Holy Roller (American football)

Holy Roller (American football)

Holy Roller
San Diego Stadium, the site of the game
1 2 3 4 Total
OAK 0 7 0 14 21
SD 0 13 0 7 20
Date September 10, 1978
Stadium San Diego Stadium
Location San Diego, California
Referee Jerry Markbreit
Network NBC
Announcers Jim Simpson and Paul Warfield

In American football, "the Holy Roller" (known as "the Immaculate Deception" by San Diego Chargers fans[1]) is the nickname given to a controversial game-winning play by the Oakland Raiders against the San Diego Chargers on September 10, 1978, at San Diego Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium) in San Diego, California. It was officially ruled as a forward fumble that was recovered by Raiders tight end Dave Casper in the end zone for a touchdown, ultimately giving Oakland the 21–20 win. However, there have been differing interpretations of how this play should have actually been ruled, and it has remained a controversial play for fans of both teams involved. The NFL amended its rules after the 1978 season in order to prevent a recurrence of the play.

The play

With 10 seconds left in the game, the Raiders had possession of the ball at the Chargers' 14-yard line, trailing 20–14. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler took the snap and found himself about to be sacked by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe on the 24-yard line. Stabler fumbled the ball forward, and it rolled towards the Chargers' goal line. Raiders running back Pete Banaszak appeared to try to recover the ball on the 12-yard line, but could not keep his footing, and pitched the ball with both hands even closer to the end zone. Raiders tight end Dave Casper was the next player to reach the ball but he also evidently could not get a handle on it. He batted and kicked the ball into the end zone, where he fell on it for the game-tying touchdown as time ran out. With the ensuing extra point by placekicker Errol Mann, the Raiders won 21–20.

During the play, the game officials ruled that Banaszak and Casper's actions were legal because it was impossible to determine if they intentionally batted the ball forward, which would have been ruled a penalty. The National Football League (NFL) also supported referee Jerry Markbreit's call that Stabler fumbled the ball instead of throwing a forward pass.[2]

However, Stabler's fumble was deliberate. "I fumbled it on purpose,” he said after the game. “Yes, I was trying to fumble.” [3] Banaszak and Casper also admitted that they deliberately batted the ball towards the end zone.[4]

The San Diego Chicken was performing at this game. After Dave Casper recovered the winning touchdown in the end zone, the Chicken fell on the ground and lay motionless as though he'd been shot and killed.

In response to the Holy Roller, the league passed new rules in the offseason, restricting fumble recoveries by the offense. 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.[5][6]


The ball, flipped forward, is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock...Casper grabbing the ball...it is ruled a fumble...Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! 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! The Raiders have won the football game! The Chargers....they don't believe it. Fifty-two thousand people minus a few lonely Raider fans are stunned. This one will be relived forever!
—Bill King, calling the play on KGO-AM

See also

  • NFL lore – Famous and infamous moments in NFL history
  • Holy Roller – The event's common name is a pun on this slang term in American religion.
  • Immaculate Reception – The Holy Roller's alternative nickname, "Immaculate Deception," is a play on words based on the name given to this famous play, whose name in turn plays on the Immaculate Conception of Roman Catholic theology.
  • Fumblerooski – Other deliberate fumble plays.


  1. ^ Brief history of the Chargers at ticketsnow.com
  2. ^ Markbreit, Jerry; & Steinberg, Alan (1999). Last Call: Memoirs of an NFL Referee, pp 183–186. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-58382-030-2.
  3. ^ http://www.profootballhof.com/history/2005/1/1/1737/
  4. ^ Hyman, Mac (1978-09-15). "Sport Shots". Oakland Post. p. 8. Stabler said he intentionally fumbled, Pete B. said he batted the ball forward, and Dave Casper said that he knew that if he fell on the ball on the one or two yard line the game would have been over, so he kicked it along into the end zone and fell on it. 
  5. ^ """The "Holy Roller. Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 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. 
  6. ^ Lapointe, Joe (2008-11-16). "The Giants’ Fragile Grasp of the Football Is Causing Concern". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-30. The league changed the rule the next season, making it illegal for the offense to advance the ball beyond the spot of the fumble in the last two minutes or at any time on fourth down. 


  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  • Audio of the Holy Roller radio play-by-play by Bill King

External links

  • [1] The Holy Roller: Happy Anniversary Chargers Fans.
  • [2] Video of the play.
  • Pro Football Reference page