There are certain rivalries that will be intense no matter the current state of the teams. This is true of the matchups between the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders.
These are two teams that have seen great success in their history and created many unforgettable moments. This has not been the case recently. The Raiders have not made the postseason since 2016. Denver has not been back since their Super Bowl win in 2015. The AFC West rivals have been rebuilding through the draft and will be back near the top soon.
This does not eliminate what has happened in the past during this rivalry. Here are some of the top moments in Raiders-Broncos history.
5. 1993 Season Finale
The 1993 season was a special one for the Raiders in this rivalry. It began when they took down the Broncos 23-20 in Week 7. At the time, the Los Angeles Raiders would go onto lose three of their next five games.
The Raiders needed a run to get into the postseason and that is what they got. Los Angeles would win four of their last five games including an instant classic against the Broncos. After a Jason Elam field goal in the third quarter, the Broncos led 30-13. The Raiders would score 17 unanswered points then win on a Jeff Jaeger field goal in overtime. This sent the Raiders to the playoffs against none other than the Broncos.
Prior to the matchup, Raiders’ owner Al Davis preached that the Broncos were “scared to death of us.” Jeff Hostetler would lead the Raiders to a 42-24 win with 294 yards and three touchdowns. A perfect 3-0 sweep of the Broncos including a playoff victory is one of the best moments for the Raiders in this rivalry’s history.
4. Raiders Win on Special Teams
A game that ends 17-16 is never easy for either side. The Raiders took this to a new level when they defeated the Broncos on November 10, 1991. This was one of the wildest games from special teams that you will see.
Trailing 17-10, John Elway hit Vance Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown to bring Denver to within one. On the extra point attempt, Scott Davis got a big paw on it to keep the score at 17-16. The Raiders would drive down the field to attempt a field goal to try and go up four. Jaeger’s kick was blocked and Denver got the ball back in need of a field goal to win.
Elway naturally drove the offense to within range. David Treadwell lined up for a 48-yard field goal that would give Denver the win as time expired. Instead, it was James Fitzpatrick who was able to bust through and block the kick. The Raiders escaped with a wild 17-16 victory.
3. Shanahan Dominates Raiders
Mike Shanahan got his head coaching start with the Raiders at age 36. This was a failed marriage from the beginning. In year one, Shanahan finished 7-9. In 1989, he lasted just four games after a 1-3 start.
Davis decided to get rid of Shanahan after the poor start. It also had a lot to do with contract negotiations. The two sides could not come to an agreement and this caused the split. What happens next could not sit well with the Raiders.
Shanahan took the Broncos’ head coaching position in 1995. He coached in Denver for 14 years and saw great success. Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 with Shanahan on the sideline. Shanahan also completely changed the narrative of the rivalry. Before Shanahan arrived in Denver, the Broncos had lost 13 of 15 against the Raiders. In 14 years, Shanahan finished 21-7 in the regular season against the Raiders.
There is a six-year gap from Shanahan’s firing in Los Angeles to his acceptance in Denver. It is not like he went from one to the other but there is still a certain irony about the situation. It certainly felt good for Shanahan to stick it to Davis after all they went through a few years earlier.
2. The 1977 Season
Prior to 1977, this rivalry was a true David vs. Goliath matchup. The Broncos were founded in 1960 and never been to the postseason. On the other hand, the Raiders were defending Super Bowl champions and had qualified for the postseason in nine of the previous 10 years.
On October 16, 1977, the Broncos flipped the switch. The Raiders entered the game on a 17-game win streak and got completely blown off the field. Ken Stabler threw seven interceptions and it was a 30-7 win for Denver. The Broncos would win again just two weeks later. After a 12-2 regular season, Denver clinched a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history.
The Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round. It is only right that they took on the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game just one week later. The Broncos took home a 20-17 victory behind five catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns from Haven Moses. The 1977 season will forever be a historical one in Denver.
1. Shanahan Ices the Kicker
The term “icing the kicker” is one that is used frequently around the NFL and college football. It is a mental game that head coaches play with kickers where they call a timeout right before the snap to give them extra time to think about the big kick. This was not a term until September 16, 2007.
Shanahan is credited with bringing the tactic to the NFL. The Broncos and Raiders went back-and-forth at Mile High Stadium on a Sunday afternoon. The score was knotted at 20 and the game was headed to overtime. Denver got the ball first in the extra period and was forced to punt.
LaMont Jordan took the first play of the drive 33 yards down to the Broncos 40-yard line. Three plays and six yards later, Oakland faced a fourth-and-four. Sebastian Janikowski trotted out for a 52-yard field goal attempt that would give Oakland the win. Janikowski nailed the kick right down the middle, but Shanahan got a timeout in right before the snap. Janikowski was forced to re-kick and his attempt clanked the upright. Denver would drive down the field in eight plays and win on a Jason Elam 23-yard field goal.
Talk about a savage moment between two fierce rivals. Not only did Shanahan completely fool the Raiders, but he also created a tactic and strategy that is commonly used around football today.