Dante Pastorini brought in a gusher with his Houston Oilers today-455 years of total offense-against a Miami Dolphin team that had allowed only nine points in three previous games.
The 17-9 victory by the Oilers in this American Football Conference battle between wild-card clubs set up a pip of an attraction, against the New England Patriots, winners of the Eastern Division, at 1 p.m. Sunday in Foxboro, Mass.
With Earl Campbell being stormed and swarmed by Miami defenders in the first half, Pastorini went overhead and burnt the Dolphins to a frazzle the rest of the way.
By the time the Oilers took a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter, on Toni Fritsch's 27-yard field goal, Campbell had his second wind. Unfortunately for Miami, the defenders did not, and at the finish Campbell and Tim Wilson, who came to the Oilers from the University of Maryland, were beating up the overworked Dolphins.
Pastorini, playing with a "flak jacket" on fractured ribs and a brace on his left knee after coming out of a Houston hospital Wednesday, connected on 16 of 21 passes for 261 yards in the first half when he discovered that the Dolphins were ready for Campbell.
For Campbell it was an almost embarrassing 30 minutes as he gained only 16 yards in 13 carries.
Both teams missed field goals. Garo Yepremian of the Dolphins, who closed the season with an NFL recordtying 16 straight field goals, failed when a 38-yard attempt in the third quarter went wide to the left.
Fritsch had a 28-yard attempt in the second quarter blocked by linebacker Kim Bokamper.The attempt came three plays after a 55-yard pass play from Pastorini to tight end Mike Barber had put the ball on the Miami nine-yard line.
The Dolphins played without All Pro guard Larry Little for only the fourth time in 152 games. He was sidelined with an injured knee and ankle, giving rookie Eric Laakso his first pro start.
With time running out in the first half, Pastorini completed a 15-yard pass over the middle to Ken Burrough to put the ball at the Miami six with six seconds left.
The Oilers had no timeouts and attempted to put the ball in play before it had been officially spotted by the referee. Pastorini took the snap and threw out of bounds but officials waved the play off and assessed an illegal procedure penalty. And when the Oilers protested vehemently, they were hit with a 15-yard unsportsman like conduct penalty as well. It was assessed at the start of the second half, with Houston kicking off from its own 20 instead of the 35.
It didn't matter, however, because Griese threw an interception on the fifth play of the period.
Miami's defense appeared so well schooled on what to expect from Campbell that it reminded observers of the way they handled Larry Brown in the 1973 Super Bowl victory over Washington.
The trouble was that once the Dolphins got on the scoreboard today on a 13-yard scoring pass from quarterback Bob Griese to tight end Andre Tillman, Griese lost something. He completed only six of 16 throws in the first half and went downhill from there.
He was a study in sports medicine, leaving observers to wonder if painkillers he took for severely bruised ribs accounted for his near misses. He took them before his pregame warmup, and at halftime. Pastorini said he had not taken anything for pain.
Because Pastorini, Campbell, teammate Delvin Williams, and others playing with injuries, Griese resisted leading questions that might have evoked excuses from him.
"I'm not going to stand here and tell you they didn't bother me," he said, "but Pastorini was playing with injuries, too. My timing was off, and I threw high at times.We had some opportunities and didn't get the job done."
He completed 11 of 28 passes for 114 yards and and two throws intercepted before he was relieved by Don Strock in the last couple minutes.
Miami Coach Don Shula said, "I stayed with Bob because I thought he could get the job done. If there had been a hitch in his throwing motion I would have taken him out. I don't think the rib injury impeded his throwing.He never complained. At times he threw well. He was slightly off a few times. He made a great effort. We got shut out in the second half.
"it was a tough way to end the year."
Pastorini tied the score in the first quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wilson. Fritsch gave Pastorini a small working margin with his 27-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead in the final period and Pastorini saw his big opportunity when linebacker Gregg Bingham intercepted Griese and returned four yards to the 50-yard line.
Campbell finally got a chance to loosen up his leg with a 20-yard run, his longest of the game, and alternated with Wilson until he dived over the goal line from a yard out. Campbell ended up with 84 yards on 26 carries and Wilson 76 on 14 carries. Coach A. O. (Bum) Phillips of the Oilers said of Campbell, "You've to run him a bunch of times for him to be effective."
Shula said of the strong finish by Campbell and the Oilers, "We played good defense early, but later we had problems with Pastorini's play-action passes (plays that begin as though they are going to be runs).
"our defense caved in at the end."
Phillips saif of Pastorini, "He played one of the greatest games I ever saw by a quarterback."