For the first time in their existence the Patriots were hosts in major league surroundings. After they got accustomed to the luxury of the place some of the traipsings rubbed off and, in strictly big league fashion, the team came roaring from behind to beat the Oakland Raiders, 20 to 14, at Fenway Park Friday night.
In a bedazzling scoring explosion, something that has been lacking all season, the Boston team scored 17 points in four minutes and 44 seconds to blow the Raiders right off the field and assure the 26,494 sitting in that things aren’t as bad as they looked.
Throttled all season long by various ills, the team’s No. 1 scoring punch, Babe Parilli came to life late in the third quarter to spark the big drive.
A 56-yard pass play from Parilli to Jimmy Colclough which had everything pro football is supposed to have, a great pass, a greater catch, a spill, a recovery by Colclough on the five and a run in, started it.
This followed Oakland’s second touchdown, and it was just what the Patriots needed. From then on this was the ream fans expect to see, and in a few wild moments this one was all sewed up.
An Oakland fumble right after the Parilli-Colclough combination kept this scoring blitz going. It was wrought by Bob Dee, who flattened Oakland’s Tom Flores, and Larry Eisenhauer who fell on the fumble on the Raiders’ 25. Three passes were too deep in the end zone so Gino Cappelletti kicked a 33-yard field goal, his second of the night, leaving Boston only one point astern 13 to 14.
Then on the first play after the kickoff Houston Antwine and Ross O’Hanley dumped Bo Roberson and fell on the ball on the 20.
There was a lull as the third quarter ended. It didn’t cool off the Boston offense, which has been a lethargic thing for so long. On the first play of the last quarter Parilli, on the 11, ran all over the backfield eluding tacklers and looking for a receiver. Finally he saw Tom Neumann standing on the two and the Babe put the ball in his hands. Neumann whirled and fell into the end zone to end the scoring and the Patriots’ great defense protected the lead the rest of the way.
It wasn’t so pleasant in the early part of the evening for the local fans as Boston’s only offense continued to be Cappelletti, the big threat all season. Early in the game he kicked a 37-yard field goal and at the moment it looked as though that was the start of an avalanche.
Immediately following that O’Hanley intercepted a Flores pass and ran from the Boston 45 into the Oakland six. On the next play Oakland’s Jim McMillan intercepted Parilli’s pass in the end zone.
Then to show he’s good at this sort of thing McMillan grabbed another of Babe’s flings and ran 45 yards for a touchdown and Boston was down 7-3 in a flash. It stayed that way through the half and in the third quarter Flores took his team on a long excursion. In five plays with some nifty passing, he had Oakland to Boston’s 11, where he got clobbered by Antwine. In came the first string man, Cotton Davidson, who is a better passer.
But he didn’t pass. Not this time. It was his only play of the night and he made a spectacular of it. He just ran to his right, cut back over tackle and went in. Mercer kicked the 14th point and right then it looked like money from home.
Then came the play that snapped the Patriots out of what ever has been bothering them. In less than five minutes everything changed. The big league atmosphere had rubbed off.
It wasn’t a brilliant game by a long shot. Parilli still isn’t completely on the beam. He had only five foe 20 and 130 yards. But they were as good as a mile last night. The rushing game, tops in the league until now, gained only 83 yards, with Larry Gannon getting 46 of them. What difference? In three games they had blazing statistics and lost.
This time the team had the only statistics that counts. Those 20 points on the scoreboard. They were very big indeed. Especially as Oakland only had 14.