|Super Bowl XV|
|Date||January 25, 1981|
|Stadium||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|MVP||Jim Plunkett, Quarterback|
|Favorite||Eagles by 3|
|National anthem||Helen O'Connell|
|Coin toss||Marie Lombardi|
|Halftime show||Jim Skinner Productions presents "Mardi Gras Festival"|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Dick Enberg, Merlin Olsen, John Brodie, and Len Dawson|
|Nielsen ratings||44.4 |
(est. 68.29 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||US$324,000|
Super Bowl XV was an American football game played on January 25, 1981 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1980 regular season. The American Football Conference (AFC) Oakland Raiders (15–5) defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Philadelphia Eagles (14–5), 27–10, to become the first wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl.
The Raiders jumped out to a 14–0 lead in the first quarter, which the Eagles never recovered from. Oakland quarterback Jim Plunkett was named the Super Bowl MVP, completing 13 of 21 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 9 yards. Plunkett would be the second Heisman Trophy winner to be named Super Bowl MVP after Roger Staubach in Super Bowl VI.
Plunkett's revival with the Raiders
Super Bowl XV was the climax of Plunkett's revival as an NFL starting quarterback. The 1970 Heisman Trophy winner was drafted by the New England Patriots and was later named the 1971 NFL Rookie of the Year. But Plunkett suffered through 5 losing seasons with the Patriots and 2 uneven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before being released as a free agent before the 1978 season.
Plunkett was signed by Oakland to be their backup quarterback, and thus he did not see much playing time, throwing no passes in 1978 and just 15 passes in 1979. But after the Raiders started the 1980 season with a 2-3 record, starter Dan Pastorini broke his leg and suddenly Plunkett was thrust into the starting role. The 33-year old Plunkett got off to a bad start, throwing 5 interceptions in a 31-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after relieving Pastorini. However, he recovered and led the Raiders to victory in 9 of their last 11 games in the season, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild card team. Plunkett made 165 out of 320 pass completions for 2,299 yards, 18 touchdown passes, and was intercepted 15 times. He also contributed 141 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
The Raiders' main offensive deep threat was wide receiver Cliff Branch (44 receptions, 858 yards, 7 touchdown), while wide receiver Bob Chandler contributed 49 receptions for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns. Running back Mark van Eeghen was the team's top rusher with 838 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also catching 29 passes for 259 yards. Halfback Kenny King rushed for 761 yards and catching 22 passes for 145 yards. The Raiders also had an outstanding offensive line led by 2 future Hall of Famers, tackle Art Shell and guard Gene Upshaw. Upshaw became the first player to play in three Super Bowls with the same team in three different decades. He also played in Super Bowls II (1967) and XI (1976).
Oakland's defense, anchored by defensive end John Matuszak, was punishing. Defensive back Lester Hayes led the league in interceptions (13) and interception return yards (273), and was the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The Raiders also had a trio of great linebackers: future Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, Pro Bowler Rod Martin (3 Interceptions) and standout rookie Matt Millen.
The Raiders were led by Head Coach Tom Flores, the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl.
Under Head Coach Dick Vermeil, Philadelphia advanced to their first ever Super Bowl in team history, and had not played in a league championship game since their 1960 NFL championship. The Eagles were led by quarterback Ron Jaworski, who completed 257 out of 451 passes for 3,529 yards during the regular season, including 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Another key player on the Eagles offense was halfback Wilbert Montgomery, who was widely considered one of the top running backs in the NFL and had rushed for over 1,200 rushing yards in the last 2 seasons. Injuries during the 1980 regular season had limited him to just 778 yards, but he proved he was fully recovered in the postseason by rushing for 194 yards in the NFC title game. Montgomery was also a superb receiver out of the backfield, recording 50 receptions for 407 yards. The other main deep threats on offense, wide receivers Harold Carmichael and Charlie Smith, along with tight end Keith Krepfle, combined for 125 receptions, 2,090 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
The Eagles defense led the league in the fewest points allowed during the regular season (222). Nose tackle Charlie Johnson anchored the line, and even managed to record 3 interceptions. Defensive end Claude Humphrey led the team in sacks with 14 and a half. Linebackers Jerry Robinson and Bill Bergey excelled at both stopping the run and pass coverage. Philadelphia also had a fine secondary, led by veteran defensive backs Herman Edwards (3 interceptions) and Brenard Wilson (6 interceptions), along with rookie Roynell Young (4 interception). The Eagles defense was a major factor in their hard fought 10-7 victory over the Raiders in the regular season; they sacked Plunkett 8 times.
