In an exhibition game on September 12 the Los Angeles Rams, with their traditionally explosive offense, blasted San Francisco's 49ers 48-14.
Before the two teams met again, for keeps, in a league game on October 4, Red Hickey, coaching the 49ers this year for the first time, gave out with what some thought might be excessive optimism.
"This will be," he said, "a different game. Watch."
The 56,028 who watched at Kezar Stadium saw. It was different. It was the first game in a decade in which the Rams failed to score a point :n a league game. The 49ers came through with 34. Among those watching were SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Tex Maule and Artist Robert Riger. "The contest," says Maule, "was a classic, the perfect example of how a great defense makes a good offense."
When the game was over, Riger had taken more than 300 feet of film of its key plays and important action, and Maule began to visualize how the game might be presented in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as an exposition of football defense at its finest.
The next day Riger and Maule became Monday-morning quarterbacks, as Red Hickey and his four assistant coaches ran and reran, discussed and dissected the 49ers' wide-screen movies of the game. Football conversation between Maule and Hickey is both knowing and easy. They are old friends ever since 10 years ago when Maule was publicity director for the Rams and Hickey was their end coach.
In our issue next week Riger's drawings and Maule's commentary reconstruct the game. It is, for one thing, a story in itself, an instructional text piece on how to watch developments on the field rather than the scoreboard to tell how the defense is doing. And, for another, it is a significant chapter in a continuing and exciting plot, for two weeks from now the Rams and 49ers meet again, in the Coliseum, where I suspect a good many of the 102,000 on hand are likely to have SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in hand.
P.S. Tex Maule. an old hand at telling a football story, is a new hand at telling a story of another kind. His first novel, the title of which is Jeremy Todd, will be published later this month by Random House.
TEX MAULE BY ROBERT RIGER