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We're also talking backward, and for a reason. The sreliO notsuoH underplayed the sreenaccuB yaB apmaT 24-33 last Sunday to lay claim to the title of the worst, the sorriest, the most awful team in the NFL.
The game was played in Tampa Stadium, where nearly two months from now the best teams in football will meet in Super Bowl XVIII. Sunday's game was billed as Repus Bowl I—Repus being Super spelled backward—because it matched the league's two leading dogs, each 1-11. It wasn't a great attraction. In fact, it drove people away. Of the 59,099 ticket purchasers, 20,474 chose to stay home on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Some fans who did show up had a banner that summed up the event: OUR WIVES THINK WE'RE AT A PRO FOOTBALL GAME.
Yes, this was the Small One, the battle of the beatens, the movable object meeting the resistible force. There were only tomorrows. When these two teams get together, nothing can happen. This game was for a marble.
But that cat's eye was the No. 1 choice in the 1984 NFL draft. May the worse team lose. So Houston had much more incentive to accentuate the negative because Tampa Bay had already given up its rights to the No. 1 pick. If the Oilers had prevailed, Sunday's real winner would have been their AFC Central rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, who have the Buccaneers' top choice as a result of a trade last June for Quarterback Jack Thompson, who was needed to replace Doug Williams, who left the Bucs for the USFL, which also stole Herschel Walker, who would have been the top prize in the '84 draft. The whole thing is hard to follow, but now you know how the Houston defensive backs felt Sunday.
The Oilers still have to lose their last three games to get first dibs, but if they can play down to last week's level, they should have no problem. The Oilers have been so underwhelming on offense this season that when the Buccaneers won the coin toss Sunday, they elected to give Houston the ball. Sure enough, the Oilers screwed up their initial possession by getting called for illegal motion on a pass play that would have produced a first down, and then by allowing Tampa Bay Defensive End Leroy Selmon to pounce on Quarterback Oliver (Rotten) Luck. If the Oilers didn't have him on the team, they'd have no luck at all.
But the Buccaneers weren't about to let the Oilers give the game away without a fight. In the first quarter Thompson, the Overthrowin' Samoan, led Tight End Jim Obradovich too much on a sure touchdown pass. Then Placekicker Bill Capece, who had missed on 10 of his 19 previous field-goal attempts, avoided the uprights—wide right—from 41 yards out.
Houston stalled, but Tampa Bay, momentarily forgetting itself, drove down-field. Oh, the Bucs got called on a false start to negate one apparent touchdown pass and Thompson fumbled a snap at the Houston six, but he recovered and the opening period ended with the Tampa Bay offense second-and-goal—and threatening to break its string of 10 consecutive scoreless quarters.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Oilers left Buc Fullback Adger Armstrong free in the right flat, and Thompson found him with a short TD pass. Actually, Houston left Armstrong free earlier this fall when they released him in training camp. Capece, really getting into the true spirit of things, pushed his extra-point attempt to the right.
Carl Roaches returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tampa Bay 47, but never underestimate the Oilers: Avon Riley was called for holding and that put the ball at the Houston seven. The Bucs soon had the ball back, and when Oiler rookie Cornerback Steve Brown let Wide Receiver Kevin House get a step on him on a post pattern, Thompson hit home with House. But the Bucs still hadn't given up. On the extra-point attempt, the snap flew through the holder's hands, and Capece was tackled before he could do anything with the ball.