This is one of those games that probably still keeps Rodger Bird up nights. Bird was in his second year in the league and after this game, he would only have one more. He was the Raiders’ primary punt returner but was also their defensive back in nickel packages. Whenever he came into the game, Bart Starr and the Packers knew feasted on him.
The first opportunity came on the Packers second drive. They were in third and 21 after a big Raider sack. The Raiders went to their nickel package and put in Bird, knowing it was a passing situation. Bird gave up an 11 yard catch to put the Packers in chip shot field goal range. That play was not too damaging but it turned out to be the gateway for Bart Starr to victimize Bird the rest of the game. The next drive, the Packers lined up and saw Bird in the Raider defensive secondary again. They immediate caught him out of position and scored on a 62 yard catch and run for a touchdown. That means in two plays, the Packers went from up 3-0 to up 13-0, thanks in large part (73 yards worth) to Rodger Bird.
After that, the Raiders started to wake up. They scored a touchdown on the next drive, held the Packers to a three and out, drove into field goal range on their next drive and held the Packers to three and out again. The momentum had shifted and the Packers were getting nervous. But then Rodger Bird came back onto the field. This time to do what he supposedly does best; return punts. He called for a fair catch and bobbled it for a fumble. The Packers would recover the ball in Raider territory and end the half with another field goal to go up 16-7. Packer defensive end Willie Davis would later point to that fumble as the defining moment of that Super Bowl for the Packers. But wait, Rodger Bird wasn’t done.
When the Raider took the field after halftime, it just got worse for Bird. He gave up a 7 yard catch on the second play. The Packers next drive he was beaten badly for a 35 yard gain. Apparently Raider coach John Rauch didn’t learn from this because he kept Bird in the game and he was beat for another 11 yards on the very next play. That drive ended with Bird being blocked out of the way easily on a 2 yard touchdown run. That is 20 points now of which Bird played a large part. And just when that was enough, there’s more.
On the next drive, he gave up a 9 yard first down catch on third down that would lead to another Packer field goal.
And that, my friends, is what we call an epic fail.
While Bird left the cage door wide open for the Packer offense, Harry was letting the defense come running through like he was a matador. As the right tackle, he gave Willie Davis the game of his career. Davis was having his way with Schuh in this game. Early in the second quarter with the Raiders down 6-0, Schuh gave up a run stuff on the first play and then a sack to finish off a three and out. The defense had been on the field for a long sustained drive just prior to that and barely had time to take a breath before they were back on the field. The result was the Packers scoring a touchdown on one play to go up 13-0. Just before halftime, Shuh gave up another run stuff for no gain. Then he managed to hold Davis back for a while. But on the Raider last drive of the game, he could hold it no longer. Schuh gave up two sacks on the final drive to end any possibility of the Raiders scoring again.
Gus Otto, Bill Laskey, Warren Powers
Otto and Laskey were the Raiders’ outside linebackers and Powers was the strong safety. But you might not have even known they were in this game. The Packers were able to pick up 160 yards on the ground thanks in large part to these three not being in position to make a play. This meant Ben Davidson was having to run down backs all over the field. But while middle linebacker, Dan Conners, was racking up the tackles at the line, Laskey and Powers had one tackle each. We all know that the Raiders have been running the same defense for ages. And in that defense, the strong safety plays in the box and tends to have more tackles than your average safety elsewhere. So why did Powers have one tackle and it wasn’t even on a running play? As for Otto, he had three tackles. Unfortunately two of those tackles were on catches he gave up. The second of which went for 12 yards and set the Packers up at the one yard line. They would score a touchdown two plays later.
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