Super Bowl XV
For the first seven years of his career, former 1970 Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett struggled as the leader of the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers, but in 1980, playing as a backup, he was given the chance of a lifetime and seized the moment at Super Bowl XV. The 1979 NFL season-ending title game featured the first-time participants and 3-point favorites, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Plunkett-led Oakland Raiders who were seeking to join the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers as multiple Super Bowl victors having won Super Bowl XI. Plunkett took over at quarterback when starting Pro-Bowl QB Dan Pastorini broke his leg in the fifth game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Jim proceeded to step in and throw five interceptions. However, after shaking off the cobwebs, he led the Raiders to a 9-2 record from there on out to finish the regular season with an 11-5 record overall. Plunkett then led Oakland past the Houston Oilers 27-7 in the AFC Wild Card Game, the Cleveland Brown in the divisional playoff game 14-12 and avenged their regular season beating from San Diego (38-24) by eliminating them in the AFC Conference Championship Game 34-27. The NFC challenger this day would be the Philadelphia Eagles featuring the Bert Bell Player of the Year Award winner Ron Jaworski at quarterback, Wilbert Montegomery coming out of the backfield and Harold Carmichael and Charlie Smith as deep threats. The Eagles began 11-1 to start the 1980 regular season finishing 12-4 before defeating the Minnesota Vikings 31-16 in the divisional playoff and then the Dallas Cowboys 20-7 in the NFC Conference Championship Game.
Super Bowl XV was played on January 25, 1981 at the Louisiana Superdome (now the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) in New Orleans, Louisiana for the first of ten times – the most used venue in Super Bowl history. The Raiders motto for the season was "Commitment to Excellence" and that began immediate once the game started. Oakland linebacker Rod Martin intercepted Jaworski's very first pass and returned it 17 yards to the Philadelphia 30-yard line. Shortly thereafter, Plunkett connected with Cliff Branch for a 2-yard touchdown pass to put the Raiders up 7-0. Two drives later, Plunkett found running back Kenny King who went 80 yards increasing the Raider lead to 14-0. Eagles kicker Tony Franklin cut the lead to 14-3 with a second quarter field goal, but miss a chance at another when Oakland linebacker Ted Hendricks block a second attempt. On the opening dive of the second half, Jim Plunkett found Cliff Branch once more with a 29-yard touchdown pass to increase the Raider lead to 21-3. After the kickoff, the Eagles marched back 56 yards to the Oakland 34 before Rod Martin struck again intercepting his second pass from "Jaws". Oakland took it back 40 yards and kicker Chris Bahr kicked a 46-yard field goal putting the Raiders up 24-3. Philadelphia finally reached the end zone when Jaworski hit tight end Keith Krepfle with a, 8-yard pass for their only touchdown of the game. Chris Bahr added one more field goal at the end of the next drive as the scoring ended at 27-10. To add insult to injury, on the Eagles second to last drive of the game, Rod Martin intercepted his third pass of the game setting a still-standing Super Bowl record for most pick in a championship game. Despite this exceptional performance by Martin, Jim Plunkett was named the Super Bowl XV Most Valuable Player having gone 13-for-21 with 261 passing yards and three TD passes. Plunkett was also the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.