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A pro football team runs, on offense and defense, between 2,000 and 2,500 plays in a season. A whole season—or a championship game—can turn on just one or two plays. Two plays turned our season into a success, until we reached the championship game against Cleveland. Then a few key plays went the other way and we ended the year the way we began it—with a shocking defeat.
We will go into the plays that set up the Western title for us later. First let us consider the championship game.
After the division championships were decided, Blanton Collier of the Browns and I got together to trade movies. You are entitled to five game movies from your opponent for a championship game, but we agreed to trade six.
We got movies of the Brown games against Detroit, Green Bay, their first game against Pittsburgh, their second game against the Washington Redskins, the game they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and their final game against the New York Giants. We especially wanted the Detroit and Green Bay films since we are, of course, very familiar with the teams in our own division. The second Washington game was the one in which Sonny Jurgensen had a strong second half against the Browns, and we wanted to study the patterns and the calls. The first game the Browns played against Pittsburgh was the game in which John Henry Johnson ran for 200 yards in 30 carries against the Browns and we wanted to chart Pittsburgh's running offense. St. Louis had done a good job of defensing the Browns, so we wanted to see that. And we wanted to see the latest Cleveland game—the one against the Giants—to find out if the Browns had made any significant changes in either offense or defense.
The six games we gave to Cleveland were our last game, against Washington, the Detroit game we lost, the second Ram game, in which we clinched the championship, the second Green Bay game, the second game against Minnesota and our second game against the Chicago Bears. Blanton did not explain to me why he wanted those games, but it is not hard to figure out. In the Detroit game the Lions did everything well against us. Although we won the second Ram game, Johnny Unitas had probably his worst day of the season, completing only six of 18 passes, and the Rams put a great deal of pressure on him. In our second game against Minnesota, the Vikings ran for 221 yards on us and Blanton wanted to study Van Brocklin's offense. The Browns had played Green Bay, so they wanted to study us against a common opponent. Then, in the second Bear game, Chicago used a flood formation similar to one Blanton uses and he wanted to see how we defensed it. I must say he got a lot out of what he saw in those movies.
After the last game of the regular season we gave the players two days off. The coaches studied and charted the Brown game movies all day and most of the night Monday and Tuesday. We had a short workout Wednesday morning, concentrating on screens and draws so the players could get in a lot of running to loosen them up. Then we went back to the movies again.
The more we looked the more we began to respect the Cleveland offense. You could see Paul Warfield grow from game to game as a receiver. And we never ceased to be amazed at Jim Brown. One night when we had finished Gino Marchetti said to me, "He's even better than I thought he was and I thought he was the best." Gino was right.
The Brown passing game improved all year. Collier's problem when the season began was just the opposite of mine. I had to bring up the Colt running attack to balance the passing; he had to bring the Brown passing up to the running. He succeeded very well. Frank Ryan improved as the season wore on, too. He mixed up his calls, hitting War-field a lot, but going to Gary Collins almost as much, and in a couple of games frequently throwing to Johnny Brewer, their tight end.
After our analysis of the movies we decided that we would have to establish a running game so that we could control the ball. That is the best defense against Jim Brown. He can't run when he is on the bench.
We felt we could gain by running straight at the Cleveland line. Sucker plays do not work against the Cleveland tackles, since both Jim Kanicki and Dick Modzelewski sit in the hole and wait. Power sweeps are tough because the Cleveland ends stay on the line and fight. We thought we could drive straight ahead at the tackles and run traps on the ends through the four and five holes, the holes between tackle and end on each side. Our traps have always been effective because we have big Jim Parker pulling for the trap block, and he is one of the best in the business.