To reiterate a statement in an earlier segment, the Raiders have had their fair share of good AND bad highlights. They were involved in some of the most controversial plays that went in their favor and some that didn’t. One of the most well-known of the NFL’s controversial wins ended up clinching a game for the Raiders, a play that still angers Chargers fans everywhere. It’s not an unfair chip to keep on your shoulder, Chargers fans, because everyone has a little bit of a different story. There’s nothing like a Sunday afternoon with a Holy Roller.
The Raiders in the 70s didn’t do anything the easy way. They couldn’t even lose the easy way. So when the game was at 0:10 left and they were trailing 20-14, the Silver and Black stepped up for their final push. One thing could always be counted on with the Raiders: a fight until the very last second. They did not disappoint that day.
After the snap, Ken Stabler was immediately being hunted down by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe. As he was being pulled to the turf, Stabler lost the ball. Or did he toss the ball? That was the reigning question.
As you can see, there’s not a clear-cut answer. Although it looks like a seedy play by the Raiders, was it illegal? Not at the time. There were no rules that stated a forward-fumbled ball couldn’t be advanced by a member of the same team. As with many of the Raiders’ controversial practices, the league passed a rule stating, “If a player fumbles after the two-minute warning in a half, or on fourth down at any time during the game, only the fumbling player can recover and advance the ball. If that player’s teammate recovers the ball during those situations, it is placed back at the spot of the fumble, unless it was a recovery for a loss, in which case the ball is dead and placed at the point of recovery.”
Of course, the Raiders were considered cheaters after this play. It’s up for debate whether that’s earned or not, but Stabler took the opportunity to clear it all up, albeit a couple of decades later. Unlike Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception, Ken Stabler admitted openly in 2008 that he did, in fact, chuck the ball forward.
No I can’t convince you of that because I did. I mean, what else was I gonna do with it? Throw it out there, shake the dice.
–Kenny Stabler in 2008 when asked if he could convince an interview crew that he didn’t flip that ball underhand–
In any game since the “Immaculate Deception”, the ball would have been dead. The Chargers win and go on to the playoffs and perhaps beat the Steelers in pursuit of finally receiving a Lombardi trophy.
The common theme in Raiders history is that they didn’t technically break any rules. There was nothing that stated that the way Kenny Stabler lost the ball was illegal, or that Pete Banaszak wasn’t allowed to recover a fumble, no matter how it occurred. There was also no rule on the books that said that Dave Casper couldn’t recover the ball in the end zone, even if it did hit his foot. It seemed sketchy, as did a lot of things the Raiders did during that era, so after that season, the rule was put on the books. Of course.
Dave Casper recovered that ball and commented, “My greatest contribution was standing in the middle of the field”. Talk about right place, right time.
Up Next: That Tucking Rule that Ruined a Super Bowl Run