“Sea of Hands” was Ken Stabler’s defining moment

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I have a handful of indelible sports memories from my youth. One of the most vivid lingering images came the day the Oakland Raiders ended the Miami dynasty.

With Don Shula’s Dolphins making a run at a third straight Super Bowl win and leading the Raiders in Oakland by five points with less than a minute to play, Stabler took the snap at the Miami eight, dropped back, faded to the right, encountered pressure, scrambled to the left, was hit low from behind, and lobbed the ball while falling.

Running back Clarence Davis emerged from the so-called “Sea of Hands” (mostly belonging to Dolphins defenders) to snag the ball and end Miami’s march to a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance.

The Raiders would lose at home the following week to the Steelers in the AFC title game, finally finishing the job two years later. But nothing in Oakland’s run to Super Bowl XI compared to the throw from Stabler that brought down the Dolphins.

“If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden said in a statement issued Thursday night by the Raiders.  “Snake was a lot cooler than I was.  He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler.”

And when I think about Ken Stabler, I think about the Sea of Hands.

38 responses to ““Sea of Hands” was Ken Stabler’s defining moment

  1. I remember that game well!!! Not too many QBs I loved more in my lifetime than Kenny Stabler. Only one I loved above him was Jim Kelly. Jack Kemp and Darly Lamonica were the other two.

  2. He was a man that gave it back to the media. A legendary player that should be in the hall but kept out by writers. RIP Mr. Stabler.

  3. Just finished watching the Sea of Hands game. Very sad day for the RaiderNation.

    R.I.P. Snake

  4. Nice tribute Florio.

    If Franco Harris hadn’t caught the immaculate reception, you would be writing about Snake’s 30 yard touchdown run with 1:17 left in the game.

    Then of course there is the Ghost to the Post. Even the Holy Roller. Stabler was associated with every great nickname play in the 70’s outside of the Staubach/Drew Pearson Hail Mary.

    And who can forget his precision pin point passing in the two minute drill. Leading the Raiders to comeback victory after comeback victory. Arguably only Staubach of that era ran a better two minute drill.

    One of my favorite players growing up. Snake, I hope God has a Jukebox in heaven for you so you can study his playbook by the light of it. RIP old warrior.

  5. I remember watching that game. Snake was great.
    Blitetnikoff caught everything in sight.

    Davis was probably the last person I would have though would make that catch but he did.

    One of the top 10 games in NFL history.

  6. Ken Stabler is one of the men who made the NFL the life engrossing sport it is today. Look up the definition of “Fun” in the dictionary and you’ll see a grinning Ken Stabler. Just the best, both on and off the field. RIP Kenny. We will always miss you.

  7. I can see Stabler right now with a reunion on the field….Al Davis is the coach, and is going to air it out He lines up behind Dave Dalby and calls a deep pass to the corner of the end zone to Bobby Chandler on the left side while being protected by Upshaw, and Whitteker with Todd Christensen running a safety valve pass just in case.

    He lines up against the defensive front seven of Ben Davidson, Chester McGlockton, Darrell Russell, Lyle Alzado, the Tooz, Marquis Cooper, and Thomas Howard. Buuba Smith, and Leon Bender say they want in , so Al says play on the right side of the O-line. Stabler throws the ball deep with Chandler getting a step up on Skip Thomas, but Eric Turner has the deep help, but Chandler makes a miraculous catch between the both of them, with Jack Tatum delivering a heck of a blow , but Chandler holds on, and Balanda comes in and kicks the PAT.

    The media who votes for Canton might hate the Raiders, but no doubt up there they will put a whooping on anybody.

    Go Raiders ….all of you RIP, and provide some divine intervention this year for us.

  8. I have tears welling up. Serious.

    The Snake had a somewhat Shiner Silver and a far Deeper Black than almost every Raider, in Raider in History.

    The Snake, and his flowing hair, will always be the Silver in the Silver and Black.

    Read his book. “The Snake” It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you jump up and cheer.

  9. As a Chiefs fan I respected the Snake very much. one of the very best of his day. RIP

  10. And if the story was about Brett Favre, Madden would have picked Favre for the last drive. And if the story had been about Peyton Manning, Madden would have picked Manning for the last drive.

    Does Madden even have any credibility left?

  11. I always remember him walking onto the field with his left shoulder and arm hanging lower than his right and not moving, like his arm was dead, and while he was walking toward the huddle he would lick his passing fingers.

  12. Yep, Sea of Hands was the defining moment.
    I remember the video for the season in review, released by the Raiders in early 1975. It began with the loss to the Steelers, ended with the triumph of the Sea of Hands, and Madden being carried out on the players shoulders.

    The NFL was great in those days.

    I am not a Raiders fan, but I lived in the Bay Area during that time.
    Strangely, what I miss most about that time is Charlie Jones and the great Al Derogatis. They defined Raiders football to me, or at least the AFC West of those days.

  13. Pit fan and my “bestie”, a Raider fan, and because of him, I’ve had vested interest in Raiders since the 70s. RIP Snake! And to the all the present day Raider bashers/mockers out there, If Carr turns out to be good, what will you say then?

  14. Damn you Florio, now I’m going to have to go have a cry.

    Madden really said it all. When you think Oakland Raiders you think Ken Stabler.

    I would love nothing better than to see one last “Ghost to the Post”.

  15. If u didn’t see him play u just don’t get it. They didn’t keep comeback 4th quarter stats in those days.

    He was ridiculous. Want proof youtube the MNF game vs Saints down 0-21.

    Played in an era where the AFC DOMINATED and the Steelers won 4 rings.

    If you are an NFL fan do yourself a favor and youtube him and watch what you see for a few minutes.

    He should be in the HOF….his stats are much better than Broadway Joe.

    Anyhoo he made me a Raider fan for life. RIP Snake you were legitimately “cooler than the other side of the pillow”

  16. Shula clearly blew that game. With two minutes left and no time outs for the raiders, had he instructed Benny Malone to do a Westbrook flop at the one instead of scoring, Dolphins could have run out the clock, kick an easy field goal and win the game.

  17. RIP Snake, you should’ve been in the HOF long ago while you could’ve relished the recognition.

  18. Snake led the Raiders to so many wins in the last 2 minutes but the Sea of Hands game was by far my favorite. Thanks for remembering this in your article.

  19. Stabler was great. I wouldn’t have argued if he was in the HoF. Madden just makes me sick is all.

  20. Rest in peace Snake and thank you for the memories.

    Maybe by making the statement below PatFan can learn a little something…

    Lytle DID fumble at the one. Horrible call that probably cost you a Super Bowl appearance.

  21. Much props to the late Stabler. But it was the lose of key players to the new start up league that killed the Fins Dynasty.

  22. RIP Snake. Dude was the coolest!

    Been watching all of the Raiders “America’s Games” this weekend… Loved it that the NFL Network had the Sea of Hands game along with Ghost To The Post on!!!!

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