Cornerback Cris Dishman returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown and set up another with a 43-yard interception return, helping the Houston Oilers to a 42-14 rout over the Denver Broncos.
"I don't think there's anyone in the league that is playing better for their team than he is for us right now," Oiler Coach Jack Pardee said of Dishman. "He just keeps making the big plays for us every week."
It was the fourth consecutive week Dishman had contributed an interception or fumble recovery, but he was by no means the only member of the Oilers' wrecking crew.
The Oilers sacked John Elway five times for 54 yards. William Fuller had three sacks, and Bubba McDowell recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown, had a sack and blocked a field-goal attempt on the final play of the first half.
The Oilers, in their first game since losing to New England, 24-20, two weeks ago, scored 35 points in the first half.
"New England had a lot to do with it," McDowell said. "We went up there and got a little lackadaisical. We knew we had to come out from the start and be the defense we know we can be. We made up our minds to come out and do that early."
The Oilers took out their anger on the startled Broncos, who are 4-2 but were hoping to go 5-1 for the first time since 1981, Dan Reeves' first year as head coach.
"My hat's off to Houston, they played well and made big plays early," Reeves said. "The blocked punt was a really big play. They are as good as any team I've seen in the first half of a game this year."
The Oilers held Gaston Green, the AFC's leading rusher, to 36 yards in 15 carries. The defense set the tone from the first play of the game, when Sean Jones sacked Elway for a nine-yard loss.
Then the special teams got into the act, with Bo Orlando blocking Mike Horan's punt on the game's fourth play. McDowell recovered in the end zone, starting the flood of first half points.
Dishman's 43-yard return to the Denver one-yard line set up Allen Pinkett's touchdown dive for a 14-0 lead. Fuller recovered Elway's fumble at the Broncos' 13, leading to Lorenzo White's one-yard touchdown run.
Denver ran only two more plays before Dishman scooped up Steve Sewell's fumble of a shovel pass from Elway and ran 19 yards for a touchdown for the 28-0 lead.
Houston's offense didn't have a long drive until late in the quarter, when it went 80 yards, aided by a 49-yard pass play from Warren Moon to Ernest Givins. Haywood Jeffires caught a three-yard pass to complete the drive and make it 35-0.
Elway got the Broncos two second-half touchdowns. He had a three-yard touchdown pass to Sewell in the third quarter and teamed with Ricky Nattiel on a 70-yard scoring pass play in the fourth quarter.