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Charley's formula worked
Tex Maule
December 02, 1963
A couple of young scientists—Charley Johnson of St. Louis and Frank Ryan of Cleveland—concocted a three-way tie in the East last Sunday with victories over New York and Dallas
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December 02, 1963

Charley's Formula Worked

A couple of young scientists—Charley Johnson of St. Louis and Frank Ryan of Cleveland—concocted a three-way tie in the East last Sunday with victories over New York and Dallas

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But in the third quarter, when Tittle came out of the Giant huddle on the New York 22 with third down and six yards to go, Wilson waited confidently for the hook pass to Del Shofner that Tittle had used effectively earlier. It came on schedule, and Wilson ducked in front of Shofner, caught the ball in his stomach on the Giant 30 and hustled down to the Giant 19.

Johnson, sticking tenaciously to the game plan, ran inside, using another lesson he had picked up from Tittle. "If a play works for me, I like to save it," he had said before the game. "I mean, I don't go right back with the same call. I've always figured that the defense would be ready for the same play again and I'd be better off going to something else. But Tittle is different; if a play works for him, he's as likely as not to come right back with it and keep coming until the defense makes a definite change to contain it. I should do more of that."

The score was 10-10 when Johnson came out to take over on the Giant 19. The first play he called was one that had been reasonably successful for the Cardinals all afternoon, a play faking a hand-off to Halfback Joe Childress to the right side of the Giant line, then striking off the left side with Triplett. This is called a counter in the trade, since the final attacking angle of the ballcarrier is counter to the flow of the defense set up by the fake. Triplett gained five yards on the play, and Johnson, remembering Tittle's pattern, repeated the play, doubtless surprising his coaches almost as much as he surprised the Giant defense. Triplett went 14 yards for the touchdown that put St. Louis ahead 17-10.

Then Tittle gave Johnson more food for thought by marshaling the Giants on a carefully considered, beautifully executed drive that carried 80 yards for a tying touchdown. Johnson may have been impressed, but he was not overawed.

A calm roll-out

A few moments later, when Ed Dove fumbled an attempted fair catch on the Giant 20 and the Cardinals recovered, Johnson peppered away inside for four plays with Triplett and Childress, until it was third and goal on the Giant three-yard line. The ball was to the right of the goal posts; the logical call would have been a run to the left. Even if a touchdown was not made, it would position the ball directly in front of the goal posts for an automatic field goal. The Giants, knowing this just as well as Johnson, overloaded the right side of their defense, and Johnson very calmly rolled out to his right, hesitated a moment, then tossed a soft pass to Bobby Joe Conrad in the end zone for the touchdown that finished the Giants. It was a daring and unorthodox call.

"One of my troubles is that I am not quite reckless enough," Johnson had said earlier. "When I was in high school, I used to watch Johnny Unitas and try to think the same way he did. But I was never able to make myself be as daring in my calls. I wish I could."

The 24-year-old Johnson went to high school in Big Spring, Texas. In his senior year, in a district of eight teams, seven quarterbacks were on one or another all-district team or received honorable mention. Johnson was the eighth. With this sparkling record, he received no scholarship offers, finally went to Schreiner Institute, a junior college, which promptly gave up football. Johnson wound up at New Mexico State, where he played well enough to be drafted 10th by the Cardinals as a future. He arrived at the Cardinal training camp the fifth of five quarterbacks.

Working on the play book

"By the time I got there, two of them had been traded," Johnson said. "So I figured they'd keep three. I had a good day in one scrimmage, and I began to think this wasn't so hard. Then I started working on the play book a little more and on defenses, and I figured I'd never be able to master them. Now I think I may, but it will take time."

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