Historic NFL Games in California

American football player running with the ball.

Super Bowl LVI is fast approaching. Sunday, February 13 will see the Los Angeles Rams battle it out with the Cincinnati Bengals for the championship of the 2021 season. It’s the biggest football game of the year and the highlight of the online sports betting calendar. 

This year, the Big Game is taking place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, giving the Rams a chance to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy in their home city. A Sunshine State team hasn’t done that since 1985, when the San Francisco 49’ers beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16 at Candlestick Park. Will the all-conquering Rams make good their home advantage or will the Bengals rob the Super Bowl favorites of 2022? One thing’s for sure, we’re in for a memorable game – and entertaining Super Bowl bets – on Super Bowl Sunday. 

To whet your appetite, here are some of the most memorable NFL games in California.

The Holy Roller Game

The clash between the Los Angeles Chargers (then known as the San Diego Chargers) and the Oklahoma Raiders on September 11, 1978, featured one of the most memorable plays in NFL history: the “Holy Roller.” The Chargers had broken an 18-game losing streak against the Raiders in the previous season and were set to beat their rivals again in week two of the 1978 season. They were 20-14 ahead and the game was almost done. But there was still time for the Raiders to make one final play on the Chargers’ 14-yard line.

Chargers’ linebacker Woody Lowe beat the player assigned to block him and got to Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler just as he was setting up. As Stabler backed away, Raiders running back Pete Banaszak called for Stabler to throw the ball to him. The quarterback fumbled the ball forward. Surrounded by Chargers defenders, Banaszak made a hash of his attempt to scoop it up and knocked it forward in the direction of the Chargers’ goal line. The ball hit Raiders tight end Dave Casper’s foot on the two-yard line and ricocheted into the end zone. Casper fell on, and the game was tied at 20-20. Raiders kicker Errol Mann converted the point. The score was now 21-20 in the Raiders’ favor, and there was no time left for the Chargers to recover.

The so-called “Holy Roller” play left the capacity home crowd speechless and dismayed. It was against the rules, but no officials saw it. Eventually, it came to light that Stabler and Banaszak, by their own admission, had fumbled the ball on purpose because they knew there was no other way to move the ball forward. This led to an amendment of the NFL rulebook. Rule 8, Section 4, Article 2 now states: “After the two-minute warning, any fumble that occurs during a down (including a PAT), the fumbled ball may only be advanced by the offensive player who fumbled the ball, or any member of the defensive team.”

The Catch II

The great rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers during the 1990s produced epic plays, season-changing moments, and some of the greatest NFL players in history. One play that people still talk about is known as “The Catch II.” It took place on January 3, 1999, during a 1998 NFC Wild Card Game between the Packers and the 49ers at 3Com Park in Candlestick Point, San Francisco. The game formed part of the 1998–99 NFL post-season playoffs, and American football betting pundits generally favored the Packers to win, with powerful players such as Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman and William White. But NFL odds aren’t a prophecy, as the 49ers proved.

The Packers took an early lead, but the 49ers turned the tables and took the lead back in the third quarter. With just under three minutes left, 49er running back Garrison Hearst made six carries for 38 yards by Hearst to set up a go-ahead field goal for placekicker Wade Richey. Both teams exchanged field goals, then young 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens dropped the ball, and the 49ers had to punt. With 4:19 left to go, Favre completed three passes for 62 yards on the drive and hit Freeman, who touched down to put the Packers in the lead. The Wisconsin team looked as though they were bound for a fourth consecutive postseason win over the 49ers.

With their season on the line, the 49ers dug deep. After two completions to receiver J.J. Stokes, they were on their rivals’ 25-yard line. Then Owens made his play. With eight seconds to go, Young stumbled from the snap but recovered and fired the ball 25 yards down the middle to Owens. Surrounded by five Packers defenders, Owens caught the ball in the endzone near the goal line and made the winning touchdown reception with just three seconds left! This phenomenal play was instantly nicknamed “The Catch: Part II” (the first Catch was 49ers receiver Dwight Clark’s end-zone touchdown in the final moments of the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.)

An American football on a field.

Instant classic

On Monday, November 18, 2018, the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs locked horns at the Los Angeles Coliseum in an encounter that many recognize as the greatest regular-season game ever, and the only regular-season game to be profiled in NFL’s Greatest Games, the ongoing NFL Films series. The two 9-1 teams were that season’s biggest favorites in American football betting. They were both in playoff contention, with great Super Bowl odds, and fans were treated to a regular battle of the titans that delivered many historic NFL firsts.

For one, it was the first time that two teams averaging a minimum of 33 points per game had met that late in the NFL. The score, 54-51 in favor of the Rams, was the highest in Monday Night Football history, with 35 points and four lead changes just in the fourth quarter. The game featured 14 touchdowns, including three by defensive players, and 56 first downs. It was the first game in NFL history where both teams scored 50 points at least, thanks largely to quarterbacks Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes, who made 925 yards and 11 touchdowns between them, with Mahomes 478 being a career high. The Chiefs were also the first team ever to lose while scoring at least 50 points.

The showdown only reached a conclusion with 1:49 to play, when Goff threw a 40-yard pass for Gerald Everett to make the go-ahead touchdown. Fans and sportswriters alike hailed the Chiefs-Rams battle as an instant classic. Goff and Mahomes accepted the award for “Best Game” at the 2019 ESPY Awards on behalf of their teams, and the Los Angeles Sports Council named the game the top L.A. sports moment of 2018.

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