The playoff-bound Packers entered Week 10 at 6-3, winners of two in a row and with a one-game lead over the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings in the tightly-contested Central Division.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Packers got their first big play when Jon Staggers returned a Dan Pastorini punt 85 yards for a touchdown.
Pastorini's punt sailed 60 yards but Staggers nullified the boomer by following a wall of blocking into the clear. Staggers, who was in Green Bay from 1972 to 1974, was never touched in logging the first of his seven career touchdowns with the Packers.
The Oilers tied the game later in the second quarter and it looked as if the 7-7 score would stand at halftime when the Packers lined up to punt at their own 32-yard line with 34 seconds left until the break. It was at that point that usually staid coach Dan Devine decided to get a little tricky and the result was the Packers' second big play of the game.
Facing a 10-man rush, punter Ron Widby took the snap and instead of kicking lofted a pass toward receiver Dave Davis. The third-stringer grabbed the ball at the 40, dodged a tackler at midfield and reached the end zone to give the Packers the lead for good. The score was the only TD of Davis' four-year NFL career.
"I just laid it out there," Widby said after the game.
The pass was the first of Widby's five-year NFL career and his first aerial since his days at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tenn. "It's an entirely different feeling," Widby said of the play call. "I feel confident when I go in to kick because I know I can kick. I was worried because I don't know whether I can pass."
The Packers held the 14-7 lead through the third quarter. Houston pulled to within four with a fourth-quarter field goal but big play No. 3 finally settled matters for good.
Running back MacArthur Lane turned a doomed sweep into a 36-yard touchdown run that put the Packers ahead 21-10. When Lane accepted the handoff from quarterback Scott Hunter, he saw that the sweep would only net a few yards. He then cut back inside, found and lane and streaked to the goal line.
"You never now where a play will open up," Lane said. "You just run with your eyes open and you run for daylight or your life."
The latter comment may have been prompted by two incidents earlier in the game. Lane said one Oiler kicked him in the head, which aggravated a pinched nerve and temporarily forced him out of the game.
"It paralyzed the right side of my body," Lane said.
The Packers called it "dirty football" and left Lane with a bloodshot right eye.
"He tried to gouge my eye out, the dirty (expletive)," Lane said. "One of those Oilers went after my eye. I couldn't see who it was, but I think I know who that dirty son of a (expletive) was. It was one of two crooks – I won't say who they are but their day is going to come."
It was a good thing Lane played through the injuries because John Brockington, the Packers' top running back, was slowed by a "charley horse." Lane responded with 126 rushing yards and three catches for 17 yards.
"They can't key on me the way he runs," said Brockington, who gained just 49 yards. Defensive tackle Bob Brown, bound for the Pro Bowl, capped the scoring by tackling Pastorini in the end zone for a safety.
Notes: The Packers would lose their lead in the Central the next week when they would fall at Washington and the Lions would beat the Jets to forge a tie atop the division. … The '72 Packers finished 10-4 and champs of the Central. … The Packers lost to eventual NFC champion Washington 16-3 in the playoffs. … The safety were the only points of Brown's career. Brown was named the team's defensive MVP in 1972. … The game was a rematch of an Aug. 19, 1972 preseason game, which saw the Oilers prevail 20-3 in the Astrodome. … The Packers would not play another game indoors until a 20-19 loss in the Superdome Oct. 12, 1975. … This was the first of three regular-season tilts the Packers would play in the Astrodome. Green Bay lost 41-38 in overtime in 1983 and won 16-14 in 1992.