Y. A. Tittle, the Giant quarterback, stood outside the Sheraton Cleveland Hotel waiting for a bus. Tittle, who looks like a moderately prosperous insurance broker in his street clothes, answered a question from Cliff Livingston, a Giant linebacker, who looks like a linebacker in his street clothes.
"I figure we'll get you about 30 points," Y. A. said. "How many you going to give them?"
"Less than that," Livingston replied.
They boarded the bus, proceeded to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium and, with the rest of the New York Giants, whipped the Cleveland Browns 37-21, almost as casually as one might have expected from Tittle's and Livingston's discussion of the game.
The victory, coupled with Green Bay's 17-9 conquest of Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, went far toward deciding the championship teams in the Eastern and Western conferences. The Giants are a game ahead in the East, with three to play; the Packers are 2� ahead in the West, with the same number remaining.
The two teams play Sunday in Milwaukee in what is probably a preview of the championship game December 31. The teams are precisely matched, although their talents differ in some ways. Green Bay has perhaps the soundest ground attack in football, with brutally powerful running from Fullback Jim Taylor and Halfback Paul Hornung. As the Packers demonstrated on the muddy field in Detroit, Thanksgiving Day, they use this bludgeon to set up their passing attack. Bart Starr, the Green Bay quarterback who has developed wondrously since the season began, is not yet' as good as Tittle, who has had 14 years in the league, but against Detroit, Starr passed effectively. The weapon that destroyed the Lions was, however, the ground game.
The Giants, on the other hand, used the pass so effectively against a bewildered Cleveland defense that their ground attack on occasion seemed only to be an afterthought. When Tittle did go to Bobby Gaiters or to Alex Webster on running plays, they worked very well. So, obviously, the Giants and the Packers base their offenses on different philosophies. The Packers establish their ground attack to set up their passing. The Giants establish their passing to open up the defense for their running. Both teams have strong offensive blocking, in the line and in the backfield. The difference between the two when they meet Sunday will narrow down to the difference between Starr and Tittle.
In tactical competition, there is little to choose between them. Tittle probably is the more daring and the better long passer; on the other hand, Starr has become a nearly faultless signal caller. He is not as apt as Y. A. to call a successfully unorthodox play, but he is not as likely, either, to have a play backfire. Tittle has the edge in a quality of insouciance that seems to keep the Giant offensive team perked up throughout a game. Against the Browns before 80,455 people, Tittle was as relaxed as if he were running the team in signal drills.
His arsenal of plays consisted merely of seven running signals and four pass patterns, and he mixed them beautifully. Protected by the sound Giant blocking, he flicked short sideline passes to Del Shofner and Kyle Rote, taking advantage of Cleveland's effort to cover these two exceptional receivers man-on-man up close. When the Browns showed a brief tendency to send their linebackers in after him, he threw a screen to Webster for a long gain. Once, from the Cleveland five-yard line, he faked a hand-off up the middle to Gaiters, then concealed the ball on his hip and skipped spryly around the Cleveland end to score the touchdown himself.
When he discovered, during the first half, that the Brown defense against running was keyed on Webster, he used Webster as a decoy and broke Gaiters loose for several comfortable gains. And always, when the Giants needed a gain badly, he went back to his favorite and most effective weapon—the pass.