They've really got the pressure on them. We have one loss, but they have two." The speaker was Fullback Jim Taylor of the Green Bay Packers and he referred to the Baltimore Colts. The Packers, leaders of the Western Division with a 4 and 1 record, were in Baltimore to play the Colts Sunday, and the Colts, as every Baltimorean knew, were off to a slow 4 and 2 start in quest of their third straight league title. The thick, gloomy sky covering the city the day before the game seemed symbolic. "Sunday," warned one local man, "must be one of those days for the Colts. Otherwise, they are through as champions."
The Colts were grimly incommunicado on Saturday, holding morning practice in secrecy. The Packers flew in after noon and were chipper as breakfast hostesses as they chattered their way through drills in Memorial Stadium. Coach Vince Lombardi, who had patched up the Packers and inspired them into a surprising 7 and 5 record last year (they had been a horrible 1-10-1 in pre-Lombardi 1958), arrived smiling. Rosy-cheeked Dominic ("Call me Ole") Olejniczak, a realtor who serves as payless Packer president, beamed becomingly at anyone who would look back at him, though he privately admitted to butterflies. The players were confident: one of the Colt losses was a 35-21 defeat administered by the Packers at Green Bay in early October. True, the Packers were outgained (245 yards to 435), but they had played alertly and aggressively, intercepting four passes by Johnny Unitas and grabbing two Colt fumbles.
This last Sunday, however, the law of averages (or maybe it was the law of irony) caught Green Bay. This second game was almost an exact reverse of the first. This time the Packers outgained the Colts (426 yards to 404), but the Colts intercepted four passes by Bart Starr and grabbed two Packer fumbles to win 38-24.
In retrospect, one could see that the Packer pattern of defeat was set shortly after the Colts kicked off. With Halfback Paul Hornung sweeping right end and Taylor and End Gary Knafelc receiving, the Packers moved to the Colt 15. There, however, on third down and with eight yards to go, Colt Halfback Milt Davis intercepted a pass meant for Knafelc. Davis caught the ball on the two and ran it out to the 10—far enough out so that Johnny Unitas felt free to pass. To the screams of the usual full crowd of 58,000, Unitas began throwing to the outside of the oncoming Packer line, first to End Ray Berry on the left, then to Halfback Lenny Moore, flanked to the right.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Jesse Whittenton, their experienced defensive right halfback, had to leave the game (he returned only briefly in the second half). Whittenton had slipped on the stadium turf and pulled a muscle in Saturday's practice, and now he had aggravated his injury to the point where it caused him pain. "He Just couldn't run," Lombardi said afterward. "From the way things looked, maybe we should have kept him in." In Whittenton's place, Lombardi used two rookies, first Willie Wood, then Dick Pesonen. Neither was ready for the assignment of handling Berry and Halfback Alex Hawkins. Before the game was over, Unitas had thrown four touchdown passes in their direction. "To put a rookie in, and to put him in against Berry and Unitas, and in Baltimore, too, well, that's too much pressure," Lombardi said. "Of course," he added quickly, "that's to take nothing away from Berry and Unitas."
In any event, when Whittenton went out and Wood came in, the Colts had the ball, second and one on the Packer 45. Unitas set about immediately to exploit his good fortune. He fell back behind a bushel of blockers, faked to Berry breaking inside ("to draw the halfback in," Unitas explained later), paused, then hit Berry, who had cut back to the sideline, on the 10. Completely alone, he caught the ball and scored.
The Colts suddenly struck again. Steve Myhra kicked off to the Packers. Halfback Tom Moore, the Packers' first draft choice for 1960, took the ball in the end zone and headed out. But at the 20 he was met so hard that the ball squirted from his hands. It landed on the 24, where Myhra, of all people, pounced on it.
The Packers dug in. They slammed into Unitas. Then the Colts lost 15 for holding. All of a sudden, the Packers had the Colts back on the 50, third and 36 yards to go. Then Unitas, who did nothing wrong all afternoon, called a pass play known as "the flea flicker."
