The only soft spot discernible recently in the Packer defensive unit is against long passes. The Chicago Bears completed two, but the game was already won by the Packers when the Bears managed this. If this is truly a weakness, it spells trouble for the Packers should they represent the West against the Eagles in the championship game—and against Norman Van Brocklin, the most accurate long passer in football.
But before Green Bay begins devising means for stopping the Eagles, they must face the Rams, and the Rams—on the basis of the resourceful, spirited game they played in beating Baltimore—are not exactly dead yet. Bob Waterfield, the stoical Ram head coach who was quarterback on four Ram championship teams, came up with one big surprise for Baltimore. He put Ollie Matson, his fine fullback, on defense. Matson performed there with verve and enthusiasm, if not with consummate skill.
"The only way to beat the great Colt pass catchers is with speed and defense," Waterfield said. " Matson has the speed."
Matson, tackling with abandon and effect and consistently outrunning the Colt receivers on deep passes, once jarred the ball loose from Lenny Moore with a rousing tackle. When the Colts drove down to the Ram five early in the game, it was Matson who smashed through the Colt line on successive plays to tackle Moore and Fullback Billy Pricer for short losses. A third-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone and the Colts settled for their only score of the game, a field goal, thus ending at 47 the string of games in which John Unitas has thrown touchdown passes.
Waterfield took a calculated risk in designing his defense. He noticed in the pregame warmup that the Colts' league-leading pass catcher, Raymond Berry, was not moving well. He decided to cover Berry with one man while assigning two to the very dangerous Moore. The crippled Berry—he has a pulled hamstring muscle—caught only one pass all day and that for just 11 yards.
The Ram touchdown must be regarded as something of a fluke. Frank Ryan, who has been shouldering most of the Los Angeles quarterback chores, was injured early in the game. He was replaced by Billy Wade, a big, pigeon-toed, rather awkward passer. Wade has been known to trip himself while retreating to pass. For obvious reasons, he almost never runs.
On this day, however, he ran 66 yards to score the touchdown which brought victory. He rolled out to his left on an option play, with Fullback Joe Marconi and End Red Phillips protecting him.
"On that play, if the linebacker drops back, the quarterback runs," Waterfield said. "If he comes up, the quarterback throws. It's not a new play but it sure worked like hell."
The Colt linebacker, well aware that Wade very seldom runs, dropped back. Marconi, leading the way for the Ram quarterback, motioned frantically for Wade to run and the big, gangling passer lumbered downfield. Marconi erased one would-be tackier and Wade galloped down the sideline behind Phillips. As they neared the Colt goal line, Milt Davis came over to make the tackle. Phillips, herding his ungainly charge along with all the protective concern of a sheep dog, managed to stay between Wade and Davis almost to the goal line, when Davis made the tackle—too late.
"The Packers present a little different problem," Waterfield said thoughtfully, after the game. "We got four key players hurt today-Gene Brito, Lou Michaels, Del Shofner and Ryan. And they are a very tough club."