HARRIS COUNTY – HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Houston and Miami have a great history in prime time

Earl Campbell's game against Miami remains iconic. Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images

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Deshaun Watson had more touchdown passes than incompletions on Thursday night. DeAndre Hopkins caught two of them, as well as possibly the most incredible through the leg catch of all-time (Even though it didn’t count).  The Texans committed no turnovers, allowed no sacks and scored a season high 42 points.

It was also homecoming and the Home field  Advantage Captain was none other than former Houston Oiler legend and Hall of Famer Robert Brazile.

Which got us thinking back to that other incredible prime time game against the Miami Dolphins 40 years ago.

The idea was to get a couple of first downs and run out the clock.

Let the rookie and those powerful thighs of his pound a worn out Miami defense a few more times. Don’t let Bob Griese back on the field.

Don’t take any crazy chances.

So quarterback Dan Pastorini called Earl Campbell’s number one more time. The play? Toss 38.

Campbell took the toss and headed to his right. A few steps later, he cut up the sideline, accelerated and . . . the rest was history.  He kicked it into yet another gear and went 81 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night and a 35-23 Houston lead.

Pastorini went to the bench to apologize to Bum Phillips for the quick score. Bum said what the heck. He’d take the seven points. And the eventual 35-30 win.

Watching it today on grainy 1978 film, you still get chills. You marvel over that Astrodome crowd waving what looks like a sea of Columbia Blue and white pompons. You see Bum with that buzz cut and colorful Western shirt. You hear Howard Cosell pontificate in that unmistakable cadence.

You start singing that song. “Houston has the Oilers, the greatest football team . . . “

Has it really been 40 years since that incredible Monday night when Houston fell head over Luv Ya Blue heels for their Oilers?

Memories started dancing through Houstonians’ heads the second we knew Miami was coming back to town for it’s first prime-time match up here since that legendary November 20, 1978 game.

Four touchdowns and 199 yards for Campbell. A great night for Dr. Doom and the defense against Miami quarterback Bob Griese. A coaching matchup between the down-home, colorful Bum and buttoned-up Don Shula.

The upstart Oilers against NFL royalty – a Dolphins team that had gone undefeated a few years earlier.

“You walked out saw the pompons, the signs . . .” Pastorini said. “It was nothing but a sea of Oiler blue.”

And the Oilers responded.

“We were kind of on the cusp of being a good team,’’ said starting safety Mike Reinfeldt. “We had some talent, we’d played some tough games, but this was Don Shula. . . and to play them Monday night . .

“For us to step up in a big game and play so well and the game came down to the end and we made some huge plays. Obviously, Earl made an unbelievable run, but we just kind of stepped forward and made huge plays at the end of the game for a huge win.’’

The win put the Oilers on their way to back-to-back trips to the AFC title game where they lost both times to Pittsburgh. And it put Campbell and three defensive players – Robert Brazile, Curley Culp, Elvin Bethea -- on the road to the Hall of Fame.

Those Luv Ya Blue seasons will be among the seven decades of moments being honored at the second annual Houston Sports Awards February 6 at the Hilton-Americas.

Campbell was honored at last year’s inaugural Houston Sports Awards along with Nolan Ryan and Hakeem Olajuwon – the city’s 34s – and those three Hall of Famers were the also the inaugural class of inductees into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

A number of Oilers, including Pastorini, will be on hand for the 2019 event, which will also honor President George H.W. and Barbara Bush with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Taking nothing away from Thursday’s matchup between Miami and the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium, but it didn’t come close to the excitement level of the 1978 game which is understandable. The ’78 Oilers-Dolphins game was arguably the best Monday Night game in history.

Receiver Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was on the roster, but was hurt and didn’t play. In fact, he didn’t even get to the game.

“I was going to go to the game that night and my wife said no because we heard it ws going to be a crazy crowd,’’ Johnson said. “I watched it from home. You could just feel it when Earl made that long run and (Miami defensive back) Curtis Johnson backed down. I’m just telling you what it looked like to me – that he didn’t want to hit Earl.

“When Earl (scored) that place came undone. The roof came off of it.’’

Johnson also said that game galvanized the team.

“To me, that was one of the major steps of really coming together and how people were excited about the Houston Oilers,’’ he said. “I’m not going to say it was a turning point, but it was really up there when it comes to a point when we realized who we were and what we could do. That was unbelievable.’’

Added former Oiler Robert Woods, now a Harris County – Houston Sports Authority board member, said the Oilers had something really special during those Luv Ya Blue years.

“I think the fans fell in love with us because we were  blue collar workers,’’ Woods said. “Bum had a remarkable way of putting us together.’’

Added Johnson, “He didn’t want to change anyone’s character or personality. He just wanted you to come together on the field to play and the other things will take care of themselves.’’

The relationship with fans and city, Johnson said, remind him of the way the Houston Astros pulled the city together last fall after Hurricane Harvey. That love affair continued this season.

Pastorini smiles.

“It gives me goosebumps to think about the respect we had from playing a stupid game,’’ he said. “But it brought the city together . . . This city was hungry for a winner in football and we gave it to them. ‘’

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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