Unitas handed off to Fullback Billy Pricer on what looked like a draw. Pricer ran toward the line, then lateraled back to Unitas. Meanwhile, Hawkins, who had faked the defensive man out of position by pretending he was going to block for the run that Pricer never made, sprinted down the left sideline. "I went down until I didn't think Johnny could throw that far," Hawkins said. "I slowed down, then I went running after it again, like an outfielder misjudging a fly ball." Hawkins lunged for the ball, caught it and fell forward on the one. Two plays later he scored on a pass from Unitas.
The Colts kept up the tempo. Ordell Braase and Johnny Sample raced into the Packer backfield to block a field-goal attempt by Hornung. The Colts took over on their own 30 and moved to the 21 where Unitas passed to Berry in the end zone. It was the 100th touchdown pass of Unitas' NFL career.
Green Bay got a touchdown when Starr passed twice to End Max McGee, and Taylor tore through the line from the four.
The Packers continued to fight back in the third period. Bill Forester intercepted on the Colt 40. "Unitas said he just didn't see the linebacker," Coach Weeb Ewbank said. Taylor, carrying and receiving, brought the ball to the 14, where Hornung ran around left end for the score.
The Colts were forced to kick from their 27. Wood took the ball on his own 27 and slithered and dodged his way to the Colt 30 as the crowd groaned. But there was a flag on the play. The Packers were penalized for a personal foul and put back on their own 13. Sample intercepted. The Colts lost the ball on a fumble, but then got it right back when the Packers fumbled. The Colts stalled and settled for a field goal, making the score 24-14.
Still Green Bay came back in the final period. Starr hit Taylor and End Boyd Dowler down the middle. Taylor carried to the two, and Hornung dove in for the touchdown. Five minutes later, Hornung, the league's leading scorer, made it 24—all with a goal from the 21. The Packers, who had been down 21-0 in the second quarter, now had it tied. But the Colts had Unitas and Berry and Moore, and the Packers were without Whittenton.
With the crowd urging him on ("C'mon, Johnny, get us one! Just one!"), Unitas began throwing low line drives to Berry and Moore. From the Packer 16, Unitas hit Berry on the sideline at the eight. For one frozen moment Berry appeared to stand still as Pesonen dove at him, but at the last instant Berry twisted away and ran down the line for the tie-breaking touchdown. That play was the game. "He wouldn't have done that on Whittenton," Ewbank said later, breaking into a smile.
Behind 31-24, only two and a half minutes left, Starr passed to Knafelc, but Halfback Bob Boyd, who hadn't been doing too well until then, intercepted and ran the ball to the Packer 14. The crowd screamed its approval, and so did Colt Backfield Coach Charlie Winner, on the phone up in the press box. "That," said Winner, "makes up for the boners he made."
On the first play Hawkins took a handoff and ran straight through the Packers. The kick was good, and the Colts led 38-24 with only 1:54 left.
Superfluously, the Colts intercepted again. This time it was Davis who took the ball on the Colt 28. There was not time left to score again. The crowd, like a college cheering section, counted the closing seconds—"Five! Four! Three! Two! One!"—as kids ran out on the field to hail their heroes.
The most mistakes
In his office Ewbank sipped a Royal Crown Cola as he accepted congratulations. "They had a little trouble with Berry," he said, "and Hawkins made a fine catch." He exulted over the flea flicker. "I had that in high school," he said. "It isn't worth a damn when it doesn't work!
"Both teams played a fine ball game," Ewbank went on. "They're tough—we couldn't contain them up there. But the team that makes the most mistakes loses." Did this win, asked a reporter, mean that the Colts would win another championship? Ewbank frowned. "If I knew that," he said, "it would save me a hell of a lot of gray hairs. All I'm thinking about is the Bears." The Colts play the Bears Sunday in Chicago, and outside in the dressing room, where the players were slapping one another on the back, someone had chalked on the blackboard, FIVE TO GO—BEARS NEXT. It seems like a good bet.
HIGH STEPPING into end zone, Colts' Berry eludes sprawling Safety John Symank, after taking Unitas' eight-yard pass.
CLUTCHING AT BALL, Colts' Hawkins hauls in short pass from Unitas before falling out of bounds on one-yard line.