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The Baltimore defense—after leaking 54 points against Minnesota and Green Bay—proved as strong as the offense in the Bear game. "We got stung in Minnesota trying to use a safety blitz," Shula says. "Tarkenton called a quick trap into it, and Mason was through and gone, with no one back there to stop him. We don't need gimmicky defenses. Usually when a club goes to offbeat defenses it is to try to hide a weakness, and I think now that we are pretty sound. We have more depth than we had; getting Lou Michaels from Pittsburgh gives us good relief for either Gino Marchetti or Ordell Braase at defensive end and gives us a good place-kicker. Fred Miller is in his second year at tackle, and he is doing a real job for us. Then John Diehl has taken off about 20 pounds, and at 270 he's much better than he was at 290."
"Of course, the big thing, though, is the running," Shula says. "We went along all last year without enough, and now all at once that's our strongest point. We've got five good ones. We're in great shape for the long haul, because we can take an injury anywhere and it won't be fatal to us. We could even lose Johnny for a game or so and be confident in Cuozzo." Cuozzo's only problem as quarterback now is to contain himself as he sits on the bench and watches the best quarterback in the game in action. He has little hope of taking over from Unitas for years to come, but he has rationalized this.
"I'm learning a lot," Cuozzo said the other day as the club worked out in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. "It's hard keeping your enthusiasm up sitting on the bench and I wish I could play more, but the thing we have to do is win, and Johnny stays in there. But in practice, like today, Coach is very fair to me. He lets me run the club just as much as Johnny does; we usually run alternate plays, so I don't spend much time standing around. So when I get in a game I'm just as ready as Johnny is. I'm used to throwing to the good receivers because I've thrown to them all week long, and I'm used to the timing of the first-string backs because I've been handing off to them."
It was Cuozzo who handed off to Looney on his spectacular 58-yard run, and it was Cuozzo who called the play, since Shula seldom sends a play in.
"They were in a gap defense," Cuozzo said. "I didn't have to call an audible. Then Joe Don did a real job of running."
Alex Sandusky, the chunky offensive guard, said: "The runners are making our job real easy this year. Especially on pass-protection blocking. Last year, when every line we saw fired out after Johnny and conceded us the run, the blocks were tough, because you never had time to set up. For effective pass-protection blocking against the big tackles in this league you have to be set and balanced and stay on your feet, but they were coming across the line so fast that sometimes we were off balance and they would go right through us to the quarterback. Now they have to wait that split second to read run, and that gives us time to get set. It makes the blocking easier for the run, too."
Shula's offense is no different from most in the league, since pro football coaching is a cannibalistic profession in which each coach lifts whatever he needs from films of other coaches' teams. But Shula is strong on detail, and this pays off in the performance of the Colt special teams—the kickoff and punt and kickoff-return and punt-return squads.
"We take pride in our work," says Alex Hawkins, who is on most of the special teams. "We want to get down there and keep the kickoff return inside their 20. Or get our own kickoff return outside the 40. We get graded on the special teams just as carefully as Coach grades the players on the offensive and defensive teams. We do a lot of work on returns, for instance."
Against the Bears, Tony Lorick brought one kickoff back 71 yards, setting up a Colt touchdown.
"It seemed to me like we were getting the ball on the Bear 40-yard line every time I went in," Unitas said. "That makes a big difference. You got them in the hole all the time, and you are in a field position where you can use any play you like."