|Raiders finally break through
In 1976, for the third straight season, the AFC Championship game featured the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. The '76 conference title game was played at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 26. Much was on the line that day as the two teams were looking for some late Christmas presents. The Steelers were eyeing history with hopes of becoming the first team ever to win three consecutive Super Bowls. The Raiders were in search of their first-ever Super Bowl crown.
December 26, 1976
OAK – FG Mann 39
OAK – Davis 1 run (Mann kick)
PIT – Harrison 3 run (Mansfield kick)
OAK – Bankston 4 pass from Stabler (Mann kick)
OAK – Banaszak 5 pass from Stabler (Mann kick)
Attendance – 53,739
RUSHING: PIT – Harrison 11-44, 1 TD; Fuqua 8-24; Bradshaw 1-4; Cunningham 1-0. OAK – van Eeghen 22-66; Davis 11-54, 1 TD; Banaszak 15-46; Garrett 2-4; Casper 1- (-13).
PASSING: PIT – Bradshaw 35-14-176-1. OAK – Stabler 16-10-88-0, 2 TDs
RECEIVING: PIT – Swann 3-58; Cunningham 4-36; Brown 1-32; Stallworth 1-18; Fuqua 2-11; Lewis 1-11; Harrison 2-10. OAK – Branch 3-46; Bankston 2-11, 1 TD; Davis 2-7; van Eeghen 1-14; Banaszak 1-5, 1 TD; Casper 1-5.
Frustrated in years past, the Raiders were business-like in their approach to the game. After all, the Raiders owned the best winning percentage over the past decade but could only secure one spot in the Super Bowl. In fact, Oakland appeared in all but two AFL/AFC championships since 1967 but played in only one Super Bowl – a 33-14 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl II.
The door was opened for the Raiders when the Steelers' running back duo of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier was bound to the sidelines. Harris and Bleier had combined for over 2,000 yards during the regular season but injuries prevented the two backs from playing a single down in the game.
Oakland built a comfortable 17-7 first-half lead off a 39-yard Errol Mann field goal in the first quarter and two touchdowns in the second. The Raiders scored their first touchdown after linebacker Willie Hall intercepted a Terry Bradshaw pass at the 26-yard line and returned it to the one. Running back Clarence Davis carried it in for a 10-0 Raiders lead.
Then Pittsburgh put together its only formidable drive of the game. The Steelers marched 75 yards on eight plays capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Reggie Harrison to narrow the score to 10-7. The Raiders responded with a 14-play, 69-yard drive topped by a 4-yard touchdown pass play from Ken Stabler to backup tight end Warren Bankston.
The game's final tally came in the third quarter when Stabler hit running back Pete Banaszak with a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Raiders ahead by the winning score of 24-7. Indeed, the Raiders had overcome the stigma of making the final leap to the Super Bowl.
Two weeks later, the Raiders won their first Super Bowl trophy with a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.