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Tex Maule
December 04, 1961
The New York Giants meet the Green Bay Packers this weekend; the two conference leaders, judging from their last strong victories, may play again on December 31—for the pro title
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December 04, 1961

Battle Of Football's Best: The Bold Giants Vs. The Solid Packers

The New York Giants meet the Green Bay Packers this weekend; the two conference leaders, judging from their last strong victories, may play again on December 31—for the pro title

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The Browns had some success with Jim Brown going wide, but the Giants made a small adjustment at the half, spreading Ends Jim Katcavage and Andy Robustelli a bit wider, and cut off this small avenue, too.

The only flaw in the Giant defense against the Browns was the one that the New Yorkers can best afford when they meet the Packers—deep passes. Starr is not an exceptionally good long thrower. Ray Renfro, the best Brown receiver, broke free twice against the left side of the Giant secondary defense, weakened recently by the loss of veteran Dick Nolan. Both of the newcomers to the Giant defense are on this side—Erich Barnes as the corner back and rookie Allan Webb as the safety. Once Renfro broke deep behind Webb to take a 43-yard pass for a touchdown. Again he beat the Giant defense for a 57-yard pass that set up the second Brown touchdown.

Both of these, however, came in the first half. In the second half the Giants were waiting for Renfro. He caught more passes, but no more long passes. In fact, so well did the Giants cut off this profitable Brown gambit that Barnes, obtained by the Giants in a trade with the Chicago Bears, intercepted one of Len Dawson's passes intended for Renfro in the fourth period and returned it for the final Giant touchdown.

Both the New York and Green Bay defensive teams are equipped with four very large, very strong front-line defenders; the Giants have bigger tackles, the Packers bigger ends, but the quality is almost exactly the same. The Giants, depending less on a ground game than the Packers, may not be hampered as much by the Packer line as Green Bay will be by the Giants'. Against Cleveland, the Giants allowed only 66 yards running, and Jim Brown, the league's leading rusher, and Bobby Mitchell, who makes something of a specialty of long, flashy runs, are at least as good as Taylor and Hornung. The parallel between the Cleveland runners and the Green Bay pair goes even further; Mitchell, who has been commuting from an Army camp to play with the Browns on Sunday, looked rather rusty and unsure of himself against the Giants. Hornung, who does the same thing for the Packers, seemed to have lost some of his keenness against the Lions.

The two teams probably have the two best sets of linebackers in football; the Packers have been hurt here by the loss of Middle Linebacker Ray Nitschke to service, but Tom Bettis, his replacement, is only a shade behind Nitschke. At this particular spot, of course, the Giants have the ubiquitous Sam Huff. The corner backs for Green Bay are Bill Forester and Dan Currie, both big, with good reactions and superior intelligence. The same can be said for the Giants' Cliff Livingston and Tom Scott.

It is in the secondary defense that the Packers appear to have a small plus. The loss of Nolan, while not a disaster on the scale of the broken leg suffered by the Philadelphia Eagles' Tom Brookshier (it apparently demoralized the whole defense), is still a sore loss, as the Browns showed last Sunday. Allan Webb, the rookie who is playing in Nolan's place, does very well. But there is an old pro axiom that a rookie in the secondary costs a touchdown a game, and in Webb's case it is true. Webb is improving, but certainly Starr will try to take advantage of him just as Milt Plum did. The other Giant deep defenders—Jim Patton, Jim Lynch and Erich Barnes—are superb. The four Green Bay deep backs have played together long enough to cohere into a unit as good as the Giants—and they have no replacement to break in.

Finally, there is the coaching. Lombardi, in three years at Green Bay, has produced a remarkably sound football team with no weak spots. The Packers never beat themselves and never—or almost never—make mistakes. His offense, for good reason, is not as spectacular as the Giants', but in its own tough way it is as good.

Allie Sherman, in his first year as head coach of the Giants, has refurbished what was a somewhat pedestrian offense and given it wonderful �clat. He seems to be more of a gambler than Lombardi. So far he has been a very successful one.

After the Brown game, in the bus on the way to the airport, Sam Huff said, "In the end, it comes down to one thing. Man against man. The best ones win."

The best ones on a given day, that is.

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