Only a little more than a minute of play remained in the game last Sunday afternoon at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Quarterback Johnny Unitas looked over the Green Bay defense, lined up on the Packer five-yard line. The Colts trailed 21-17, and the 60,213 spectators were quiet. Unitas called the play, handed the ball to Lenny Moore, and the Colt halfback, running with his peculiar high-stepping gait, slashed outside the Green Bay right tackle. Behind blocks from Guard Jim Parker and Halfback Tony Lorick, Moore sliced into the end zone. The touchdown gave the Colts the game and moved them a long step closer to their first division title since 1959.
The last-minute touchdown may also have confirmed the end of Green Bay's dominance of the NFL—a reign rarely interrupted in recent years. This was the second time this season the Colts had beaten the Packers. Both games were close—21-20 in Green Bay, 24-21 in Baltimore—but Green Bay, in its prime years, did not lose the close games. Now Baltimore does not. Green Bay, when it was rumbling unchecked through the West, won even on its off days. That is what Baltimore did last Sunday.
The Colts' incomparable quarterback, Unitas, was at something less than his best as a passer. Twice, with receivers open behind Green Bay defenders, he overthrew his target, and several times, on shorter passes, he missed. The Baltimore punting, with the exception of a towering kick by rookie Joe Don Looney, was execrable. A squibbed punt brought on one Green Bay touchdown, and a short, low end-over-ender was run back for a touchdown by Green Bay's Elijah Pitts before the Baltimore defense had time to set up. Another Green Bay touchdown came when Wendell Harris, a Baltimore safety man, signaled for a fair catch, then dropped the ball. The Packers recovered on the Baltimore 16.
So the Baltimore performance in this game was short of the flawless effort the Colts engineered against the Chicago Bears and had little of the ebullient play that characterized their victories over the Los Angeles Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals. But they won, and the fact that they won on an off day against a formidable opponent points up the tremendous potential of this team for this season and for the next few seasons to come.
Green Bay played savagely and well. "They don't try to fool you," said Bill Pellington, who has played linebacker for the Colts for 12 years and who called an excellent defensive game this day. "We knew they are a running team. We knew we had to stop their running if we could and make Bart Starr put the ball in the air. They kill you if they make the run go, not on the pass. So we set up the defenses to try to hold them on the first and second downs, concentrating on the running. We didn't blitz at all—maybe once or twice, but no more. We wanted them to have third and maybe five or six yards or more, so that Starr would have to throw for the first down."
The Colt defense succeeded reasonably well in this design. Thirteen times during the game Starr tried to pass for the first down with third and substantial yardage; he made it only three times. Five times the pass was incomplete, twice Starr was trapped before he could get the ball away, and three times the passes were complete but short.
Although the Colts did not completely stifle the Green Bay ground attack, they did force the Packers to rely on the pass instead of the run. Starr threw 33 passes—a high number for him—and completed 18. The Packers' formidable runners—Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung and Tom Moore, among others—gained only 147 yards on 33 carries, and 24 yards of that total came on a gambling run by Jerry Norton, who, getting ready to punt on fourth down, found the defense sound asleep. He tiptoed to an easy first down
If Unitas' arm was not as accurate as usual, his mind was as sharp. In the first half he picked at the Packer defense with short passes whenever the Packers tried single coverage on Raymond Berry. This stratagem worked on a drive that carried to the Green Bay eight. From there the Colts kicked a field goal, but Green Bay was offside. The penalty left the Colts a foot short of a first down on the Packer four-yard line. A measure of Unitas' confidence in his team is that he chose to take the penalty, relinquishing the three points, and went for the first down. Tony Lorick, the rookie halfback who has spiced the Colt ground game this year, went all the way for a touchdown on the next play
In the second half the Packers changed their defense so that they often had double coverage on Berry. Unitas then shifted his target to his tight end, Butch Wilson, who made two key catches to keep drives alive.
The Colts have now won five games in a row since losing their opener to Minnesota, and stand at the top of the Western Division. Green Bay's loss drops the Packers to fourth place, with a three-and-three record and no more games with Baltimore. The Colts' most serious opposition now would seem to be Detroit, with a 4-1-1 record, and Detroit has been weakened considerably by the loss of its No. 1 quarterback, Earl Morrall, who broke his collarbone last week. The Colts, on the other hand, came out of the Packer game with no serious injuries. This Colt team was marked early this year as the team of the future; the future may have become the present in Baltimore last Sunday.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
Colt Halfback Lenny Moore (24) epitomizes the Baltimore attack as he heads for touchdown—his second of the day—that beat the Packers.