With only a few home games remaining, it’s time to look back at the incredible history the Oakland Raiders have made in the Coliseum. While a shadow of the marvel it once was, there are few stadiums in the world that have seen as much history as “the Black Hole” has since it was erected in September of 1966. As time runs out on the Oakland Raiders, we’ll revisit some of the best memories in the stadium’s great history before each of the last five home games.
Coliseum Dreaming: The Sea of Hands
When John Madden’s Oakland Raiders hosted Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the Divisional Round of the 1974 NFL playoffs, the hype was through the roof. The game was being called “Super Bowl Eight-and-a-Half” because of just how good both teams were. The Raiders were 12-2 and red hot, and the Miami Dolphins had appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls, winning the last two.
However, for three quarters, the game was relatively low-scoring. Both teams managed a combined 30 points through the first 45 minutes, and they entered the final quarter with the Dolphins nursing a 16-14 lead. Miami extended their lead with a Garo Yepremian (poor guy will always be remembered for that Super Bowl play) field goal, and it looked like the Dolphins were well on their way to their fourth straight Super Bowl.
Not So Fast, Speed Kills
But that’s when Ken Stabler started doing Ken Stabler things, leading the Raiders on a 83 yard touchdown drive to give the Raiders a late 21-19 lead, capped off by a 72-yard touchdown from Cliff Branch, wildly not the play most people remember from this game (it’s at this point I remind everyone that despite plays like this, Cliff Branch is still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame).
The Dolphins struck back, however, scoring a go-ahead touchdown with two minutes left. Stabler and company got the ball at their own 32 yard line, needing six to reclaim the lead. In classic Snake fashion, Stabler marched the Raiders down the field, ultimately getting them down to the eight yard line before taking their final timeout. What happened next is a piece of NFL history.
Down five, with only 35 seconds left, the Raiders needed a touchdown. Without any time outs, on limited downs, running the ball was too big of a risk, so everyone in the building knew it was going to come down to Kenny Stabler.
The Sea of Hands
Stabler’s first glance was obviously Hall of Fame wide receiver, Fred Biletnikoff, but he was covered. Dolphins end Vern Den Herder (best name ever) broke loose on Stabler’s blindside and chased him out of the pocket. Stabler, who while Wiley, wasn’t necessarily the most athletically gifted quarterback, broke towards the endzone, but he was running out of time.
As Den Herder grabbed Stabler by the legs, the Snake gave the ball a desperation hurl into the endzone. Who was he targeting? Biletnikoff was covered, so perhaps Branch? Maybe Hall of Fame tight end, Dave Casper? No. Stabler, falling, tossed the ball into triple coverage to… Clarence Davis.
Davis, a reliable rusher, wasn’t the best receiver. He only had 99 catches in 89 games, and never had as many as 200 receiving yards in a single season. When it was all said and done, this particular touchdown grab was one of only three in a eight year career.
But, as history shows, he came down with it, giving the Raiders the lead with 24 seconds left. On the next drive, Phil Villapiano intercepted Bob Griese, giving the Raiders the win. A week later, the Silver and Black would fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, but that rivalry is a different story altogether.