The Rockies crumbled here yesterday, as far as defensive players were concerned, with radical changes in some rules to pull National Football League games out of a scoring slump that has reached proportions of 35 years ago.
The recommendations by the competition committee that were adopted by the club owners constituted an idea whose time had come, judging by the statistics.
Scoring last season was at the lowest rate since 1942, at 34.4 total points a game.
Recognizing that football is entertainment being sold to the fans at musical comedy prices and to the three television networks for a half-billion dollars over the next years, the owners took surprisingly forthright positions.
They voted to liberalize pass blocking, both to encourage that phase of the game and to further protect the quarterbacks by giving them more time to throw.
Bump-and-run was virtually made ineffective with a change that will restrict defenders from chucking or jamming receivers five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
The ban on the "double touch by pass receivers was eliminated.
A seventh official was voted to cover deep pass patterns and to free others fumbles. He will be called a "side judge" and will function somewhat like a free-roving safety.
Steps were taken to reduce or eliminate "baiting and taunting" that may lead to fights, by including them under penalities for unsportsmanlike conduct. It is intended to ban spiking of the ball when it clearly is intended to irritate the defenders.
Coach Bum Phillips of the Houston Oilers spoke against the changes.
Commissioner Pete Rozelle, whose responsibility it is to keep the sport appealing to the fans, and the networks, spoke in behalf of the changes.
While the new rule banning taunting will eliminate some colorful demonstrations by players, it will not apply to such notable performers in the end zone as kick returner-wide receiver Billy (White Shoes) Johnson of the Oilers and linebacker "Hollywood Tom" Henderson of the Dallas Cowboys.
Rozelle explained that Johnson specifically was exempted from the rule to do his spaghetti-legged dance after a score. The same applied to Henderson doing a backward dunk of the ball over the cross bar.
The game officials will have to determine whether the happy scorer is "celebrating" or venting his revenge on a pesky defender.
"The problem is that those things trigger fights," Rozelle said. "Lippy players will be given a warning and then penalized if their taunting becomes flagrant."
The change permitting two offensive players to touch the same pass without an intervening touch by a defensive player is designed to remove conditions that previously resulted in classic controversies.
The most reowned case was the so-called "immaculate reception" by Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers which resulted in a touchdown that defeated the Oakland Raiders in a playoff game.
The Raiders contended a defender did not touch the ball between the time it was touched by the primary receiver and bounced into Harris hands.
The films were not conclusive and is one of the reasons the NFL has hesitated to depend on instant replays and game films to assist game officials.
Two offensive players sat in meetings of the competition committee, wide receiver Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers and guard Gene Upshaw of the Oakland Raiders.
Washington said of the new interpretation of the bump-and-run defense, "It will a hell of an aid. I'll take my chances in the first five yards."
Miami Coach Don Shula, a member of the competition committee, said coaches would be more willing to gamble now on more ling passes. "It will make zone defenses declare quicker," he said. "But you still will get a mixture of zone and man-to-man defenses."
A rule was changed to now prohibit a passer from crossing the line of scrimmage with the ball, then retreating behind it and throwing.
Still to be acted on was a proposal to use instant replays on television to assist game officials. The proposal, to help interpret questionable plays, would allow use only of the version seen on television by the fans, not those taken by other television or game film cameras.