- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Raiders' history. In the previous two days we featured the Sea of Hands, when Clarence Davis somehow came down with Ken Stabler’s flip in the end zone to upend the defending two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in the AFC divisional playoffs in 1974; and the Holy Roller, which gave the Raiders a "zany" victory in San Diego on the final play of regulation when Ken Stabler purposely fumbled forward while being sacked and, after Pete Banszak batted the ball even further forward, Dave Casper recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders’ most memorable play.
Score: Raiders 38, Washington 9
Date: Jan. 22, 1984. Site: Tampa Stadium
The Raiders, then calling Los Angeles home, were already trouncing defending champion Washington 28-9 in Super Bowl XVIII when their offense lined up for the final play of the third quarter.
What happened next has gone down in NFL lore as “Marcus Allen, running with the night,” courtesy of legendary NFL Films voice John Facenda.
Because it was a busted play, one in which Allen had to improvise, it is seen in many corners as the greatest run in Super Bowl history, a reverse-field 74-yard scamper that put the dagger in Washington.
“Yeah, I called it, but Marcus made it work,” Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett told me with a laugh as he recounted the play.
“It was one of our steady plays: When in doubt, call ‘Bob Trey O.’ It was always solidly blocked where you shouldn’t lose any yards on it. But their safety messed it up.”
The play was supposed to be a simple power run to the left, right guard Mickey Marvin pulling to clear space for Allen. But Allen went too far wide of Marvin and safety Ken Coffey blew it up by closing in. Allen stopped on a dime, spun to his left and reversed field. A hole had opened on the right side of the line and Allen sped through it, after Coffey lunged for the ball and Allen’s waist in the backfield.
Accelerating through the gap, Allen ran past defensive end Todd Liebenstein and linebacker Rich Milot. “After I made that turn, everything slowed down,” Allen told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game during Super Bowl Week this past winter. “I remember Neal Olkewicz just grasping [at midfield]. I could almost see the anxiety on their faces and the tension as I was running by. And then, about 20 yards from the goal line, everything came back to normal speed.”
The lone Washington player with a shot at Allen past the 50-yard line was cornerback Anthony Washington, but he was cut off by Raiders receiver Cliff Branch. Allen, who was supposedly too slow to be a game-breaking running back coming out of USC as the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner, had nothing but open field to the left pylon. After the score, which was then the longest run in Super Bowl history, Allen was joined in celebration in the end zone by nearly the entire Raiders team.
“You can’t teach that kind of running,” John Madden, the former Raiders coach-turned-broadcaster, said while describing the replay. “You don’t teach that. You don’t practice that. You don’t see that on film. That happened.”
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