— Dutch VanDuzee (@vanduzee) June 12, 2014
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: the Music City Miracle trick kickoff return that won a playoff game against the Bills for the Titans in January 2000; and Kevin Dyson’s desperate, unsuccessful reach for the end zone that came up a yard short of forcing overtime as time expired on Super Bowl XXXIV. Please vote for your choice as the Oilers/Titans’ most memorable play.
Score: Steelers 27, Oilers 13
Date: Jan. 6, 1980 Site: Three Rivers Stadium
Oh, for replay in the 1979 NFL playoffs.
The first version of replay wasn’t instituted by the league until 1986, and it was far too late to help side judge Donald Orr, who ruled that Houston receiver Mike Renfro didn’t get both feet down in the end zone for what would have been a game-tying third-quarter touchdown in Pittsburgh.
The Oilers went on to lose the AFC title game 27-13, failing to get to the Super Bowl with a second consecutive championship-game loss in Pittsburgh.
Houston lost in the playoffs after the 1980 season, too, to eventual champion Oakland, and Bum Phillips was fired as coach after three playoff seasons with a good team failed to produce a Super Bowl appearance.
Renfro’s “catch” would have only tied the game with plenty still to play. Who knows what would have happened from there? Oilers fans would have liked to have found out. Had their team won that game and gone on to a Super Bowl title, a lot could have changed between then and 1996, when the Oilers struck a deal to leave Houston and move to Nashville, Tennessee.
The impact of the play went well beyond Houston.
"It brought about the use of instant replay a lot faster than it would've gotten here," Renfro said in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram piece in 2008. "I do know that."