The "Holy Roller"

When it comes to football lore, few moments in National Football League history are so significant that they earn a specific nickname. One such bizarre play in a game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in 1978 was just that and today is simply referred to as the “Holy Roller.”  


Dave Casper

Ten seconds remained in the Week 2 match up at San Diego on September 10, 1978, when Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back to pass from the 14-yard-line. Chargers defensive end Fred Dean broke through the line and hit Stabler. Realizing there was nothing else he could do as the seconds ticked away, “The Snake” hurled the ball forward. As the ball rolled loose on the ground, Raiders running back Pete Banaszak swatted it toward the end zone. Tight end Dave Casper continued the ball’s forward motion with a kick at the five yard line and then fell on in it in the end zone for a touchdown as the clock ran out. 

“I fumbled it on purpose,” Stabler admitted honestly after the game. “Yes, I was trying to fumble.” 

Despite a protest from the Chargers sideline, referee Jerry Markbreit ruled it a legal play. Kicker Errol Mann added the extra point and the Raiders won the game, 21-20. 

Markbreit’s decision to uphold the play was absolutely correct by the rules in place at the time. However, that would soon change. During the off-season, the league added a provision to the rule book about fumbles after the two-minute warning that allows only the player who fumbled the ball to advance it. As such, the rule change implemented will forever prevent the “Holy Roller” from happening again.


San Diego

Scoring Summary

SD Curran 14 pass from Fouts
OAK Casper 6 pass from Stabler
SD Bauer 1 run
SD Bauer 2 run (Benirschke kick)
OAK Bradshaw 44 pass from Stabler (Mann kick)
OAK Casper, fumble recovery in end zone (Mann kick)


PASSING OAK - Stabler, 15 or 35 for 307; SD - Fouts, 17 of 29 for 175.
RECEIVING OAK - Casper, 5 for 100; Davis 2 for 5; Branch, 1 for 41; Bradshaw, 4 for 107; Biletnikoff, 1 for 13; Chester, 1 for 27; Banaszak, 1 for 14. SD - Joiner, 2 for 37; Jefferson, 2 for 27; Woods, 4 for 51; Rodgers, 2 for 18; Matthews, 4 for 25; Curran, 1 for 14; Klein, 1 for 8; Mitchell 1 for -5.
RUSHING OAK - van Eeghen, 12 for 72; Robiskie, 1 for 18; Whittington, 1 for -5; C. Davis, 4 for -1. SD - Woods, 17 for 66; Matthews, 20 for 78; Mitchell, 9 for 38; Bauer, 5 for 15; Fouts, 2 for 0.