- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in the Oakland Raiders' history. In the next two days we'll feature the Sea of Hands play in the 1974 AFC divisional playoffs that upended the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins; and 17 Bob Trey O, Marcus Allen authoring the greatest run in Super Bowl history when he reversed field and went 74 yards to put the dagger in defending champion Washington in 1984. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders' most memorable play.
Score: Raiders 21, Chargers 20
Date: Sept. 10, 1978 Site: San Diego Stadium
The Raiders were trailing the Chargers by six and sitting at San Diego's 14-yard line with 10 seconds remaining in Week 2 of the 1978 season. Oakland had already lost its season opener and an 0-2 start would have been its first such opening since 1964. That's exactly what it looked like, though, as left-handed quarterback Ken Stabler took the snap, dropped back and drifted to his right, where he was wrapped up by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe at the 25-yard line.
But before Lowe could take Stabler down, the ball popped out and rolled forward, reaching Raiders running back Pete Banaszak at the line of scrimmage. "I hollered, ‘Snake, Snake,' so he kind of flipped it," Banaszak told NFL Films. "But I couldn't get to it, but it was rolling end over end in front of me. ... I thought it was a smart thing to do, just get my hands on the ball and just push it forward because if I would have jumped on it, [Fred Dean] would have jumped on me and it would have been all over."
The bouncing ball reached the 5-yard line at the same time as tight end Dave Casper, who bent over and kicked it with his left foot before kneeing it with his right leg. "I just run out there and try to pick it up and, of course, I flub that and I'm scrambling on the ground, watching it beneath me," Casper said. "And I saw a white stripe go by and I actually just kind of fell on top of it."
The white stripe was the goal line and the fumble recovery was ruled a game-tying touchdown, so with no time remaining, Errol Mann's converted point-after attempt gave the Raiders the unlikeliest of victories.
Or, as Raiders radio man Bill King called it that day, "The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play... (John) Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They said, ‘Yes, get your big butt out of here.' He does. There's nothing real in the world anymore. This one will be relived, forever."
San Diego was anything but happy.
"In typical Raider fashion," said Chargers linebacker Jim Laslavic, "if you can't beat somebody the right way, you cheat."
The NFL changed the rule the following offseason, adding a provision that only the player who fumbled the ball could advance it after the two-minute warning. Stabler, meanwhile, came clean, so to speak, after that game. "I fumbled it on purpose," he said. "Yes, I was trying to fumble."