Steve Smith: The unlikely hero
On a Monday Night in Mile High Stadium, the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos and the visiting Raiders squared off in one of the most memorable nights ever. Both teams were 1-2 and looking to even up their record for another playoff run and both teams would ultimately fail to make their postseason dreams come true as they both ended the year with identical 8-8 records.
On defense, the Broncos shut out the Raiders in the first half and their offense seemingly scored at will with veteran running back Tony Dorsett scoring the first two touchdowns of the game. Elway later added another off a short toss to Steve Sewell and a Denver field goal capped off a 24-0 halftime lead. The inept Raiders looked finished after gaining just 39 total yards on offense to Denver’s 254.
Early in the third period, Raiders safety Eddie Anderson picked off an Elway pass and returned it to the Denver 40. On the next play, quarterback Jay Schroeder rolled right and hit fullback Steve Smith, who took it the distance to finally put Los Angeles on the board. Denver fans did not seem to worry about this hiccup but that changed dramatically on the Raiders’ next possession.
The Smith-Schroeder Combo
Following a play-action fake, the Schroeder and Smith combination worked again as Smith caught another short pass and raced 42-yards for another score. The momentum was now in the Raiders’ hands as Denver’s offense was shut out in the third period. Raiders kicker Chris Bahr capped the drive 2:36 into the fourth with a 28-yarder, cutting the lead to 24-17. On the ensuing kickoff, things got worse for Denver as a vicious hit by linebacker Reggie McKenzie jarred the ball loose and Los Angeles recovered on the Denver 17.
Five plays later, the Raiders tied the game when Marcus Allen squirted into the endzone behind left guard Charlie Hannah for a four-yard touchdown. The game remained deadlocked until the Broncos finally responded to the Raiders’ surge with a 25-yard field goal to go back on top 27-24 with three minutes to go in regulation. Schroeder led the Raiders to the Denver 27 and with eight seconds remaining, Bahr booted a 44-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
The Raiders thought they had the game won early in overtime when rookie Tim Brown returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown but an illegal block penalty on Los Angeles nullified the return. Later, Elway facing heavy pressure from Bill Pickel was forced to retreat 26 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He dodged Pickel twice before desperately heaving a pass downfield into the hands of reserve safety Zeph Lee, who returned it 20 yards to the Denver 31. Five plays later, Bahr was sent onto the field again and his 35-yard field goal with 2:25 to go in overtime won it all. The Raiders had won one of the most stunning victories in their history and Denver suffered one of the most stunning defeats in the history of their franchise.
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