“Working on a Three-Peat”
By ED WETTERMAN
With Pop Ivy in place as their third head coach in three seasons, the Oilers opened the 1962 campaign with three straight road games and won the first one against the Buffalo Bills 28-23, thanks to a dominant first half that saw Houston build a 21-3 advantage at intermission.
Oiler quarterback George Blanda was on fire, hitting Charlie Hennigan for a 9-yard touchdown and leading the offense to scores on a 19-yard scamper by Charley Tolar and on a one-yard plunge by Billy Cannon.
Despite how smoothly the Oilers’ offense rolled along in the first half, its wheels came unhinged in the second.
Was it Blanda’s ongoing thyroid problem? Poor offensive line play? The new Ivy playbook?
In any case, Blanda’s second half in the season-opener foreshadowed a season in which he would astoundingly throw a record 42 interceptions.
The next week, Houston dropped its game against the Boston Patriots 34-21 with Blanda throwing three touchdowns but also four interceptions on the day.
The Oilers also fumbled twice, losing one of them to the Pats’ defense.
The third game of the season was against their biggest rivals, the San Diego Chargers, and the Oilers clearly showed up ready to make a statement, jumping to an early lead and coasting to a 42-17 victory.
Blanda enjoyed a solid passing day, going 11-for-20 for 164 yards and two TDs with only one interception.
Tolar rushed 18 times for 142 yards and a touchdown, while Cannon rushed 12 times for 70 yards and scored three times (two rushing and one receiving) on the day.
Standout Charger defensive lineman Ernie Ladd (who would later play for the Oilers) stated that trying to tackle Tolar was like “trying to tackle a manhole cover.”
Such respect failed to find its way to Houston offensive tackle Al Jamison, who was earning a reputation among the Chargers as a dirty player.
San Diego players widely complained that Jamison, nicknamed “Al The Assassin,” never hit anyone before the whistle in his life.
Although the Oilers won the game on the scoreboard, they suffered two major personnel setbacks.
Cannon hurt his back in the game and would never fully recover.
Blanda, still suffering from the thyroid issue, also ended up with some broken ribs, which further contributes to his passing woes for the rest of the season.
In their first home game of the campaign, the 2-1 Oilers again played the Bills in Game 4 and eked out a 17-14 win, followed by whipping the clueless and dying franchise the Titans of New York, 56-17 to move to a healthy 4-1 record.
Then came two losses.
The first was a home loss against the Broncos, as the Oilers’ defense couldn’t protect a narrow 10-6 third-quarter lead. Denver scored twice in the fourth to win the game, 20-10.
This loss could not be blamed on Blanda, as he went 24-46 for 201 yards with no touchdowns but also no interceptions.
The next loss came at the hands of the Dallas Texans, who simply demolished the home-standing Oilers 31-7 in Jeppesen Stadium.
The great Texan running back Abner Haynes continued to be a recurring Oiler nightmare .
Dallas quarterback Len Dawson threw 16 times for 12 completions, 177 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, while Blanda had an abysmal game, going 8-for-18 with a mere 10 passing yards, no touchdowns, and six interceptions. He was eventually replaced by Jacky Lee.
The Oilers didn’t have to wait long to seek revenge, as they took on the Texans again the next week in Dallas and found a way to win a close one, 14-6.
Both Oiler scores came from Blanda-to-Cannon passing plays, and the Houston defense held Dawson to only one passing touchdown.
Blanda’s stats for the day were 13-for-19 with 194 yards, two TDS, and one pick.
Dawson went 19-for-31 for 208 yards, one touchdown, and two costly interceptions.
For once, Haynes was not a major factor in this one, rushing 10 times for 37 yards and catching four passes for 13 yards.
In their remaining six regular-season games, the 5-3 Oilers wouldn’t lose again.
They beat the Raiders 28-20; the Patriots 21-17; the Chargers 33-27; the Broncos 34-17; the Raiders 32-17; and then ended the season by blowing out the lowly Titans 44-10 to finish with a spectacular 11-3 mark.
The Oilers were on a roll, and it seemed nothing could stop them.
The Houston offense was clicking, and the defense was clamping opposing offensive attacks.
Houston seemed to have found a sure-fire way to overcome all those interceptions and looked poised to claim its third AFL championship in as many years of the league’s existence.
However, in what would foreshadow a pattern that dogged the rest of the franchise’s Lone Star State existence, championship hopes were about to be dashed in heart-rending fashion.
UP NEXT – The 1963 Odyssey Season, Part 4: “The Longest Game in Championship History”
Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.
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