Sunday, October 10, 2010

Miami Dolphins vs. Houston Oilers - November 20, 1978

Today's post is about the 1978 Monday Night Football classic between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Oilers. I guess I could have waited another day to watch some NFL football, but since my viewing area always shows Carolina Panthers games, I decided to watch some good football instead. Well, let me tell you, this was one heck of a football game between two quality teams who laid it all out there on the field in front of a rabid Houston audience. The Oilers eventually won the game, 35-30. A few notes about this game.

- This game is primarily remembered as being Earl Campbell's breakout game, as the fullback scored four touchdowns in front of a national television audience. In his prime, Campbell was a force of nature. Not only was he the most punishing runner of his time and maybe of all-time, Campbell also possessed the speed to break off huge runs, as he did in this game with an 81-yard scamper, blowing by the entire Dolphins defense with nary a hand touching him. While that was impressive, I was more impressed with a 3 yard-run by Campbell early in the game. On this play, Campbell lowered his shoulder and lifted a defensive back in the air with a charging run. On another play, Campbell rammed his head into a linebacker, and the linebacker fell straight down on his butt. Overall, Campbell put together a tremendous performance, and for my money, he's the best power back to ever play in the NFL with the exception of Jim Brown.

- Of course, a running back is only as good as the blocking in front of him, and Campbell had some excellent blocking in front of him on this night, especially from his fullback Tim Wilson. Wilson, a man who would go on to play eight years in the NFL, did an excellent job blocking for his halfback. It seemed like the Oilers could run the ball at will, and a lot of that was due to Wilson, who constantly sealed off Miami's athletic linebackers and opened huge holes for Campbell to run through. As a whole, the Oilers' offensive line was very solid, despite losing starting guard George Reihner early in the game.

- Two things about Miami QB Bob Griese. One, Griese was wearing these huge black eyeglasses under his helmet the whole game, which is quite a rare look for an NFL player. To be honest, it looked as if an accountant was playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Two, Griese played a heck of a ballgame, throwing the ball with surgical precision and spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. Overall, Griese went 23 of 33 for 349 yards, and should have had even better numbers, as the Dolphins' receivers dropped a couple of easy passes. Griese only made one mistake in the game, and it happened to come at the worst possible time. With the Dolphins down 28-23 and driving down the field, Griese launched a pass down the middle of the field to his tight end, Andre Tillman. Unfortunately, the ball sailed on Griese and led Tillman into safety Mike Reinfeldt, who not only laid out Tillman with a big hit, but tipped the ball into the hands of Oilers linebacker Steve Kiner for the game clinching interception. Still, Griese was quite impressive, and announcer Howard Cosell repeatedly referred to Griese as the best quarterback in the game.

- Come to think of it, both Cosell and Frank Gifford were rather positive throughout the game. Sure, they weren't quite as complimentary as Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski on today's version of MNF, but the two were rather quick to dish out praise. Some of it was deserved, but a couple of comments were rather silly in hindsight, such as Cosell claiming that Dolphins linebacker Kim Bokamper would be better than Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks.

- At the beginning of the game, Dolphins RB Delvin Williams was the league's leading rusher. While Williams displayed a wide array of skills, from speed to pass catching to running tough up the middle, and played well, he did have one weakness that came into focus during the game. On more than one occasion, Williams decided to run backwards when faced with some traffic, which resulted in some big losses late in the game. These days, running backs are always taught to go forward, and this game showed why, as Williams had two runs with a 7-yard loss. Of course, he then followed up those losses with big runs, so I guess it evened out in the end.

- One player on Houston's defense that I couldn't help noticing was outside linebacker Robert Brazile. Brazile possessed incredible speed for a 230 lb man, and was the key man in Houston's 3-4 defense. In fact, I couldn't help but notice that Houston used Brazile much like the Giants would use Lawrence Taylor in later years, moving Brazile from one side to the other and constantly sending him on blitzes. I found this rather interesting because it is Taylor that is credited for being the original 3-4 rush linebacker, when three years prior to Taylor's debut, the Oilers were utilizing Brazile in the same manner, although he was sent into coverage quite often as well. The point I'm trying to make, I guess, is that maybe we should take a second look at Brazile's accomplishments, as even though Brazlie played in seven Pro Bowls and was named to the All 1970s team, he is largely forgotten today, and that's a shame.

Well, I guess that's enough for now, as I am tired and I want to go to bed. If you have any memories or thoughts about this game, then I would like for you to post those in the comments section. Also, if you have any ideas for future posts, then let me know about them either by leaving a comment of by sending me an e-mail at

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