"Svare was playing just outsideme," said Robustelli. "We work out a plan on every extra-point and field-goal attempt, and this time it worked perfectly. I pulled the Lion defensive end inside with my block and left an alley clear for Svare. Their corner man tried to block him when he shot in there, but the angle was too tough and he didn't have a chance."
At the time Svare blocked the field-goal attempt, the Brown-Eagle game in Philadelphia had ended and the Giants knew that the kick had to be blocked to keep them in the running for the Eastern Conference title.
The Cleveland victory was a more workmanlike job, but it was not easy. This Brown team carries a thunderous punch on the ground but its air attack is just barely strong enough to prevent the opposition from massing its defenses on the line. For a long half last Sunday, Philadelphia's Norman Van Brocklin, who ranks with the best passers ever produced in professional football, matched the Cleveland ground strength with it's bewildering assortment of passes, throwing short or long, hard or soft with effortless accuracy. The half ended 14-14; ironically, it was the Cleveland air attack which won the game on the last play of the third quarter.
Milt Plum, the big Cleveland quarterback, who adds a good deal himself to the Brown running attack, completed only five passes during the wintry afternoon. The one which made the difference went to Halfback Ray Renfro and was good for 48 yards and a touchdown. On the play before this, Paul Brown, who shuttles his guards back and forth carrying instructions to Plum, had called for the same pass pattern, with Plum throwing to End Darrell Brewster. The pass was on target, but Brewster dropped it and Brown called for the same play again. Renfro, who had broken in toward the middle of the field on the unsuccessful pass, ran nearly the same pattern this time. Tom Brookshier, the Eagle defensive halfback covering him, played him to the inside once more, but Renfro broke to the sideline and was 10 yards in the clear when Plum's flat, hard shot reached him. Renfro is one of the fastest men in pro football; no one touched him.
Jim Brown, Cleveland's record-breaking fullback, gained 138 yards rushing in this game after having been held to 12 yards in 11 carries the week before. The Eagle defense was not keyed specifically to Brown, nor could it have been, since Cleveland has two other strong runners in its backfield in Lew Carpenter and in Plum. Carpenter and Brown divided the ball-carrying evenly, each making 21 attempts. Carpenter gained an even 100 yards.
When the Giants defeated Cleveland earlier this year, Coach Jim Lee Howell virtually ignored the Cleveland passing game, concentrated his defenses on the Cleveland running. Sam Huff, one of the league's better linebackers, dogged Jim Brown's tracks all afternoon and did a good job of haltering the big fullback, who got away on only one long run. Carpenter, however, was injured and did not play in that game. The Giant pass defenders, as a unit, must be ranked ahead of Philadelphia's so that Howell can again, with reasonable assurance, concentrate his defense against the Cleveland running. However, his problem is complicated by Carpenter this time; it is not feasible to assign Huff to Jim Brown and another linebacker to Carpenter without giving even so journeyman a passer as Plum too much leeway.
Nevertheless, George Wilson, whose Lions beat the Browns and lost to the Giants, probably best summed up the wide-open prospects next Sunday. Said Wilson, when asked to compare the teams: "I can't. You never can tell what a ball club will do on a different afternoon."
The Pittsburgh Steelers, a team which had retained a faint chance for a conference championship, tied the Washington Redskins 14-14 in a game which, by the time it ended, meant nothing. Oddly, while the Steelers still had a hope, they lagged behind 14-0. It was only in the second half, after the Browns had won and ended the Steeler hopes, that Bobby Layne rallied his team for the two tying touchdowns, But Layne sounded an ominous note after the game.
"We're as good as any team in the league right now," he said. "As good or better. We'll be up there next year." And Buddy Parker, the Steeler coach, agreed. "We don't need much now," he said. "Maybe an offensive fullback and a linebacker. Wait until next year."
But first comes that unfinished business next Sunday.