The Oakland Raiders, despite the second-best record in the AFC in 1977, entered the playoffs as a wild-card entry. However, due to the scheduling format in those years two teams from the same division could not face each other until the conference championship. So, rather than start the postseason with a game against the Denver Broncos, owner of the best record in the AFC, the Raiders were off to Baltimore to take on the Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game.
It turned out to be one of the all-time classic playoff games and threw a humble tight end by the name of Dave Casper into the spotlight. The future Hall of Famer had a day to remember punctuated by one particular play that received its own moniker.
While Casper tended to focus on his contributions as a blocker, it was impossible to ignore his receiving exploits that took place in this playoff game played on Christmas Eve Day. First, it’s well worth noting that Casper had three touchdown catches in the game including one that came 43 seconds into double overtime to give the Raiders a thrilling 37-31 victory in a contest that saw the lead change eight times.
But, it was a non-scoring play that made Casper famous and allowed Oakland to push the game into sudden death. Quarterback Ken Stabler had been utilizing Casper on short underneath patterns all day long against Baltimore. Trailing by three points late in the game, “The Snake” sent Casper deep on a pattern that will forever be known as the “Ghost to the Post.” It worked to perfection for a 42-yard pick-up to the 14-yard-line. Three straight runs moved the ball into position for a game-tying field goal. Raiders kicker Errol Mann kicked a 22-yard try though the uprights with 26 seconds remaining.
Casper gave Raiders fans an early Christmas present when he hauled in a 10-yard TD catch to end the game in what was the third longest playoff game in NFL history at the time.
“Playing checkers with your daughter is fun. Not this,” surmised an exhausted Casper after the game. “This was the hardest football game I ever played.”
AFC Divisional Game Fact
Dave Casper is the only player in AFC Divisional Playoff Game history to have three TD receptions in the same game.
1977 AFC Divisional Playoff Game (Oakland at Baltimore)
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