So that's the story of The Great Return. Stabler was blitzed. Jack Tatum played sporadically as a nickel back and made a couple of tackles, broke up a pass and drew one exotic penalty called a "post position foul" that left everyone mystified. Reinfeldt played his usual steady game. Casper caught only three passes for 31 yards and wasn't a factor—except in the anger department. He infuriated the Raiders' Gene Upshaw, 14 years a starter at left guard, with some pregame statements to the effect that Upshaw was the worst offensive lineman on the team, an underachiever who seldom worked up a sweat, "the Michelin Man in his white suit...never falls down...never gets his uniform dirty."
"In all my years in football I've never heard one player talk about another one that way," Upshaw said. "When I showed up at the pregame meal all my teammates were reading that article, and they started calling me Mr. Michelin. A few of them asked me if I could get them a good deal on tires. I'll tell you, I wished I was out there for a few plays on defense today."
And the ex-Oilers on the Oakland roster? Well, King, who had languished on the Houston bench last year, caught that big pass in the first half. Dan Pastorini, who came for Stabler in the quarterback trade, was the saddest story.
He's the forgotten man on the Oakland team. He hasn't been activated for backup help, even though he feels his broken leg has healed. He hung around the Raiders' practice on Saturday, staring moodily out at the field, hands thrust deeply in his pockets. Three hours later, when the Oilers showed up for practice, he was there again and he came to life,. skylarking on the field with his old gang, drilling passes to Bum Phillips, having a hell of a time.
"God, I wish I was playing tomorrow," Pastorini said. "It would be the funnest game of my career."
That night Pastorini was in the Oakland Hyatt House, where the Oilers were staying. He brooded. He got into a scuffle with Houston Post sportswriter Dale Robertson, whom he had jammed with last year, and wound up chasing him through the parking lot. "He never caught me," Robertson said.
Pastorini got into his car. A few people tried to restrain him. Fifteen minutes later the car was wrapped around an elm tree in a residential neighborhood in Alameda, and Pastorini wound up in the hospital, getting his face stitched. He wasn't in his usual spot behind the Raider bench Sunday, leading cheers.
Restoring Pastorini's battered pysche will be a major reclamation project for Al Davis next year. But that's next year. Right now the Raiders are flying high. To Cleveland.