THE FIRST HALF
A curious parallel exists in professional football as the 12 teams settle into the strong pull down the last half of the season. In both the Eastern and Western divisions last year's downtrodden have become the ruling class and driven their former masters from the temple. The Cleveland Browns, who seemed to have invented a formula for football invincibility, have suddenly fallen on evil days now that Quarterback Otto Graham has at last turned in his uniform. The Chicago Cardinals and the New York Giants, whose veteran quarterbacks have assumed new luster with the help of sound and significant additions in all departments, have moved strongly into the hole left by the demise of the Browns. In the West, the champion Los Angeles Rams, bountifully endowed with the size and strength and speed required of a great pro team have, inexplicably, come unglued. A sad combination of costly and frequent fumbles and a surprisingly inept defense has already wrecked the Rams' title pretensions. So now Detroit's Lions and the Chicago Bears—each resuscitated by an infusion of fresh and dangerous young running backs—are headed for two late season games against one another. These are the games that should decide the division title.
As the NFL moved into the sixth week of its season, the teams looked like this:
The New York Giants Stopped the Philadelphia Eagles cold 20-3. Stout Steve Owen, who spent 23 years (until 1953) as head coach of the Giants, returned to New York last week as an assistant coach on the Eagles' staff, where he is employed mainly for his defensive genius. On his first homecoming Sunday, stout Steve found that the best planned defense is unlikely to hamper the running of backs like Frank Gifford, Alex Webster and Mel Triplett for four full quarters.
The Chicago Cardinals took their first defeat of the season from the Washington Redskins 17-14. The Redskins have begun to move in the last two weeks, largely on the development of Quarterback Al Dorow into a competent, useful pro. Then, too, the Cardinals' split-T offense—something of a novelty in pro ball—has been on display for five weeks, and the problems it poses for the defense are being solved.
The Pittsburgh steelers, called lackadaisical by Coach Walt Kiesling after their loss to New York last week, looked quite the opposite in their 24-16 win over the Cleveland Browns. The losers scored twice in the first three minutes—on a long pass and a pass interception—but the wearying Brown defense could not contain Pittsburgh passing forever. The Steeiers grabbed three touchdowns in the second quarter, largely on the throwing of acrobatic Ted Marchibroda, the Steeiers' small but resourceful quarterback. The loss was Cleveland's fourth and, for the first time since this team was organized, it will fail to win even a division championship—unless, of course, miracles begin to happen.
The Chicago Bears rationed their running power and the passing artistry of Ed Brown wisely in clouting the San Francisco 49ers 38-21. The victory was achieved on the thumping running of 225-pound Fullback Rick Casares, who scored four touchdowns, and the nearly impossible-to-stop passing combination of Brown and End Harlon Hill, who may well be the best receiver in the league. The Bear offense is beautifully balanced with Casares' power, the newly polished passing of Brown and the great speed of Rookie Halfback Perry Jeter to the outside. The 49ers could not cope with this multiplicity of weapons, and San Francisco Owner Tony Morabito took the loss with his usual lack of grace. After the game, Morabito sounded off as follows: "The officials were no more competent than the commissioner who appoints them—and that's very incompetent. The officials were the quintessence of nothing." (A pass interference penalty against the 49ers led to one Bear touchdown.) Morabito finally admitted, however, that the Bears have a "helluva ball club" and won on their merits. Said Bert Bell, the National Football League commissioner: "I think the officials are very competent and they have the toughest job in the world." He returned a soft answer to Morabito's complaints against him: "...I have no resentment against Morabito about it at all. In fact, I like him."
The Detroit Lions remained the only undefeated team in both leagues by whipping the Los Angeles Rams 16-7 before 76,758 fans. The victory was the handiwork, again, of the elderly but incredibly capable and versatile quarterback, Bobby Layne. Layne completed 11 of 16 passes for 177 yards, kicked two field goals and a point after touchdown and also scored a touchdown.
The Baltimore Colts, supposedly hampered by the loss of injured Quarterback George Shaw, Still beat the Green Bay Packers 28-21. Rookie Halfback Lennie Moore—who is a good bet for rookie of the year—loped 72 and 79 yards for touchdowns while John Unitas, erstwhile University of Louisville quarterback subbing for Shaw, passed for two more. The Colts, with as much talent as any team in the division, are not out of it yet.