Oilers throw a block party
Tom Zucco, The St.Petersburg Times, published 11 December 1989

For those of you who care about such things, Houston's two blocked punts against Tampa Bay will be officially listed as a block and a deflection. According to the NFL, there is a distinction - a degree of “blockness” if you will. It works like this: If a blocked punt crosses the line of scrimmage, it's a deflection. If a blocked punt doesn't cross the line, it's a block.

Make sense? Anyway, now that we know enough about blocks to land an executive position at Toys R Us, let's move on. Sunday afternoon in the Astrodome, Tampa Bay rookie punter Chris Mohr tried a total of four times to kick the Bucs out of trouble. On two of those occasions, a Houston Oilers linebacker roared through the Bucs line and either batted the ball down (a block, remember) or radically altered its course (a deflection).

The first time the Oilers got their hands on a Tampa Bay punt occurred early in the second quarter when linebacker Johnny Meads knocked the ball down and teammate Billy Bell recovered a the Bucs' 19. The play led to a Houston field goal and gave the Oilers a 13-3 lead. The second block, which was actually a deflection because the ball went 2 yards past the line of scrimmage, occurred late in the third quarter. This time, linebacker Eugene Seale slapped the ball as Mohr was in mid-kick.

The obvious question now is how did the Oilers do it? One block in a game is unusual. Two blocks is almost unheard of. No one would say exactly who was at fault. “Gotta look at the films,” Mohr said. “But I don't think either one of them were touched. They both came in wide open. Somebody missed them. “I didn't feel rattled after the first one,” he added. “But just in case, on the last punt, I only took one step before I got it off. God, how in the world could a team block two punts? I had 205 punts in college (Alabama) and only two were blocked - one in my freshman year and one in my senior year.”

Houston coach Jerry Glanville said he noticed a weakness in Tampa Bay's formation - probably after watching the Cardinals block one of Mohr's punts two weeks ago - and he attacked that weakness, sending all but his punt-return man each time. “We felt from studying their films that we could put pressure on their punter,” Glanville said.

But despite the inability to punt the ball half the time they tried, the Bucs still managed to keep the score close. “When you get a punt blocked, you're supposed to lose,” said Bucs coach Ray Perkins. “When you get two blocked, you're not even supposed to be in the same stadium with them. But there we were at the end.”