"It was one of those games," he said, "where no matter what you do, the other side is always a play ahead of you. Once, since they had been sending in the linebackers on a blitz nearly every play, I called a quick look-in to Ron Kramer. Wayne Walker had been coming in and he moved to the line as if he were going to do the same thing again, but when the ball was snapped, he dropped off with Kramer and I couldn't complete the pass."
Other things also bothered the Packers. Fuzzy Thurston, who has been an all-pro guard, played under a mental handicap. His mother had died on the Monday before the game, and his wife was ill. He played under a physical handicap, too. In front of him was possibly the best defensive tackle in pro football—300-pound Roger Brown, who moves with exceptional speed for so big a man. Thurston handled him well enough on running plays; on pass blocking, where the guard has a chicken fight with the tackle, Thurston did not make out so well.
"They overwhelmed us," Lombardi said after the game. "They just overpowered us."
Early in the game Starr called what is known in pro football as a "play number pass." This is a pass which develops from lineblocking designed to create the illusion that the play will be a run. The offensive line blocks aggressively, instead of hitting and dropping back to form the cup from which all pro passers throw. In this case, the Packer offensive line fired out for its aggressive blocking, and both sides of the Lion defensive line stunted: that is to say, the ends circled to the inside and the tackles to the outside. Normally an offensive line as battle-wise as Green Bay's would have picked up the stunts and blocked the defensive players effectively as they came in. But so quick was the movement of the Lion operatives, the Packer blockers missed most of their blocks and the Lion line, en masse, descended upon the hapless Starr.
In the second half, the Packers regrouped well enough to pick up the stunts. Too, the Lions, with a 26-0 lead, gave up a good deal of the stunting, gambling defense in favor of protecting that almost insurmountable lead. This was not on the advice of their coach, George Wilson, who, under his calm exterior, is an inveterate gambler. He wanted his team to continue to play with the reckless abandon which had been so successful in the first half.
"We are growing too cautious on offense," Lombardi had said some three weeks before the Lion game. "The offensive players are beginning to stop and think before they execute a play. You haven't time to stop. You have to execute with a modicum of abandon. The pressure is getting to be too much on us because of the winning streak." Certainly, the offense could not afford that moment's hesitation against this keyed-up Detroit defense. By the time they had thought, the Detroit line was on Starr's neck.
The Packer defense acquitted itself a bit better than the offense. The loss of two corner linebackers—first-string Dan Currie and replacement Nelson Toburen—was a major blow. Ken Iman, who has been an offensive guard and center all year, was pressed into duty as a corner linebacker and did as well as could be expected, which was not, understandably, well enough.
Willie Davis, the end on the left side of the Packer defensive line, is a gambler whose wild bets have always been backed up by the icy conservatism of Currie. The same gambles, with the uncertain Iman backing him, failed. When the Lions needed four or five yards for a first down on third down, as often as not they sent Ken Webb or Tom Watkins outside the vulnerable flank of the Green Bay defense. Webb, the fullback replacing injured Nick Pietrosante, would take the hard-rushing Davis in; the two Lion guards, leading the play, took care of Iman and the ballcarrier had a free route.
Two of the Lion touchdowns came on passes to Gail Cogdill, a very good end. Once Cogdill, spread to the left and covered by Jesse Whittenton, broke free by a very lack of duplicity. Whittenton, in this Packer defense, covers Cogdill to the outside; the safety, Willie Wood, takes him to the inside. Cogdill ran a fly pattern—straight ahead as fast as he could go. Whittenton waited for him to break to the sideline, and Wood waited for him to break to the inside. He never broke at all. By the time the defenders had recovered, he was alone. The pass was accurate and he scored.
Cogdill was spread the other way on his second touchdown. This meant he would be taken man-on-man by Herb Adderley, the very quick Packer corner back on that side. Adderley took him well enough, but the pass was so cleanly and well thrown by Milt Plum that Cogdill, with a very slight margin on Adderley, still took the ball on his fingertips in the end zone for the touchdown (left). It was a play against which there is no adequate answer, the kind of play this tough Detroit team made all afternoon, on offense and defense.