For 45 years this has been the best and the biggest, the brightest and bitterest.
Since 1972, the two original American Football League teams have played 91 games. The Broncos have won 47, the Raiders 43, and one was tied.
Since 1960, each has won 15 division titles and three Super Bowls.
Both have had long, successive runs, and long, lean, losing times.
Now, they are back together as able adversaries. In 2015-16, the Raiders won two, the Broncos two. Here they are in the first of two on Sunday afternoon. Both began 2-0 and lost last weekend. And, in the AFC West, both are one game behind "That Other Team" – the 3-0 Chiefs – and two games ahead of The Lost Team – the 0-3 Chargers.
It’s a shame that Al and Pat, hostile foes, won’t be at Mile High to enjoy another critical game in a series of astringent matchups.
There are several eras in the Denver-Oakland history – before Al Davis, during his reign, after the arrival of John Ralston, the decline and fall of the Raiders empire, the rise of the Broncos to the top, following the death of Davis (and the takeover of his son Mark) and the official announcement that Pat Bowlen was suffering with Alzheimer’s and no longer would oversee the operations of the Broncos, and, finally, the new era as the Broncos won a Super Bowl and, a year later, the Raiders got back to the postseason.
In the first three years of the AFL, the Broncos were superior to the Raiders. Denver won four of six in 1960-1962. Then, as Davis assumed control in Oakland, the Broncos hit the skids for several seasons.
The Raiders won 17 of 18 games and became one of the AFL, then NFL powers. The Broncos were guttersnipes.
However, Ralston became general manager/coach of the Broncos, and, in 1972 in Oakland, the Broncos prevailed 30-23.
In 1973, the Broncos and the Raiders tied 23-23.
And Oakland-Denver had reached a real rivalry.
Yet, until 1977, the Broncos still were looking up at the Raiders.
On Oct. 16 of that season, in Oakland, the Broncos pulverized the Raiders, 30-7, intercepting quarterback Ken Stabler seven times, and scoring on a fake field – a pass from backup QB/holder Norris Weese to kicker Jim Turner.
The Raiders were humiliated, and John Madden was outcoached by Red Miller.
Red died on Wednesday after succumbing to complications from his second stroke. Red posthumously will be inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in November during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Broncos’ first Super Bowl season. Miller changed the culture and the challenge of the Broncos in ’77, and should never be forgotten for his achievements.
The Broncos, appropriately, defeated the Raiders 20-17 in a controversial AFC Championship to reach Super Bowl XII.
That 1973 tie was the inaugural Monday night game in Denver. The Raiders and the Broncos have played 15 more times on Monday night, four games on Sunday night.
But this one is on Sunday afternoon, when the vast majority of the previous 113th have been played.
The tie, the ’77 victory in Oakland, the AFC Championship and that Coming of Age triumph in ’72 may be the most memorable. But there have been so many other of significance.
In the 1993 season, when John Elway was the quarterback and a fellow named Wade Phillips was the head coach, the Broncos played the Raiders three times, and in back-to-back weeks in the last regular-season game and a postseason game. The Raiders won all three.
There were three consecutive meetings in 1984-85 that were forced into overtime, and the Broncos lost the last two. Overall, there have been nine overtime games.
In 1988 the (then Los Angeles) Raiders had a young rookie coach – Mike Shanahan, who had been lured away from the Broncos, for whom he served as offensive coordinator. In the first quarter the Broncos and John Elway waxed the Raiders for 24 points. But Shanahan’s force would respond to win in OT 30-27.
Shanahan was soon fired, and ultimately would become the Broncos head coach in 1995. He hated Davis because of the firing and the owner didn’t pay off his full contract. Shanahan was determined to beat the Raiders badly. He did. The Broncos won 11 of 12.
While the Broncos became an annual division champion, the Raiders drifted into obscurity.
However, with the Raiders’ hiring of another Broncos coordinator, Jack Del Rio, the Raiders have been resurrected. Last year the Broncos missed the playoffs while the Raiders and the Chiefs tied and went to the postseason.
The Broncos win on Sunday, but just barely. How about an overtime?
The rivalry is alive and, well, fierce and competitive and toxic once more. Good.