They introduced the heroes of the Baltimore Colts' championship years this afternoon and, for a few heady moments, their aura of invincibility seemed to have been transferred to the blue-and-white-clad laborers of today.
Bert Jones' 29-yard pass to Roger Carr completed a five-play, 56-yard drive that gave Baltimore a 7-0 lead. Before halftime, however, the San Diego Chargers had scored on four straight possessions, using 44 plays to cover 280 yards, turning seven straight third downs into first downs and building a 23-7 lead.
At the finish it was 43-14, the Colts had lost their sixth in a row and the folks in the stands were chanting, "Goodbye, Mike," to Coach Mike McCormack, besides unveiling signs such as the one that read, "We got rid of Teddy; now McCormack is ready."
"I heard them," McCormack said. "The fans come to cheer. It's their right to yell anything they want to."
Then McCormack exercised his right to say a few things about his team: "We came out and tried and made a good effort for a while. It stayed in some areas, and in some it didn't. We made some dumb plays in the first half and we didn't execute some offensive plays in the second half. We had men in single mismatch who did not hold onto the ball. You have to have people who can execute. It's discouraging as hell, no doubt about it."
The dumbest play of all came with San Diego leading, 13-7. Charger quarterback Dan Fouts threw an incomplete pass on third and 10 from his 36 and it was punting time, except that the intended receiver, tight end Kellen Winslow, engaged in a shoving match with Colt linebacker Ricky Jones. As they cavorted, Colt tackle Herb Orvis stepped in and slapped Winslow on the side of the head.
The resulting 15-yard penalty gave the Chargers a first down and they moved in to score once more, on Fouts' 23-yard pass to Charlie Joiner, the game's leading receiver with six catches.
"The unnecessary roughness penalty was a dumb play," McCormack said. "It allowed them to get another touchdown when we should have had the ball."
Orvis celebrated his 35th birthday Saturday, so it was hardly a rookie mistake.
Fouts exploited the Colts' secondary for 298 yards on 26 completions in 43 passes, without throwing an interception. He got three touchdowns. An equally important factor in the outcome was the Chargers' ability to shut down Baltimore's running backs. They gained only 68 yards, four fewer than the Chargers' No. 3 running back, James Brooks.
Chuck Muncie, undaunted by a sprained right knee, carried 14 times for 61 yards. He ran to his left only three times, twice for three-yard touchdowns and later for a 16-yard gain.
If many of the 41,921 in attendance were ultracritical, they retained their sense of humor and managed to laugh at a few of the Colts' unplanned acts of malfeasance.
There was Zachary Dixon, taking a kickoff on the two, stepping back into the end zone and standing there staring at onrushing Chargers before he finally dashed up to the 12.
There was San Diego's John Cappelletti, hitting a solid wall at the one, then bouncing back and circling right end for a score, with Nesby Glasgow a lone pursuer in a ring-around-the-rosey effect.
There was Jones, dropping the ball as he started to run, kicking it ahead 10 yards and watching the Chargers recover.
The crowd was too distant to get in on a final laugh as the Colts entered their dressing room and the officials disappeared opposite.
"Who'd you guys bet on?" yelled defensive end Mike Ozdowski.
"I'd hate to see your grades when the films come out," bleated safety Bruce Laird.
He may not like his own, either.