On the last weekend of Strike Football in the National Football League, stadium attendance averaged 26,511, a slight increase over the previous Sunday's 13 games. Further decreased, meanwhile, were the chances of the New York Giants coming back to defend their Super Bowl championship.
The Giants sank to 0-5 for the season -- 0-2 for the regulars, 0-3 for their replacement unit -- as they were beaten in overtime by the Buffalo Bills, 6-3. Even the presence of Lawrence Taylor in a New York uniform for the first time since the strike began couldn't help his team, or the gate in suburban Buffalo: 15,737 showed up at Rich Stadium.
That was not the smallest crowd of the day. Only 8,310 were present in Pontiac, Mich., to watch the Seattle Seahawks beat up on the Detroit Lions in the Silverdome, though that was double the number for the heavily picketed strike opener there two weeks ago.
Last week, the 13 Sunday games averaged 25,042. That figure went up the following night, helped by a strike record crowd of 60,000-plus in Denver that boosted the league average to 36,305 for the 14 games. The final figures for this week will be determined after tonight's game in Dallas between the Washington Redskins and the Cowboys.
There were several intriguing developments around the league.
In Tampa, a turnout of 20,850, the fewest to attend a Buccaneers home game in the team's 12 years of existence, sat in on a 3-hour 15-minute game, which had seven turnovers, 198 yards in penalties and numerous other follies, not to mention a 20-10 victory over the Vikings. The Minnesota replacements lost all three games during the strike, prompting Coach Jerry Burns to say "this is the most disruption I've seen in 35 years."
Regular quarterback Joe Montana threw four touchdown passes and completed 31 of 39 in a 34-28 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, but San Francisco drew only 38,094, the 49ers' smallest crowd in seven years.
In Green Bay, the Packers played their third overtime game of the season and came out a 16-10 victor over the replacement Philadelphia Eagles. When the teams filed off the field, many in the crowd of 35,842 began chanting "B team, B team." After all, the Packers replacements provided both of Green Bay's victories this season.
The most spectacular performance of the day belonged to Seattle wide receiver Steve Largent. A 12-year veteran who crossed the picket line last week with quarterback Jeff Kemp, Largent caught 15 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, setting team receiving records.
In Pittsburgh, wide receiver John Stallworth became the 18th NFL player with at least 500 receptions as the Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts, 21-7. Pittsburgh's first home replacement game attracted 34,627 to 59,000-seat Three Rivers Stadium. That snapped a 119-game streak of sellouts going back to 1972.
In Cincinnati, veteran Gary Danielson, who had not thrown an NFL pass in 22 months, completed 25 of 31 for 281 yards and four touchdowns as he and a relatively experienced Cleveland supporting cast routed the Bengals, 34-0. Another Browns veteran, Brian Brennan, had a career-high 10 receptions for 139 yards.
New Orleans kicker Florian Kempf joined the Saints on Wednesday and came on to kick four field goals yesterday in Chicago to help beat the Bears, 19-17. The Bears had been the league's only undefeated team.
Erik Kramer, Atlanta's replacement quarterback, passed for 335 yards and three second-half touchdowns as the Falcons, at home, overcame a 17-0 deficit for a 24-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who had 11 veterans back. The Falcons had only one.
Kramer and linebacker Rick Kraynak will be the only two replacement players not released when the regulars report today, team officials said. Among those who will be cut is defensive end Buddy Moor, who led the Falcons with five sacks during the three strike games.
Moor, a 6-foot-5 250-pounder, left the team after the game to go on his honeymoon. He had arranged the wedding prior to the strike, so he went ahead with his plans Saturday night in Lexington, Ky.
"The Falcons gave me permission to go, so I flew there Saturday, got married and was back here this morning on a 6 a.m. flight," said Moor. "I was glad we could give them a win, but I know we're not welcome so I'm going back to Lexington, open our gifts and see how much money we got and then go on a honeymoon."
The strangest game of the day took place in the New Jersey Meadowlands, where the New York Jets prevailed over the Miami Dolphins, 37-31, in overtime. Best run of the day belonged to a furry thing NBC television called "Rocket J. Squirrel," who managed to get on the field and scoot 50 yards down the right sideline into the end zone as the crowd roared approval.
The squirrel was not available to comment, nor was his agent, a fellow reportedly named Bullwinkle.