December 25, 2000
For Those Left Behind
by Ric Sweeney
The story of the Houston Oilers cannot rightly be summed up in 19 games. Tough choices were made and compromises were reached in compiling The Dream Season, which meant many great games in franchise history were sacrificed.
This week, in lieu of a game recap and prior to remembering Houston’s three greatest postseason wins, we humbly present some of the finer moments we simply had no space to include in this project. This also gives us an opportunity to close the books on the Oilers’ run in Houston by compiling final team statistics and individual leaders.
September 3, 1966: The Oilers open the regular season by roasting the Denver Broncos, 45-7. Houston’s defense does not allow a single Bronco first down, an AFL record.
September 8, 1985: The Oilers beat the defending AFC Champion Miami Dolphins, 26-23. Butch Woolfolk hauls in an 80-yard bomb and the Oiler defense intercepts Dan Marino twice to preserve the stunning upset. It would be one of only four Dolphin losses in 1985.
Week 3 October 4, 1987: Turning to replacement players to fill the shoes of striking NFL veterans, the Oilers, led by housepainter-turned-linebacker Eugene Seale, demolish the Denver Broncos, 40-10. The Oiler replacement players would then travel to Cleveland and beat the Browns, securing two wins that would have almost certainly been impossible with the regular NFL lineups. Houston would use the two wins to secure its first trip to the playoffs in seven years. Week 8
November 4, 1973: Led by Lynn Dickey’s 340 yards passing, the Oilers snap their 18-game losing streak (the longest in team history) with a 31-27 victory against the Baltimore Colts. Houston would go on to lose 10 of its next 11 games, making their record over a 37-game span (1972 through the first six games of 1974) an unbelievably inept 3-34.
October 10, 1996: In front of an unexpected near-sell-out, the lame duck Oilers win for the final time in Houston, 23-13, beating, appropriately enough, the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers behind rookie Eddie George. The 50,337 is one of only two 50,000+ Astrodome crowds over the 1995-96 seasons.
November 7, 1988: Houston makes a triumphant return to Monday Night Football, beating the Cleveland Browns, 24-17. The game marked Houston’s first primetime appearance on ABC since 1982 and their first win on the network since 1981 (also against the Browns).
November 10, 1991: Al Del Greco kicks the game winning field goal in overtime as the Oilers cap a dramatic win over the resurgent Dallas Cowboys, 26-23. Warren Moon sets career highs in completions and attempts while running up 432 passing yards. Del Greco missed a potential game-winner as regulation ended. After a rare Emmitt Smith fumble in overtime, the kicker, in his first game as an Oiler, makes amends.
Week 11 November 11, 1984: K Joe Cooper’s 44-yard field goal snaps Houston’s 23-game road losing streak, the longest such drought in NFL history. The game also marks the first NFL victory for Warren Moon, who had been a dismal 0-10 since signing with the Oilers. Week 12 December 3, 1961: The Oiler smash the previously unbeaten Chargers, 33-13 in front of the AFL’s largest-crowd to date, 37,854. Houston would beat the Chargers once more later in the month to claim their second AFL title. Week 13
December 11, 1960: The Oilers beat Buffalo, 31-23, in front of the largest home crowd to date (25,247), clinching the AFL’s first-ever East division crown. Houston also avenged an earlier loss at Buffalo, 25-24.
December 16, 1967: Houston clinches its fourth Eastern Division crown with a 24-17 victory over the Chargers. The previous year, Houston had finished in last place with a dismal 3-11 record, marking the first time a team went from last to first place in one season.
December 9, 1990: The Oilers set several franchise records in routing the Cleveland Browns, 58-14. In addition to putting up the most points in franchise history, the Oilers also logged the most points in a quarter (31) and a half (45). RB Lorenzo White scores four rushing touchdowns.
December 19, 1971: S Ken Houston picks off consecutive John Hadl passes and returns them both for touchdowns, an all-time record. Houston would finish the year with four touchdowns on interception returns, also an NFL record.
