SI Vault
Coach Don Shula
January 18, 1965
Shocked by their opening loss to Minnesota, the Colts played a pivotal game against a Packer team that had just dismembered the Bears. Two plays in that game made Baltimore a winner
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 18, 1965

The Road To The Title In The West

Shocked by their opening loss to Minnesota, the Colts played a pivotal game against a Packer team that had just dismembered the Bears. Two plays in that game made Baltimore a winner

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

After the Green Bay game, we beat the Chicago Bears, the defending champions, in Baltimore 52-0, in as perfectly played a game as I have ever seen.

Our offense had been good before this game, but it was against the Bears that the defense matured. Bill Pellington's calls on defense were precise and right, and the line put tremendous pressure on the Bear passer without depending on a blitz.

Then the Rams came to town, and at that time, if you remember, the Rams were in second place. We beat them, too. We were supposed to go to St. Louis to play the Cardinals—tied for the Eastern Division lead with Cleveland—but because the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball team was in the World Series the game was shifted to Baltimore. That was a break, too. The home-town advantage is not much in pro football, but it helps, and we beat the Cardinals, too.

In setting up a game plan for our next game—with the Packers, who were now a game and a half behind us—I knew there would be no way for us to get the same kind of coverage we had in the first game with the flood formation. We would not be able to isolate Currie on Lenny Moore again. You play blind chess the second time around. You know what the other team has done and what you have done, and you have to try to put yourself in the position of the other coach. You know he won't make the same mistakes, and he knows you won't. You have to try to magine what mistakes he will make compensating and what mistakes he thinks you will make.

Since I knew the Packers would certainly rotate to the flood side in order to give Currie help on Moore, I thought we might be successful coming back to the weak side on passes to Berry and maybe on runs. It worked out pretty much the way I thought it would; we moved the ball well but, then, so did they.

They departed from type on their offense. They used a quick toss to Jim Taylor, coming back to our weak side. We weren't looking for that, although Cleveland had used the same play against the Packers in an exhibition game and had some success with Jim Brown, so I might have known they would remember it. Then they ran the draw more than usual, and they passed off a fake draw. All of these plays gave us trouble until we could adjust at half time.

The big play in this game was again made by the defense, by Lennie Lyles. Starr threw a quick look-in pass to Ron Kramer over the middle of our defense, and Kramer lateraled to Max McGee. McGee, from where I stood, looked like he was free for a touchdown, but Lyles, who has wonderful speed, caught him on our three-yard line. Then we held for three downs, Paul Hornung missed a field goal, and the game was saved. The goal-line stand gave us an edge. There is no single thing in a football game that turns the fortunes of the two teams more suddenly than a goal-line stand. If you have the ball with first and goal on the other team's five and you don't get a point, it disheartens your teams—offense and defense—and it inspires the opposition.

I was glad it was Lyles who made the play. He and I had had some conflict at first. I yelled at him a lot—I have a hot temper and once in a while I lose it—because he is a tough, aggressive player, and he had a tendency to draw penalties for using his hands too much. I think he resented the criticism at first, but he got over it. He is a fine defensive back, and he proved it on that play. In fact, he proved it all season. Against the 49ers, he did a remarkable job on their top receiver, Dave Parks.

The big offensive play against the Packers was an 18-yard run by Lenny Moore. Lenny has had many fine runs in his career, but I think this one may have been the most important.

He slanted off the left side of our line, and Henry Jordan, the Green Bay tackle, hit him as he reached the line of scrimmage. Lenny does not look like a power runner, but he runs with strong, high knee action, and he broke Jordan's tackle and slanted a little wider. Then Henry Gremminger came up and hit him hard. Lenny bounced sideways, kept his feet and broke that tackle, too, and headed for the corner of the end zone. Jess Whittenton hit him on about the five and wrapped both arms around Lenny and I could have sworn he was down, but he kept his legs moving, twisted free of Whittenton and went on in for the TD. Even after watching the movies of the run over and over, I'm not quite sure how he did it. Funny thing. We talked of trading Moore for a linebacker before the season. He had been hurt most of the year before, and we had running backs and needed defense. But first we asked Lenny if he would like to play somewhere else, and when he said he didn't want to play anywhere but in Baltimore we kept him. As I said earlier, you have to be lucky.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4