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All of the defensive unit are veterans, and all of them, since coming to the Lions, have played better than they did on the clubs they came from. Part of this has been due to Coach George Wilson.
"He thinks like a player," a Detroit defense man said the other day. "We respect him and like him and we'll play our guts out for him."
"We can stop them if..."
When the Lions opened the season against Los Angeles, they found that the Rams had spaced their offensive linemen wider than usual, hoping for blocking angles. Schmidt calmly called more blitzes through the gaps and the resulting pressure on the Ram quarterbacks caused four pass interceptions by the Lions. Schmidt, like Karras, believed that the way to beat the Packers was to stop them on the ground. "We figure if we can stop them there, we can win it," he said before last Sunday's game. "One of our defensive theories is that if you can restrict the other club to less than 100 yards rushing, you'll win. Sometimes you win if they get more, but if they get less, you're a cinch."
The Packers, however, had other ideas. Upset by the Chicago Bears in their first game of the season, the Packers considered a victory a necessity. "We lose this one and might as well forget it," said Dan Currie, the corner linebacker. "Sure, there are 12 games left to play, but the Lions would be ahead by two. They've always thought they were a better team than we are. If they beat us, they would really be tough."
Vince Lombardi, Green Bay's stern coach, tried psychology instead of hard work in preparing the Packers for the Lions. Instead of lacerating the team with verbal abuse—which he has done, and does well—he relaxed his discipline a bit and held the lightest workouts since the beginning of training.
"What else can you do after a game like the one we played with the Bears?" Lombardi said. "They knew how bad they were. I haven't told them anything. I figure that if this is a championship team, they'll come back."
One reason for the Packers' failure against Chicago was that the team was too tense. "You can't be cautious in this game," Lombardi said. And from the start of the game with the Lions last week, the Packers played with abandon, but not carelessly. So sure and quick was the Green Bay defensive unit in the first half that the Lions could make only two first downs, and the Packer secondary covered the Lion receivers so closely that Milt Plum was unable to complete any of his seven passes. Often he threw the ball away rather than risk an interception.
Taking a leaf from Schmidt's notes on defensive football, the Packer defense shut off the Detroit running game with 71 yards for the afternoon. They intercepted four of the 26 passes Plum and Earl Morrall tried and allowed only six completions, good for a skimpy 76 yards.
The Packers also adjusted to a new—and surprising—Detroit offense very easily. The Lions came out in a short-lived version of the shotgun offense, reminiscent of the ill-fated shotgun offense of the San Francisco 49ers, and the Packers, who had not expected this and had not worked against it, cast back to the defenses they had used against San Francisco and stopped it cold.