October 9, 2000
The Oilers Deliver
The 1993 Oilers had hit rock bottom. Just six days prior, in their much-ballyhooed rematch with Buffalo, Houston watched the Bills do what they could not the previous January: build a large lead and then hold onto it. The Oilers’ season was in danger of crashing down around them, and the last thing they needed as the traveled to face the New England Patriots in week 6 was a distraction.
Not surprisingly, two quickly developed.
After an ineffective start to the season, in which the run-n-shoot offense committed 21 turnovers while scoring just seven touchdowns in five games, Houston benched the healthy Warren Moon in favor of Cody Carlson, who would be making his first-ever start not brought about by a Moon injury.
But that was merely a warm-up for the maelstrom awaiting the Oilers in Boston. By week’s end, Houston would find itself in one of the biggest, most highly publicized controversies in the franchise’s checkered history.
Turns out Moon wasn’t the only starter MIA at the game’s outset. David Williams, the Oilers’ starting right tackle, had stayed in Houston the previous night to witness the birth of his first child. Despite attempts by the Oilers to coax the lineman to join his teammates in Foxboro, the new dad opted to stay with his wife and newborn son, missing the game and drawing the Oilers’ ire.
Houston shuffled their line, moving Kevin Donnalley to right tackle and Brad Hopkins into Donnalley’s vacated left tackle spot. The Oilers also docked Williams a game check, totaling $111,111. Williams’ story would be recounted in the New York Times and on NBC’s Dateline, to name just a few, thrusting the Oilers into a week-long media blitzkrieg where they played the heavy to Williams’ hero.
Meanwhile, there was a game to be played, and 51,037 Patriot fans were witness to the first signs that the Oilers’ defense was coming into its own under new coordinator Buddy Ryan. DE Sean Jones blocked Scott Sisson’s 42-yard field goal on the Pats’ first drive. On New England’s second drive, Jones and DT Lee Williams stuffed Leonard Russell on a fourth and one at the Oilers’ 17 after Al Smith had stopped Russell on third down. It set the tone, for both the game and the remainder of the season.
The offense, even with the defense capturing the early momentum, was unable to move the football and continued to struggle. Houston’s first three series resulted in punts. Finally, after a 14-yard punt return by Willie Drewrey, the Oilers scored on a 10-yard scramble by Carlson, giving Houston’s its first lead in any game since September 19. But the celebration did not last long. Carlson pulled his groin on the run, and after an ineffective return to the field, was replaced by the previously benched Moon.
And thus delayed the Cody Carlson era.
The veteran quarterback responded by moving the Oilers to their second score, a seven yard touchdown pass to Webster Slaughter. As the tumultuous first half came to a close, the Oilers led New England, 14-0.
The Patriots opened the second half with a 6-play, 46-yard touchdown drive, ending on QB Scott Secules’ seven yard pass to Kevin Turner. Moon fired back, marching Houston 85 yards in 16 plays, connecting with Slaughter for their second touchdown, 21-7. On the drive, Moon began to shake off the rust. He completed passes on four key third downs to keep the drive alive.
Meanwhile, the defense was sharpening its killer instinct. Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots would once again drive deep into Oiler territory. At the 24 yard line, DT Glenn Montgomery belted Secules, who’s errant pass was intercepted by SS Bubba McDowell at the Houston 8. On New England’s next series, DB Steve Jackson intercepted Secules and returned it 22 yards for the score. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Houston had increased its lead, 28-7.
New England would take advantage of two costly penalties, one on McDowell for face masking, the other on LB Eddie Robinson for roughing the passer, to score from a yard out on fourth down, capping the day’s scoring, 28-14. Rather inauspiciously, the Oilers had turned the corner in the 1993 season.
"We had a lot of built-in excuses for losing, but I see this game as being the turning point," Bruce Matthews said. "This win could be the start of something big."
Was it ever.
The Oilers stared controversy in the face, and for once, lived to tell about it. The events seemed to focus the team, and allowed them to right their ship under the radar while the media submerged on Father-of-the Year Williams. It would lead to an unprecedented 11 consecutive victories, the most in franchise history, and their second outright Central division crown.
GAME STATS Oilers Patriots First Downs 15 19 Rushing Yards 104 54 Passing Yards 142 261 Passes 22/30 23/40 Interceptions 0 3 Punts 6/51 3/45 Penalty Yards 42 44
at New England
October 17, 1993
Site: Foxboro Stadium (Foxboro, MA)
Records: Oilers (1-4); Patriots (1-4)
Prior to their victory, the Oilers had lost four straight games in Foxboro, dating back to 1981. In fact, their last win before 1993 was in the second round of the 1978 playoffs. ————————– Haywood Jeffires, who spent most his afternoon jawing with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, failed to catch a pass for the first time in 53 games. ————————– Houston’s win was only its 12th victory in their last 36 attempts on a grass field since 1984.