experience. They were going up against that era's juggernaut.

For much of 1967, the aging Packers looked anything but ready to claim a third straight title, but by the playoffs the sound of their boisterous coach's voice had come to give them the fortitude that their weary bodies needed. All year long, as the Packers plodded their way through their schedule, Vince Lombardi reminded them of their ultimate goal. After surviving an instant classic against the Cowboys in what would be immortalized as the Ice Bowl, the Packers were back to their championship-winning selves.

Entering Super Bowl II, both rosters boasted numerous future Hall of Famers. As of this writing, a total of 18 men from that game have entered Canton. But on this day, only one Hall of Famer truly mattered. Vince Lombardi.

Although he had yet to officially announce it, his players had a strong hunch that their volatile but much loved coach would retire after the game. With the PAckers clinging to a narrow nine-point lead at the half, they resolved to win one more title for Lombardi.

The talented Raiders didn't stand a chance in the second half as the Packers went on to score 17 unanswered points. As Herb Adderley put the final, championship-winning stamp on the Raiders with a 60-yard pick-six off of Daryle Lamonica, the Raiders could only sulk on the sidelines. Final score: Packers 33, Raiders 14.

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