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Oilers Find 47 Ways to Embarrass Raiders

Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott now know how it feels to lose a football game, 47-17.

This sort of thing seldom happened to them in San Francisco. Not many NFL enemies rang up 47s on the 49ers. Very few ever took them apart, piece by piece, whether it be a season opener or season closer. For Craig and Lott, who have never worked for any professional organization other than the Niners, life without Joe Montana and Jerry Rice is only just beginning.

On the floor of the Houston Astrodome, where there might not be another decision this one-sided until the first ballot of the 1992 Republican National Convention, the curtain-raiser of the Raiders was a rip-roaring failure, a game that made the Houston Oilers look positively 49er-like, made Warren Moon look positively Montana-like and made the team from Los Angeles look positively Tampa-like.

It was one of those Sundays where you can’t wait for a game to begin, then sit there wondering if the stupid thing ever will end.

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Picture, if you must, a practice session later this week at which a team that came within one victory of the 1991 Super Bowl finds itself watching film footage of a football game highlighted by a Vince Evans touchdown pass, his first in four years, to Sam Graddy, making his second catch in four years.

How do you suppose a team feels after such a game?

“Everybody feels bad,” Evans said, “needless to say.”

What everybody did afterward was take pains to Say the Right Thing, to compliment the winners, to stress that this was Just One Game, knowing full well that anything else they said might be held against them. Al Davis, who signs the paychecks, said for the moment he was more concerned with who got injured rather than who played poorly, but added understandably that a defeat such as this, well: “It eats at you.”

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Being professionals, the Raiders will overlook or ignore the sort of thing that the rest of us won’t--like losing by 30 points with next week’s opponent (Denver) having won Sunday by 31. Should they speak at all, they will express the utmost confidence in Jay Schroeder’s ability to do something other than throw long; in the rushing attack’s ability to unearth somebody who can gain more than 17 yards and in the defensive secondary’s ability to cover John Elway’s receivers better than they covered Moon’s.

There were a number of sad, sad sights here Sunday, among them the holes in the Raider defensive line that the Oilers could have driven trucks through, much less Allen Pinkett; the holding by James FitzPatrick that at times appeared to be his only means of stopping Houston tackle Ray Childress; the coverage of Torin Dorn that amounted to waving bye-bye to Tony Jones; the passes juggled by Ethan Horton and the kickoff fumbled by Graddy into the hands of a Houston player who hurdled right over him for a touchdown.

The very next play, the very same guy, Mike Dumas, tackled Graddy again. It was that kind of day for the Raiders, the kind of day where Houston rubbed the Astroturf in their face, linebacker Lamar Lathon at one point going so far as to stomp on a prostrate Marcus Allen’s neck.

They have a bunch of greedy pigs here in Houston when it comes to games involving pigskin. The local college team leaves Heisman Trophy candidate David Klingler on the field long enough for him to fling nine touchdown passes against a helpless opponent. The pro team keeps Warren Moon on the field, passing toward the end zone, in the fourth quarter of a game in which the Oilers are ahead by 30 points.

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Whether the Raiders remember these transgressions or choose to shine them on, it doesn’t really matter. The largest crowd ever to see a football game at the Astrodome got to go home talking Super Bowls and stuff, to which Lott, for one, simply said: “It’s so, so early. Everybody in the league says they’re headed for the Super Bowl, but who knows how far they can go?”

The same can be said for the Raiders, who have no evidence after Sunday’s game that there is a Super Bowl in their future, but no reason to believe that in the 15 weeks to follow, things will get even worse.

They can’t.


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