And just like that, the Raiders’ playoff hopes were gone. After three quarters, they were clinging to a three-point lead, but the Chargers exploded for 27 points in the final 15 minutes and clinched at least a tie for the AFL Western Division with a 41-17 win.
The rain that had fallen in the Bay Area for most of the last week had tapered off a couple of days before the game, but the field was still a little soft and uncertain. The largest home crowd since the season opener, 12,061, showed up for the first football game ever played at Candlestick Park.
A scoreless first period was followed by a quick exchange of scores early in the second. The Chargers broke the ice first when Jack Kemp threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Royce Womble. The Raiders returned the favor on Billy Lott’s two-yard run. Late in the period Tom Flores connected with Charlie Hardy for a 10-yard touchdown and Kemp threw to Don Norton for a 21-yarder. The teams were tied at 14 at the half.
Larry Barnes kicked a 25-yard field goal in a quick-moving third quarter, but that was it for the Raiders as the Chargers ripped off four touchdowns in the fourth: a 49-yard pass from Kemp to Paul Lowe, a Kemp keeper for six yards, another Kemp run for nine, and Rommie Loudd’s 49-yard return of a Babe Parilli fumble with less than a minute to play. Ben Agajanian missed the extra point on the last one to make the final margin 24 points.
With the win the Chargers improved their record to 8-4. The Raiders dropped to third place in the division with a 5-7 mark, behind the 6-6 Texans.
After the game, Eddie Erdelatz responded with, “What can I say? We did all right for a while, three quarters in fact. I honestly don’t know what happened when we blew up in the fourth. I hate to see our fellows lose like this when they try so hard. But the Chargers are a real good club, the best in the league. The footing was bad, players couldn’t cut, but it was the same for both sides.” He singled out Flores, Hardy, and Charley Powell, who had a big tackle on fourth down during a goal line stand, for praise.
The real action was to be found in the winner’s locker room. Reports had Chet Soda coming in to let Sid Gillman know he was protesting the Chargers’ use of Al Bansavage in the game. To reporters later Gillman said, “I’m not worried at all about any protest. Let them go ahead and protest if they want.” Still, when someone asked if he had heard from AFL commissioner Joe Foss, Gillman angrily refused to answer that or any further questions.
Before the questions about Bansavage, the Charger coach had talked about the stadium and his opponent. “This is one of the finest plants I’ve ever been in,” he said, “Put knockdown seats on the other side and you’ve got yourself a football stadium. I like it much better than Kezar. Sure, the turf was soft, but it rains everywhere.” He continued to say the Raider coach “has done a remarkable job. We were lousy in the first half, but it wasn’t our fault. The Raiders aggressiveness made us look bad.”
As for Candlestick Park, fans agreed with Gillman, praising the easy availability of parking and the comfort of its seats, especially in comparison with the simple bleachers at Kezar Stadium. The front office was cautiously happy, too, with an unnamed representative saying attendance was “more than we would have drawn there (at Kezar) today.”
Tony Teresa, who left the game temporarily after a blow to the head left him “woozy”, led the team with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries. Hardy had his biggest day as a pro, gaining 123 yards on four receptions. Flores completed 16 of 27 passes for 219 yards and threw one interception. Parilli was only in there for garbage time late and completed just two of seven throws.
Kemp connected on 17 of 25 passes for 289 yards and no picks. Dave Kocourek was the big beneficiary, catching seven passes for 144 yards. Lowe led all rushers with 90 yards on 18 carries.
The Raiders, playing now for pride, would close out the season with games against the Titans, who were still in the Eastern race, and the Broncos. The Chargers would finish with the same two teams in reverse order.
Hayward Daily Review
Official American Football League gamebook
Pro Football Reference
San Francisco Chronicle