"This whole week has been different," he said the day before the game, after he had been stopped coming out of the locker room by autograph seekers. "That never used to happen. It's different when you're No. 1." He climbed into his car to head for the Sheraton Belvedere and a lunch date. "It's not like being No. 2," he said, his dark, handsome face very serious. "When you make a mistake at practice as No. 2, everyone shrugs it off. But you do the same thing as No. 1 and you hear a kind of rustle, a kind of murmur. You are much more aware of everything you do. So is everyone else."
This game was only the second that Cuozzo had started since he joined the Colts. The other was against the Minnesota Vikings, and in that one he completed five touchdown passes. He played the second half in both Chicago Bear games.
"One of the worst nights of my life came after the game against the Bears last week," he said, remembering the 13-0 defeat. "I lay in bed and tried to sleep and all I could do was go over the mistakes I had made. There were some good things, like the long pass to Jimmy Orr that was called back. Jimmy called the pattern. It's funny. It was a pattern he had never run before, a fake to the outside and then a post, and he told me he could beat his man and he did. He does that a lot in a game, adjusts to different conditions."
Cuozzo doubtless had an even worse night Sunday, although his performance was good enough to have won most games. Not only was he playing against one of the quickest and one of the smartest defenses in football, but the Packers deprived him of one of his most dangerous targets when they jammed John Mackey at the line of scrimmage, forcing him out of his patterns. Mackey, a first-rate tight end, usually catches a big share of Colt passes, whether thrown by Unitas or Cuozzo. But Linebackers LeRoy Caffey and Dave Robinson made a point of grabbing Mackey at the line of scrimmage and harassing him. They succeeded so well that he caught only one pass all afternoon.
Despite Green Bay's resurgence and the gallant effort of the crippled Colts, it seems almost a shame that only a slim mathematical chance remains for the Bears. Of the three contenders, Chicago certainly presents much the most exciting attack. Gale Sayers, the Bears' rookie runner, scored a remarkable six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Some experts feel that Chicago, after a staggering start in which it lost three games in a row, may now be the best team in the league. But it is doubtful that the Bears could have defeated the Packer team that riddled Baltimore Sunday. It is even more doubtful that the Bears could defeat the Packers in Green Bay in a playoff for the division title, should that slight but definite chance become reality.
Finally, it is most doubtful that the Cleveland Browns, who clinched the Eastern title on Nov. 28, will be able to defeat the Western team that makes it into the championship game on January 2. Although the Packers, Colts and Bears have marked differences as teams, they have one important thing in common. Competing in the rugged West, they have survived a far more difficult schedule than has Cleveland. Each of the three teams won its two games with Eastern Division rivals. Five of the six victories came fairly easily; only the Dallas Cowboys managed to extend one of the three, holding Green Bay to a meager 13-3 victory.
All three clubs have defenses which are, at least statistically, superior to Cleveland's. More significantly, they have compiled superior defensive records against stronger offenses. Offensively, the Bears and the Packers can match the Cleveland running attack, even with Jim Brown. Along with Sayers, the Bears can unleash Andy Livingston, Ronnie Bull and Jon Arnett.
With Paul Warfield recovered from a collarbone fracture and operating at peak efficiency, Cleveland probably holds an advantage in passing over any of the Western teams, although it is a very narrow one over Baltimore. The Browns' Ryan must be rated ahead of either Chicago's Bukich or Cuozzo on experience, but there is little difference between them in accuracy. Of the three games the Browns have lost, two were to their two Western Division rivals, Minnesota and Los Angeles. Both losses were by sizable scores, the most recent being the 42-7 debacle arranged by the Rams on the Coast last week. Earlier in the season, the Vikings beat the Browns 27-17 and did it decisively, holding Jim Brown to one of the lowest rushing marks of his career—39 yards.
Looking ahead after the victory over Baltimore, one of the Packer veterans said, "I'm not too worried about the Browns. We have always played well against them, and we'll have them in Green Bay. I'm worried about the 49ers next week."
Lombardi wasn't worried. As he herded the Packers into the bus for Dulles Airport he made no attempt to conceal his elation. "We look like we are just now reaching our peak," he said. "I can't think of a better time."