Part of that young professional season was access to working press passes to both the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were coached by John Madden in those years and enjoyed what, in retrospect, were the golden years for the team.
After moving into news, I got very selective with sports events that I attended in person and watched on the tube. The NFL games along with Cal games I generally always found time to watch.
So, it was Sunday when I watched two extraordinary NFL games Sunday afternoon and evening. As is my practice, I recorded the games so I do not have to waste time on commercials and talking heads.
That said, the 49ers produced a thrilling victory over the Rams where they came back from the seeming dead and a 17-0 first half deficit to win in overtime 27-24 That cinched a playoff berth against the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. Apparent lame duck quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to a field goal to close the first half and then tied the game by leading the team 88 yards in just 87 seconds with no timeouts in the waning seconds to tie the game and force overtime. They won it with a time-consuming drive to open overtime followed by a game-ending interception.
As thrilling as the 49er game was, the Raiders-Chargers game was even better. It started with Virginia Madden, surrounded by her sons Mike and Joe and grandsons, lighting the torch to honor the late John Madden and the late owner Al Davis who hired him at 32 years old to coach the Raiders.
What followed was simply an amazing game of ups and downs, turnovers and touchdowns.
The Raiders seemed to have the game in control up by 15 in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers scored a touchdown on fourth and 21 and added the two-point conversation. The final Charger drive was amazing. It was just 2:06 on the game clock, but took more than 22 minutes because it was 17 plays with a bundle of incomplete passes stopping the clock. For the game, the Chargers converted six fourth downs, failing on one ill-advised running attempts from their own 18 that led to a Raider score.
The Raiders and Chargers swapped field goals in overtime before the Raider running game got going and they moved into field goal range in the waning seconds. Daniel Carlson converted (he’s never missed in Allegiant Stadium) and the Raiders were in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. I headed to bed immediately because on my taped-delayed schedule the witching hour already had passed.
P.S. The Georgia win over Alabama was the best championship game in memory—didn’t hurt that the Dawgs finally got over the top.