- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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FATAL FAILURE TO PICK UP SOME OPTIONS
Thursday in booming Cleveland the Browns worked on the thinly grassed, dusty surface of old League Park. Blanton Collier, for the first time in two weeks, eschewed tricks. He had a small bagful on hand, having used double reverses against the Rams and a quarterback run against the Steelers, but now, in the quiet, reasonable way he coaches, Collier stuck more closely to subtle variations designed to make it impossible for the Giants to give Middle Linebacker Sam Huff a primary responsibility for Jim Brown. The Giants would have to worry about the tricks. Collier had accomplished part of his purpose. The Cleveland running pattern was one of feints and fakes—Brown faking into the center of the line to induce the automatic suction of the defense to the center, then a quick toss by Quarterback Frank Ryan out to Ernie Green, winging wide, where, hopefully, there would be running room. Then, too, Ryan faked to Green up the center, tossed out quickly to Brown wide, knowing that the Giant defense, through long habit, might have pinched in from fear of Brown's thunderous shots up the middle.
And Ryan threw. On Thursday, he threw the Giant patterns against the Cleveland defense, screens that Y. A. Tittle is so expert at, with the Cleveland defense assigning one man to look for it on each side.
But the Browns were not really worried about the screen. "I don't mind if they throw screens," Defense Coach Howard Brinker said. "They did last year when we beat them. It just means they can't hit the bomb. And it's the bomb we have to worry about. The screen doesn't hurt you that much. Y. A. used the screen the same way when he played with the 49ers. You know, the back goes out, fakes falling down, then gets up to catch the screen. We are aware of that." To close out the possibility of the bomb, the Browns worked on both man-to-man and zone coverage against Tittle's passes. Jim Shofner, the right corner back who is no relation to Del Shofner, the Giant spread end, has had some long afternoons against his fellow Texan, but he has never given up a long touchdown pass to Del. With the zone coverage the Browns worked on in preparing for the Giants, Jim would get help from Larry Benz, the rookie safety, if Del went deep. The Browns did not expect to shut out Tittle, but, with a good pass rush and a reasonable awareness of the screen, they hoped to hold him down. They worried about Alex Webster, too. "He can do everything," Brinker said, when he heard that Webster would play. "Block, run, catch passes. He's a problem."
Ryan, on Friday, threw the Cleveland patterns. Over and over again, the Brown defense simulated a blitz, although the Giants have not, in the past, blitzed much against the Browns. "They seem to be playing more aggressively this year," Ryan said, reflectively. "They come more. But I hope they do. We like it when the other team blitzes. We're set up to handle it."
He stepped back up behind the center then to call another play. The Cleveland defense, simulating a Giant maneuver, had called another blitz, and the corner linebacker circled in and tried to penetrate the crack between the offensive tackle and guard, and Offensive Tackle Dick Schafrath slanted in to close the hole, pinching the linebacker with a solid block as Ryan threw over the center to a Cleveland end slanting into the area left by the linebacker.
"Way to go, Dick!" someone yelled.
On the same Thursday, minutes after the New York Giants concluded a brief practice session, Coach Allie Sherman lit a cigar in his office—the same office Ralph Houk had occupied so unhappily just a week before—and tried to talk Jimmy Brown down to normal size. "We're not going to set up any special defense to stop Jimmy Brown," Sherman said. "We can't afford to focus our defense entirely on one man. If that broke down, we'd be through." Then, as if fearing he had not been fair to Brown, he added: "I have the highest regard for Brown, but I can't understand all this sudden fuss about him. He's playing his normal game, just the same as he always does."
What Sherman had just said, translated, was: Just because Brown has run over Dallas, Los Angeles and some other teams doesn't mean he'll run over us. We usually stop him and I see no reason why we won't stop him again.
It is true that the Giants had had great success with Jimmy Brown in the past. Against other teams in the NFL, Brown had been the greatest fullback in history, but against the Giants he had been, relatively, a failure. He had scored only eight touchdowns in 13 games against the Giants. He had gained only 82.3 yards a game, well below his average. Never once had he had a really big day against New York.