Emotions were running a mile high here yesterday as the Denver Broncos waited impatiently to show once more the Oakland Raiders are mortals.
The Broncos were not able to convince some experts of that last season, despite defeating the Raiders in two out three games, the final one for the American Football Conference championship.
The preseason polls have scuffed the dignity of the Broncos and enraged their rabid rooters by virtually conceding the title to the Raiders this year.
Indirectly, the whole business is casting aspersions of the coach-of-the-year honor confered on Red Miller, who merely marked up 12-3 record as a rookie head coach and took the Broncos to the Super Bowl with discounted quarterback Craig Morton, while the Raiders managed to finish second in the AFC West with the quarterback, Ken Stabler, acclaimed as the best, the National Football League's leading active passer.
For all of his positive visor, coach Miller had been a prudent man with a quotation. But after yesterdays brief workout [WORD ILLEGIBLE] body, "You tell me: Who was the AFC champion last season? Wasn't it Denver?"
It was a follow-up question to a report he volunteered about addsmaker Jimmy (the Great) Snyder saying about this season's prospect, by way of disregarding the Broncos' accomplishments in 1977, that Everybody knows who the really AFC champion is - Oakland."
"Well, maybe Oakland is a better team than us, and maybe it isn't. We aren't in awe of the Raiders."
On television, he [WORD ILLEGIBLE] sportcasters were predicting a "war." They reffered to the Raiders as being "evil," among other digs at them as being villians in aptly chosen balck shirts.
Curiously, there was no mention of the fumble by Rob Lytle, after which the Broncos retained possession and scored the winning touchdown from up close.
Raider Managing General Partner Al Davis bellowed his rage in the press box, Commissioner Pete Rozelle's presence notwithstanding. The television networks ground out reruns for days, until it was just about overlooked that Denver scored again in a 20-17 victory, but that that touchdown was wrongly disallowed by the officials.
Miller conceded that the fumble call was a tough break for Oakland, but he challenge the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the Raiders would have gone on to score had they been awarded the ball against a Denver defense that gave up the fewest points in the AFC.
"Who came up with that fumble recovery, defensive tackle Mike McCoy (6-foot-5 and 270 pounds)?" Miller asked, rhetorically. "Was he going to run for a score? He would have been tackled 1,000 times before he got there."
"We had a touchdown taken away, from us - in the end zone - when the officials ruled Jack Dolbin trapped the ball." Later the film showed he did not.
Miller tried to discourage the notion that his players might be worked up about the Raiders being favored by three points today on the Broncos' home field and because Oakland being favored for the AFC title.