Meanwhile, Plunkett and the Raiders defeated the Houston Oilers, 27–7, the Cleveland Browns 14–12 on a play known as Red Right 88, and the San Diego Chargers, 34–27. In doing so, Oakland became the third wild card team to advance to the Super Bowl, and the first wild card team to win three postseason rounds since the NFL expanded to a 10-team playoff format in 1978.
Super Bowl pregame news and notes
In the days before the game, most sports writers were speculating over whether, if the Raiders won, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle would present the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the team's owner Al Davis. Prior to the season, the league declined to approve the Raiders' proposal to move from Oakland, California to Los Angeles. In reaction, the team sued the NFL for violating antitrust laws. The conflict caused much friction between Rozelle and Davis (The Raiders would eventually win the lawsuit, allowing the team to move to Los Angeles before the 1982 season).
Oakland became the first team to avenge a regular-season loss in the Super Bowl. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 10–7 on November 23 at Veterans Stadium.
This game marked the first Super Bowl where both teams used the 3-4 defensive formation as their base defense. The Raiders were the first team to use the 3-4 in the Super Bowl in Super Bowl XI against the Minnesota Vikings, although the Miami Dolphins used a version of the 3-4 ("53 defense") in Super Bowl VI, Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII. The 3-4 would be used by at least one team in every Super Bowl between Super Bowl XV and game XXVIII.
Television and entertainment
The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC with Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentators Merlin Olsen, John Brodie, and Len Dawson (who wasn't in the broadcast booth with Enberg and Olsen). Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle of NFL '80 anchored the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
The pregame festivities honored the end of the Iran hostage crisis (which was announced 5 days before the game), which featured a performance by the Southern University band. A large yellow bow 80-foot (24 m) long and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide was attached to the outside of the Superdome, while miniature bows were given to fans.
Singer, actress, and dancer Helen O'Connell later sang the national anthem. The coin toss ceremony featured Marie Lombardi, the widow of Pro Football Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi.
The halftime show, featuring singers and dancers, was a "Mardi Gras Festival".
Oakland linebacker Rod Martin intercepted Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski's first pass of the game and returned it 17 yards to Philadelphia's 30-yard line, setting up Jim Plunkett's 2-yard touchdown pass to Cliff Branch 7 plays later. After each team punted once, Jaworski threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Parker, but the score was nulified by an illegal motion penalty on wide receiver Harold Carmichael and the Eagles ended up being forced to punt. The Raiders later scored another touchdown with about a minute left in the period. On third down from the Oakland 20-yard line, Plunkett threw the ball to running back Kenny King at the 39-yard line as he was scrambling around in the backfield to avoid being sacked. King caught the pass as it carried just over the outstretched arms of defensive back Herman Edwards and took off to the end zone for a Super Bowl record 80-yard touchdown reception.
The Eagles managed to respond on their next drive, with Jaworski completing passes to tight end John Spagnola and Wilbert Montgomery for gains of 22 and 25 yards on a 61-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard field goal by Tony Franklin, making the score 14-3 just under five minutes into the second quarter. Then with less than 4 minutes left in the period, the Raiders reached the Eagles 27-yard line, only to have kicker Chris Bahr miss a 45-yard field goal. The Eagles then drove 62 yards to Oakland's 11-yard line. With just 54 seconds left in the half, Franklin attempted a 28-yard field goal, but Raiders linebacker Ted Hendricks extended his 6'7" frame at the line and blocked the kick.
The Raiders then took the opening kickoff of the second half and scored quickly. Plunkett completed a 13-yard pass to King and a 32-yard completion to receiver Bob Chandler to move the ball to Philadelphia's 33-yard line. Then after a 4-yard run by running back Mark van Eeghen, Plunkett threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Branch, increasing Oakland's lead to 21-3. The Eagles responded by driving 56 yards to the Raiders 34-yard line, but on third down and 3, Jaworski threw his second interception of the game to Martin. Oakland subsequently drove 40 yards and scored with Bahr's 46-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 24–3.
