In fast-forwarding through a tape that was supposed to have tonight's episode of "The Office" on it, I found an absolute gem - apparently, we taped most of the fourth quarter of an Oilers-49ers game from mid-October, 1990. (For some reason.) Advertisements for the third game of the Reds-Pirates NLCS gave away the time frame, and pro-football-reference.com confirms that it was a Week 5 matchup. As far as I know, this is the only video of the Oilers to which I have access.
As the recording starts, the Oilers are up 21-14 with about 12 minutes to go, and Joe Montana's Niners are driving. I'm absolutely engrossed as I'm watching this, because I'm seeing Bubba McDowell lay out nasty hits and Ray Childress stuff runs, and it actually tugs at my heartstrings because I've never cared about the NFL as much since the Oilers moved. Anyway, the defense makes a good stop on goal-to-go and holds San Francisco to a Mike Cofer field goal. 21-17.
Bear in mind that while watching the tape, I have no idea how this game will turn out, but I'm sure Oiler fans would know where this is going. Houston finds themselves with a slim fourth-quarter lead, about 10 minutes to go, and a Jack Pardee-coached run-and-shoot offense. Here, in Part One of why this tape is an absolutely perfect microcosm of the Houston Oilers as I remember them, is their ensuing drive chart.
1st down and 10 (HOU 20): Sack.
2nd down and 23 (HOU 7): Pass for no gain.
3rd down and 23 (HOU 7): Pass for short gain.
4th down and 15 (HOU 15): Punt.
Total time taken off the clock? Maybe a minute.
Greg Montgomery's punt is very good (and that pleases me, because I remember him being solid) and the Niners start from a few yards deep in their own territory. They move the ball pretty effectively across midfield, and it's a little bit scary.
And then Montana drops back to pass... is pressured by William Fuller... and gets rid of the ball, incomplete, just before he's laid out hard (but cleanly) by Ezra Johnson. Montana's a little shaken up, and George Seifert decides to bring in their backup quarterback, a kid by the name of Steve Young, for one play, just to give Joe a rest.
And here, my friends, is Part Two of why this bit of video is just too awfully, horribly good. Young fumbles his only snap of the game. Ray Childress falls on it. The Oilers have the ball back near midfield and a four-point lead, and the Dome is going crazy... wait, what?
"Before the ball was snapped, timeout was called by the defense
... their first charged timeout..."
I, 16 years later, am floored by this, mouth agape.
Naturally, on the next play of the game, Montana completes a 43-yard TD pass to John Taylor, and the Niners go up by three.
There, with those two snippets, you have the Houston Oilers in a nutshell. A fundamental inability to adapt to late-game situations, and a probably-unprecendented streak of just ridiculously
They went on to lose the game, of course, although my tape stops at the two-minute warning with the 49ers driving again (the Oilers went three-and-out after Taylor's touchdown).
It did my heart good to see the fellows in Columbia blue with derricks on their helmets playing on artificial turf. With Warren Moon out there, who was a black pocket passer before there was such a thing, and so on, and so forth.
But I'm still mad that they lost.