Karras has had no difficulty finding the quarterback, despite his poor eyes. "Some of them you almost never trap," he says. "Unitas, for example. Even if I happen to beat Sandusky, I very seldom dump Johnny, because he has a quick release. His arm is cocked high and you may be right on top of him, but he flicks that arm and fires before you can get a hand on him."
Oddly, Karras and the Lions have not had a great deal of trouble with scramblers like Fran Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikings. "We try to keep him in the cup," Karras says. "The defensive ends take a wide route to contain him, and Roger Brown and I put on the pressure up the middle. When he's running around and avoiding tacklers, he's a tremendous thrower. But when he has to stay in the cup, he's not as effective. So our rush is designed to keep him in it."
Merlin Olsen, who is in his third year as a defensive tackle with the Rams, has a different view of Tarkenton. "I hate to play against him," Olsen says. "I hate to play against scramblers. When you are running and cutting and dodging around in the backfield, it's dangerous. You're set up for blind-side blocks, you're off balance a good deal of the time and I bet you would find that most defensive-tackle injuries come against scrambling quarterbacks. Besides that, it makes for a pretty long afternoon when you're running hard play after play."
If a defensive line coach were to draw up a blueprint for a defensive tackle, it would very likely come out looking just like Olsen. "He has all of it," says Harland Svare, the young Ram head coach. "Great size, deception, speed, wonderful agility. And he's smart. He's 50% better this year than he was a year ago."
Olsen is an aggressive tackle. As a rookie, he was too agressive, as almost all rookies are. "It's only this year that I have started trying to read the blocks by three linemen instead of the block on me by the guard in front of me," he says. "The Lions stung me a couple of times this year on what we call a behind play. The guard in front of me would pull to his left, and I'd start to his left because the play looked like a power sweep going that way. Then they would hand off to a back coming against the flow of the play into the hole I had just left. I took it as a compliment, because they don't use that play on bad tackles. But then I got the feel of it, and I stayed put a little longer, It slowed down my pursuit. And that's what it is designed to do.
"That first year, all I wanted to do was blow in there," Olsen continues. "I never tried to read trap or draw or screen. If the guard gave me an alley, I'd say, 'Whee, here I come!' and I'd barrel in as hard as I could go, and I'd get trapped or a draw would go by me or they'd throw a screen. Now I try to read the blocks and I don't get caught much. Of course, I don't always read the block right, either. Against the Eagles, the guard came out of the huddle, and when he lined up I sensed he wanted an outside position. I asked myself, 'Why would he want that?' and I figured it must be a draw and he wanted to pull me out with him, and I figured I'd give him the outside and close the middle. Well, it was a screen to Ollie Matson, and it cost us a touchdown. I did get through and nearly caught Ollie from behind, but if I had worked to the outside I might have got him. You learn something all the time."
Olsen, who was an A student at Utah State University, also studies his present profession assiduously. "I've watched movies of tackles," he says. "Guys like Dave Hanner with Green Bay. He's one of the smartest in the league. He is never fooled by a draw or a screen, and it's because he reads the blocks. You can see the guard try to give him an outside route so he'll clear the middle of the line for the draw, and Hanner senses the route the guard is offering him and closes the middle. Or, on a screen, you can see him read the soft block the guard puts on, trying to lure him deep so the screen will be successful behind him, and he'll peel off to the outside instead to break up the screen. These are things you learn only by experience."
Although Olsen agrees with Karras on Sandusky's ability as a guard, he rates Jerry Kramer of the Packers, who is a casualty this year, and John Gordy, of the Lions, as the two best he has met.
"They are entirely different," he says. " Gordy is a lot like Sandusky. He drops back fast and dares you to come get his quarterback. He's stubborn and he stays there in front of you taking punishment and dropping back and taking more punishment and staying between you and the quarterback. Sandusky does the same thing. Kramer, on the other hand, will pop you now and then, meeting you at the line of scrimmage and giving you a good shot. Then the next time he may drop back, or he may cut you down or leg-whip you, so you never know what he is going to do."
Unlike Karras and the Packers' Henry Jordan, both of whom are so small that a blast block—a driving straight-ahead block by the guard designed to pry a hole for a back—gives them trouble, Olsen is big enough and strong enough to take a blast block and keep going.