Giving what head coach Eddie Erdelatz called their best defensive effort of the season, the Raiders beat the Bills 20-7 to even their record at 5-5.
Before the game there was still noise about a pair of NFL games being televised in the area before the Raiders’ 1:30 start. After Chet Soda complained, Lamar Hunt was reportedly planning to lodge a formal protest with the NFL. The NFL’s commissioner Pete Rozelle was unmoved. “The new league appears to have a fixation that every action and policy of the National Football League is designed to impair their operation,” he said. “If they would expend more time and energy in the development of their own league, and less time worrying about the NFL, they would be much more successful than they apparently have been so far.” Rozelle added that the league had no control over broadcasts, explaining that once they sold the rights to networks, the league has “no control over utilization of these rights other than blacking out NFL cities from other NFL telecasts when our clubs play at home. This is in accordance with a 1953 decision of a US district court in Philadelphia. Telecasts of a game involving teams in the new league are beamed into all NFL cities when our teams play at home.”
But back to the game. The weather was breezy as usual, but rain that was expected never arrived. Some Raider brass were hoping for as many as 20,000 to come see the game, but only 8,800 showed up. And of that, at least one observer speculated that the paid attendance was just under 5,000. The Raiders dominated the game throughout. The team followed a Larry Barnes 29-yard field goal with a Billy Lott dive from the one for a touchdown and led 10-0 after the first quarter. That’s where things stood for most of the second. The Bills’ Billy Atkins missed a 31-yard kick and his team had another promising drive later in the period snuffed by the Raider defense with just 30 seconds left. Moving quickly and conserving the clock, the Raider offense got into position for another Barnes field goal, this one from 22 yards away.
That ended a half that had been filled with physical play, not all of it within the rules. Still smarting from the 38-9 beating they’d suffered in Buffalo in October, the Raiders refused to be intimidated. At least four different fights broke out before halftime, including one that involved Buffalo linebacker Jack Laraway punching Jetstream Smith in the mouth while Smith was lying on the ground after a short catch. Both players were tossed from the game. Another incident, between Atkins and Raider tight end Doug Asad, saw Erdelatz himself come on to the field to pull his player out of the fray.
At halftime the Raider coach felt the need to address his team, saying, “Look, I want you to play rough, tough ball, but play clean and don’t talk back to the officials. We don’t want any more unnecessary penalties.”
With the Raiders now up by 13, neither team could make much happen in the third until late, when Tony Teresa burst free with a scintillating 83-yard run to push the score to 20-0. The Bills still couldn’t make any headway until the last couple of minutes when a Tommy O’Connell screen pass to Wray Carlton for 45 yards pushed the ball across midfield. After the Bills drove inside the Raider 20, the Oakland defense had stopped them on a fourth down pass, but Eddie Macon was called for pass interference, a call that met with a wild exhibition of dismay from Macon. Regardless, the officials placed the ball at the Oakland one, where O’Connell sneaked it over to break up the shutout.
Erdelatz was, of course, pleased afterward. “It was a real team effort with lots of desire. You can’t single out any one player. Did you see our boys tackle? You know what happened the last time these teams played. Well, Buffalo is a hard, rugged team. The difference is that this time the boys didn’t sit back and take it. They dished it out, too.”
He also had praise for his assistants: “I’ve been waiting for us to get off a really good game so I could congratulate our coaching staff. I think we have an outstanding staff, and all of them, Ed Cody, Marty Feldman, Tommy Kalmanir, have done a hell of a job.”
Talking about Teresa’s long touchdown, he said, “We caught Buffalo in a certain type of defense we were expecting them to use and that’s how we sprang Tony loose. I think we’ve been improving with each game and our pass defense was better after we made several changes among our deep backs.”
Cody, the Raiders’ secondary coach, added, “We had a good rush and our coverage on passes was fine. They didn’t hit the home run like they did in Buffalo the first time around. Our guys wanted this one real bad and the defense did a bang-up job.”
Not all was good cheer. Some Raiders had a few words about the officiating including Smith who complained that he was getting ready to return Laraway’s punch when he heard a ref yell “32! You’re out of the game!” and lost his chance at revenge.
Billy Reynolds had a beef about a play near the end of the first half. Said Reynolds, “(A) Buffalo guy bumped me when I tried to field the catch (on a punt), but the ref said I should have run around the player. ‘Hell’, I told the ref, ‘I’m watching the ball, not the man.’ Anyway, the rule book clearly states the receiver has the right of way and opponents must get out of his path to the ball.”
And from one identified member of the team: “These officials all apparently have only worked college games. They can’t keep up with the faster pro game, nor have they learned the rules.”
Despite the griping, the Raiders were now at 5-5 a half game behind the Texans in second place and only a game and a half behind the Western Division-leading Chargers, Oakland next opponent two weeks from now. In the meantime, the players would enjoy their first bye weekend of the regular season. They would need it, too. Several players left the game early because of injury. Defensive end Carmen Cavalli had what was tentatively diagnosed as a broken wrist and at one point, Wayne Crow, demoted mid-week because of poor secondary play, had to come in at linebacker because both Tom Louderback and Bob Dougherty had been shaken up.
In the other locker room, Bills head coach Buster Ramsey was not so pleased. “We played like a bunch of high school kids,” he said. “We’re not much competition for anybody the way we’re playing now. No effort from anybody. Look, with 30 seconds to play in the first half, we punt out of bounds on the Raider 15. It was sound, percentage football. We had too far to go for a first down and putting them down deep meant they couldn’t score, either. But in 13 seconds, the Raiders went 80 yards to get in position for a field goal. I’d say that was pretty indicative of the kind of defensive football we were playing.”
He had one brief comment about the first half fights. “Our defensive end, Mack Yoho, was on his back on the turf once,” he said, “and one of those guys just jumped up and down on his face. Terrible. But that isn’t why we lost.” With the loss, the Bills’ record dropped to 3-6.
And in largely irrelevant news, Chronicle columnist Art Rosenbaum penned a story saying rumors that the team might move to Seattle were unfounded. Not least because voters in that city had recently voted down a ballot measure to provide public funds to build a new sports stadium. The current facility, Sicks’ Stadium was decidedly subpar.
Hayward Daily Review
San Francisco Chronicle