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Daryle Lamonica, QB who led Raiders to first Super Bowl, dies at 80

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Daryle Lamonica, the deep-throwing quarterback who won an AFL Player of the Year award and led the Oakland Raiders to their first Super Bowl appearance, died April 14 at his home in Fresno, Calif. He was 80.

The Fresno County Sheriff confirmed the death. The cause was not disclosed.

The Raiders acquired Mr. Lamonica in a trade from Buffalo in 1967, when both teams were still in the American Football League before its merger three years later with the National Football League. Nicknamed the “Mad Bomber,” Mr. Lamonica made an immediate impact in Oakland after starting only four games in four seasons with the Bills.

He teamed up with receivers such as Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff to turn the Raiders into a powerhouse, going 13-1 in his first season. Mr. Lamonica led the league with 30 touchdown passes and was a first-team All-Pro and Associated Press AFL Player of the Year.

Mr. Lamonica then threw two touchdown passes in a win over the Houston Oilers in the AFL title game to send the Raiders to their first Super Bowl in January 1968. The Raiders lost to Green Bay, 33-14.

In his six seasons as a starter for the Raiders, Mr. Lamonica was one of the most prolific passers in the game, leading pro football with 145 touchdown passes — 24 more than second-place Fran Tarkenton. He had 16,006 passing yards from 1967 to 1972, ranking third among all pro quarterbacks in that time period.

Mr. Lamonica was an All-Pro again in 1969, when he led the AFL with 3,302 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. His 34 TD passes still stand as the franchise’s single-season record more than a half-century later.

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At his best during the playoffs, Mr. Lamonica threw five touchdown passes in a 41-6 win over Kansas City in 1968 and a record six the following season against Houston. Only Steve Young and Tom Brady have matched his six TD passes in a playoff game.

On Nov. 17, 1968, Mr. Lamonica played a major role in one of football’s most memorable games, throwing four touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score to Charlie Smith, in a 43-32 win over the New York Jets. The game became known as the “Heidi Game” because NBC cut away from the finish on the East Coast to show the children’s movie “Heidi” late in the game. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in a comeback that was not seen on the East Coast, triggering an uproar among football fans.

Mr. Lamonica was replaced as Oakland’s starter in 1973 by Ken Stabler and finished his career in the short-lived World Football League.

Mr. Lamonica retired with 19,154 passing yards and 164 touchdown passes. The Raiders went 62-16-6 in games he started, for the best winning percentage for any starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era who started at least 75 games.

Daryle Pasquale Lamonica was born July 17, 1941, in Fresno and played his college ball at Notre Dame. He was drafted in the 12th round by Green Bay and the 23rd round by the Bills in 1963 and opted to go to the AFL. He was a backup to Jack Kemp in Buffalo before becoming a star in Oakland.

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