The Eagles finally managed to score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to cut their deficit to 24–10. Starting from their own 12-yard line, a 43-yard reception by receiver Charlie Smith sparked an 88-yard, 12-play drive that was capped by Jaworski's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Keith Krepfle. But on their ensuing drive, Oakland marched from their own 11 to the Eagles 17-yard line. Philadelphia kept the Raiders out of the end zone, but Bahr kicked his second field goal, increasing Oakland's lead to 27-10.
Oakland's defense then dominated the rest the game, forcing two turnovers on Philadelphia's last 2 possessions of the game to prevent any chance of a comeback. On the Eagles' next drive, Jaworski lost a fumble. Later, Martin recorded a Super Bowl record third interception, and the Raiders ran out the clock to win the game.
Jaworski finished the game with more completions (18) and yards (291) than Plunkett, but completed just 18 of 38 attempts and was intercepted 3 times. Van Eeghen was the top rusher of the game with 75 yards. King was the top receiver with 93 yards and a touchdown off of just 2 receptions. Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery led Philadelphia in rushing and receiving with 44 rushing yards and 6 receptions for 91 yards.
After the game, the expected heated confrontation between Rozelle and Davis was actually very civil. As Rozelle presented the Lombardi Trophy to Davis, he praised Plunkett, head coach Tom Flores, the players, and the entire Raiders organization for being the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. Davis thanked Rozelle, then proceeded to also praise the team.
|Cliff Branch||WR||Harold Carmichael|
|Art Shell||LT||Stan Walters|
|Gene Upshaw||LG||Petey Perot|
|Dave Dalby||C||Guy Morriss|
|Mickey Marvin||RG||Woody Peoples|
|Henry Lawrence||RT||Jerry Sisemore|
|Raymond Chester||TE||Keith Krepfle|
|Bob Chandler||WR||Charlie Smith|
|Jim Plunkett||QB||Ron Jaworski|
|Mark Van Eeghen||FB||Leroy Harris|
|Kenny King||RB||Wilbert Montgomery|
|John Matuszak||LE||Dennis Harrison|
|Reggie Kinlaw||NT||Charlie Johnson|
|Dave Browning||RE||Carl Hairston|
|Ted Hendricks||LOLB||John Bunting|
|Matt Millen||LILB||Bill Bergey|
|Bob Nelson||RILB||Frank LeMaster|
|Rod Martin||ROLB||Jerry Robinson|
|Lester Hayes||LCB||Roynell Young|
|Dwayne O’Steen||RCB||Herman Edwards|
|Mike Davis||SS||Randy Logan|
|Burgess Owens||FS||Brenard Wilson|
- Referee: Ben Dreith #12
- Umpire: Frank Sinkovitz #20
- Head Linesman: Tony Veteri
- Line Judge: Tom Dooley #6
- Field Judge: Fritz Graf
- Side Judge: Dean Look
- Back Judge: Tom Kelleher #25
- Alternate Referee: Dick Jorgensen #6
- Alternate Umpire: John Keck #4
- The 1980 Raiders (15–5) became the first NFL team to play 20 games in a season, a feat which became possible in 1978 when the schedule expanded from 14 to 16 games and a wild card playoff round was added. The 1985 Patriots (14–6), 1992 Bills (14–6), 1997 Broncos (16–4), 1999 Titans (16–4), 2000 Ravens (16–4), 2003 Panthers (14–6), 2005 Steelers (15–5), 2006 Colts (16–4), 2007 Giants (14–6) and 2008 Cardinals (12-8) have all followed suit.
- Oakland became only the second wild card team to make it to the Super Bowl and the first to come away victorious (The Kansas City Chiefs, the Super Bowl IV champions, are often thought of as a "wild-card team," but they were not; during the season before the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger, the second-place finishers in both divisions of the American Football League qualified for the playoffs).
- Cliff Branch's two touchdown catches tied a Super Bowl record. Only Max McGee and John Stallworth caught two touchdowns prior to this.
- Oakland head coach Tom Flores became the first person to be a member of a Super Bowl winning team as a player and head coach. Flores was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, but did not play in the game.
- Super Bowl official website
- 2006 NFL Record and Fact Book. Time Inc. Home Entertainment. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
- Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. Harper Collins. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
- The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995. ISBN 0-89204-523-X.
- http://www.pro-football-reference.com - Large online database of NFL data and statistics
- Super Bowl play-by-plays from USA Today (Last accessed September 28, 2005)
- All-Time Super Bowl Odds from The Sports Network (Last accessed October 16, 2005)