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The Green Bay Packers, a rather small pro football team with admirable balance and boundless determination, very likely will play the Philadelphia Eagles for the National Football League championship December 26.
Green Bay has only to defeat the Rams in Los Angeles Saturday to assure this. The Rams, an unpredictable and often emotionally unstable football team, on Sunday won an almost unbelievable 10-3 victory over the Baltimore Colts, the tired and jittery defending champions, but suffered grievous injuries which should make them easier game for the Packers.
In San Francisco, the day before, Green Bay waded ankle deep through mud and 49ers to whip the third of the three teams that went into this weekend tied for the Western Conference lead. Now, with only a game to go, the Packers are a game ahead. "We are positive thinkers," says Packer Coach Vince Lombardi. "We can't see defeat ahead."
Nor can anyone else who watched Green Bay plaster San Francisco 13-0. The 49ers, depending for offensive thrust on a wide-spread triple wing designed to take advantage of fast backs, excellent pass catchers and accurate passing, never recovered from the dismay they felt when they came out to test the footing in Kezar Stadium. They found they could barely stand in the goo. But they found later that standing was preferable to being dumped in the mud—as they were, often and violently—by one or another of the Packers.
The 49ers' passing was completely nullified by the weather, and the 49er running backs, who are gifted more with mobility than power, were hobbled. On the other hand, the precise, power-operated Packer offense moved surely, if slowly, when it had to score. Bart Starr, the Green Bay quarterback, eschewed any artfulness in favor of pure, straight-ahead force.
"The field was so sloppy we decided to forget most of our passes and sweeps and trust to draw plays and traps," Lombardi said. " Paul Hornung busted their left side and Jim Taylor their right. We trapped their tackles, Leo Nomellini and Monte Clark. We have a quick line and we moved a little faster on that rainsoaked bog than the 49ers and we got our blocks in quicker than they could react. On Hornung's touchdown run, we cleared out the whole left side of their defense."
Taylor, the stocky, immensely strong Packer fullback, paddled for 161 yards during the afternoon. Paul Hornung, who has already set a league scoring record this season, slithered 28 yards for his touchdown—the only one of the game—and added two field goals. Said he: "That offensive line of ours—what a pleasure to work behind it, even in the mud. Those guys give you a little room."
"They were standing up the defensive line," Taylor said. "In this kind of goo, if you stand 'em up they slip and slide when you're running past 'em."
The Packer defense, which has developed this season into one of the best in the league, so thoroughly plugged the San Francisco shotgun offense that the 49ers crossed midfield only once—and that time to the Packer 49-yard line. Indeed, this Packer team is notable for its almost flawless combination of talents on both offense and defense. The defensive line is quick; the linebackers are among the best in the league, and, with the development of Ray Nitschke, Lombardi now has four of them, which means he can rest one all the time.