The Baltimore Colts returned to normalcy today.
After making the big plays they needed to score their first win of the season last week against the New York Jets, the Colts again became the victims rather than the perpetrators in crucial situations today and dropped a 28-16 decision to the Houston Oiler-Campbells.
The Houston club should consider to above addition to their name considering the performance of tailback Earl Campbell on this bright windy day in Memorial Stadium.
Not only did the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner rush for 149 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters but, more importantly, converted two third downs and two fourth downs to keep the Colts from ever getting close.
"I'm not eloquent enough to describe Earl Campbell," Oiler Coach Bum Phillips said in the crowded locker room. "He's great that's a simple word, I guess, but everyone can understand it. He's just in the habit of making big plays for us."
The big plays by Campbell and the Oiler defense, which had three interceptions, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and five sacks of Colt quarterback Greg Landry, keyed Houson's rise to a tie with Pittsburgh for the AFC Central lead. Both are 5-2. The Colts fell to 1-6.
Landry, the articulate, graying substitute for sore-shouldered golden boy Bert Jones, had another rough day as Houston applied constant pressure every time he dropped back to pass. That pressure led to the visitors' first score. t
The Colts had picked up a first down at their 32 after taking the opening kickoff and Landry dropped back on first down. Before he could even set up, blitzing linebacker Ted Washington yanked the ball loose and defensive end Jesse Baker picked it up and ambled into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. With the game just 2:16 old, it was 7-0 Houston.
"We never applied any pressure when we lost to St. Louis last week," said Oiler safety Mike Reinfeldt, whose two interceptions gave him a league-leading seven for the season. "This week we knew we had to get in on Landry and we did. We gave them different looks all day. We got the big plays because of the rush."
The Colts did not roll over immediately. Nesby Glasgow took the ensuing kickoff back 58 yards to the Oiler 32 and Landry moved the team smartly to a one-yard touchdown run by Don Hardeman seven plays later.
But, as if to tell the Colts it wasn't their day, Steve Mike-Mayer botched the extra point.
After that, Campbell took over. He keyed a second-quarter drive of 80 yards (which followed a missed Mike-Mayer field goal) carrying six times in a 10-play drive. The big play was a seven-yard burst for a touchdown on fourth-and-one to make it 14-6.
"As long as (fullback) Tim Wilson is all right, I'm all right," said Campbell, modest as ever. "I just ran behind him all day long. He made it easy for me."
Wilson, mainly a blocking back at Maryland, is a fine fullback but he had little to do with the seemingly endless string of Colts Campbell left in his wake.
The 1978 NFL rushing champion now has 771 yards and 11 touchdowns in less than half a season. Campbell gave Houston a 21-6 lead 2:36 into the third quarter with a 20-yard burst on a play where he hit the hole on the drawn-in defense (third down and one) and never was touched.
"I looked inside and there was nothing, I went to my right; there was a huge hole," Campbell said.
That play all but ended Campbell's day. After the Colts had cut the margin to 21-9 on a 34-yard Mike Mayer field goal -- which came after Don McCauley was stopped on third and inches at the 17 -- Dan Pastorini methodically started his club downfield.
Twice they appeared stopped, facing fourth and one.First, on his 38, Campbell came in and dove for three yards. Then, on fourth and one at the two it was Campbell again, diving into the end zone for a 28-9 Oiler lead with 2:54 left in the third quarter. That sent the crowd of 45,021 scurrying for the exits to get home for the World Series.
"We went for the fourth downs because we had a little lead," said Phillips, "and because we had a guy back there who ain't likely to be stopped."
Campbell wasn't about to be stopped. He knew it, the crowd knew it -- the stadium was virtually empty once he left the game -- and the Colts knew it.
"We still lack that missing ingredient," Baltimore Coach Ted Marchibroda said. He meant Jones, who said again today that his arm "feels better."
But Earl Campbell is a pretty good ingredient for any team.