Former Raiders great Cliff Branch dies at 71

Former Raiders great Cliff Branch dies at 71

Cliff Branch, a member of three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl championship teams, died Saturday at age 71, the team confirmed.

No cause of death was listed.

“Cliff Branch touched the lives of generations of Raiders fans,” the Raiders said in a statement. “His loss leaves an eternal void for the Raiders Family, but his kindness and loving nature will be fondly remembered forever.”

Branch, who was selected by the Raiders out of Colorado in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL Draft, saw limited action his first two seasons but burst on the scene in 1974 when he caught 60 passes to lead the NFL in receiving yards (1,092) and touchdowns (13).

He went on to play his entire 14-season career with the Raiders, earning four Pro Bowl nods, three First-Team All-Pro selections and leading the league with 12 touchdown receptions in 1976.

Branch teamed with Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff and quarterback Ken Stabler to give the Raiders a potent aerial attack in an era dominated by the running game. Branch’s speed — he averaged 17.3 yards per reception for his career — made him a game-breaking threat.

He saved some of his biggest moments for the postseason, including Super Bowl 15, where he caught two touchdown passes to key a 27-10 victory over the Eagles.

Branch retired in 1985 with 501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns.

Branch’s passing brought an outpouring of remembrance from former players, fans and others, many of whom remembered him as being a great guy off the field.