The thing that worried the Cardinals was stopping the Cleveland offense. It used to be that to stop Cleveland meant only to stop Jim Brown, which is a considerable chore but could occasionally be done. After Ray Renfro lost his speed several years ago and retired, the Browns did not have a really fast target for the long pass. But they found one this season in rookie Flanker Paul Warfield, who can run like a sprinter and jump like a basketball player and already has mastered moves that most receivers never learn.
To complicate the St. Louis defensive problems, Warfield—who flanks to the left side—had to be covered by Jim Bur-son, a taxi-squad graduate who moved ahead of veteran Corner Back Jimmy Hill after Hill injured a knee. The St. Louis safetymen, Jerry Stovall and Larry Wilson, would flip-flop, with Stovall moving to the strong side. One or the other thus would frequently be available to help on Warfield. But that meant the 5-foot-9, 168-pound Pat Fischer would have to go it pretty much alone on 6-foot-4, 208-pound Cleveland Flanker Gary Collins, who was Fischer's nemesis in the first Cleveland game. ( Collins caught six passes for 105 yards and one touchdown off Fischer and set up the Browns' last touchdown with a long reception.)
On Saturday morning the streets of St. Louis were slick with ice after the city was sideswiped by a midwestern blizzard. The morning paper informed the Cardinals, who were due at Busch Stadium for a 10 a.m. practice, that 245 people had been treated at hospitals for injuries from falls during the freezing rain and light snow of Friday. But the Busch Stadium field, which under the best of conditions is not much softer than a parking lot, had been covered and was frozen only around the edges of the tarp. So the Cardinals stayed off the field and used the morning to watch movies of Cleveland kickoff returns. The headier preparations had already been made.
Before the 1:05 p.m. Sunday kickoff, the temperature at the St. Louis airport was 12�. Smoke from factory chimneys around Busch Stadium hung white and frozen against a gray sky. In the Christmas spirit, an airplane flew over the stadium trailing a sign that read, "Deck the halls with battered Brownies." When the tarp was rolled off the field and the snow was scraped up and banked against the walls, the ground was bare and hard. The maintenance crew spread sand on the field to improve the footing. The Browns, who had arrived Saturday night an hour late because of the storm and strong headwinds, had brought along three sets of shoes—the regular ones, tennis shoes and some German-made footwear with small rubber cleats. None were magic.
In the middle of the first quarter Conrad tried to run a down-and-out pattern against Parrish and was crowded out of it. Conrad broke back toward the center of the field, which was the correct procedure, and arrived in the same area as St. Louis Tight End Jackie Smith. Johnson threw toward Smith and then fell under a tackle, thinking the pass had been completed. But Parrish, who had come looking for Conrad, caught the ball and ran it to the St. Louis 32. The Browns had been striking at St. Louis right Defensive Tackle Luke Owens, who has a chronic bad knee, and they continued to do so as they drove to the Cardinal 15. From there, Lou Groza kicked a 22-yard field goal to put Cleveland ahead. 3-0. But holding the Browns to a field goal inspired the St. Louis defense, and for the rest of the afternoon, although Groza kicked three more field goals, Cleveland could manage only one touchdown. It came on a tremendous diving catch by Ernie Green late in the game.
With Conrad getting double coverage when he flanked to the strong side, Johnson turned to his running game. In the first quarter Running Back Prentice Gautt limped off the field and beckoned to John David Crow, who recently has been benched for the first time since he was in the seventh grade. Crow responded well, slamming for 72 yards in 21 carries, most of them in tough, battering tries in short yardage situations. But it was a pass on a broken play that shot the Cardinals ahead to stay, in the second quarter. Johnson called a pass to Gautt and Cleveland put on a blitz. Gautt stayed behind to upend a Cleveland linebacker, and Johnson threw perfectly to Joe Childress down the middle for a 46-yard touchdown.
Johnson sneaked for another touchdown in the second quarter, passed to Conrad on the inside slip for another, and the Cards led, 21-6, at the half. From then on the St. Louis team was never in danger. Johnson wound up the day completing 15 of 22 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns and running for two others himself.
Fischer, meanwhile, glued himself to Collins and did not allow the Cleveland flanker a single catch. Burson had more trouble with Warfield, who caught six for 91 yards but could not escape for a touchdown. The St. Louis defense, blitzing less than usual, kept Jim Brown down to a comparatively modest 68 yards in 14 carries. And the Cardinals hit Ryan very hard very early, causing him to hurry his passes. "I started off throwing short," Johnson said later as a doctor examined the lemon-sized lump that grew on the biceps of his passing arm after he was speared by a helmet in the first quarter. "Then they came up and I threw deep. Then they went back again, and I threw short. We stayed one jump ahead." Nearby, Guard Ken Gray, the St. Louis offensive captain, nodded. "Charley called all the right plays," Gray said. "He's never been sharper."
"We're going to prepare this week as if our Philadelphia game will be for the championship," said Johnson. "We have to think that way. We have to believe the Giants can beat Cleveland."
"We deserve to be the champions." Defensive End Joe Robb said. "We have a better team than Cleveland, especially if you take that big guy out of their back-field. If Y. A. Tittle can beat the Browns, we'll vote him a full share of the championship money."