December 16, 1990: On a wet and windy afternoon, Warren Moon leads Houston to a 27-10 thumping of the Kansas City Chiefs. On the day, Moon throws for 527 yards, second most in NFL history. Moon had a chance to break Norm Van Brocklin’s 39-yard old record of 554 yards, but declined to pad his totals with Houston comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter. Haywood Jeffires catches 9 passes for 245 yards, second most receiving yardage in team history.
December 19, 1993: Visiting Pittsburgh just five days after the suicide of DT Jeff Alm, the Oilers clinch their second-ever AFC Central crown with an emotional 26-17 win over the wildcard-bound Steelers. The game also clinches Houston’s seventh consecutive playoff appearance and marks only the second time since the 1970 merger that an AFC Central team went undefeated in their division.
December 27, 1987: After a seven-year absence, the Oilers clinch a postseason spot by beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-17. FB Alonzo Highsmith scores two touchdowns while Warren Moon throws his 21st of the year, the most by an Oiler QB since 1963.
Final Houston Oiler numbers:
Overall Record: 251-291-6
Home Record: 149-123-2 (25-10 @ Jeppesen Stadium; 11-10 @ Rice Stadium; 113-103-2 @ The Astrodome)
Away Record: 102-168-4
Championships: 2 (AFL, 1960-61)
Championship Games: 6 (AFL, 1960-2, 1967; AFC, 1978-79)
Postseason Record (overall): 9-13 (AFL 2-3; NFL 7-10)
Division Titles: 8 (AFL East Division, 1960-2, 1967; NFL AFC Central, 1980 (tie), 1990 (tie), 1991, 1993)
Rushing Yards: Earl Campbell, 8,574
Rushing Attempts: Earl Campbell, 1,979
Rushing Touchdowns: Earl Campbell, 73
Most 100-Yard Games: Earl Campbell, 40 (includes postseason)
Most Yards, One Game: Billy Cannon, 216 (12/10/61)
Longest Run: Sid Blanks, 91 yards (9/13/64)
Passing Yards: Warren Moon, 33,685
Completions: Warren Moon, 2,632
Attempts: Warren Moon, 4,546
Completion %: Ken Stabler, 62.0
Passing Touchdowns: Warren Moon, 196
Interceptions: George Blanda, 189
Most 300-Yard Games: Warren Moon, 42 (includes postseason)
Most Completions, One Game: Warren Moon, 41 (11/10/91)
Most Touchdowns, One Game: George Blanda, 7 (11/19/61)
Most Yards, One Game: Warren Moon, 527 (12/16/90)
Longest Pass: Jackey Lee to Willard Dewveall, 98 yards (1/25/62)
Receptions: Ernest Givins, 542
Reception Yards: Ernest Givins, 7,935
Touchdown Receptions: Charlie Hennigan, 51
Most 100-Yard Games: Charlie Hennigan, 26
Most Receptions, One Game: (tie) Charlie Hennigan and Haywood Jeffires, 13
Most Yards, One Game: Charlie Hennigan, 272 (10/13/61)
Most Career Points: George Blanda, 596
Most Career Games: Bruce Mathews, 216
Week 17 Notes
The Houston Oilers never beat the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles. In addition to New York and Philadelphia, the Oiler never won in Tampa Bay either. The only teams never to have won in Houston were Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Washington.
The Houston Oilers by decade:
Did the Oilers really live up to their choke label? You decide: they were 45-44 in games decided by three or fewer points; 8-15 in OT games and 9-13 in the postseason. The Dream Season Week Opponent Result 01 @ Oakland 37-22 02 @ Cleveland 16-7 03 NY Jets 26-20 04 @ Cincinnati 30-27 05 Denver 42-14 06 @ New England 28-14 07 @ Buffalo 28-16 08 @ Pittsburgh 24-17 09 Washington 41-17 10 NY Titans 49-13 11 @ New England 26-23 12 Miami 35-30 13 @ Dallas 30-24 14 Pittsburgh 31-6 15 @ San Francisco 10-7 16 @ Baltimore 24-21 17 Bye Week N/A 18 @ Cleveland 24-23 19 @ San Diego 17-14 20 LA Chargers 24-16 RETURN TO THE DREAM SEASON