As everyone will agree, it is unnatural for Texans to be quiet and restrained, and equally unnatural for the third-string quarterback of the Baltimore Colts, Tom Matte, to throw passes. Last week in Miami the Dallas Cowboys worked diligently in preparation for their Playoff Bowl game with the Colts and, insulating themselves from Miami's fleshly attractions, hit the sack shortly after sundown. On Sunday, Matte, a French Canadian who is said to prefer ice hockey to football and whose education for replacing the injured Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo consisted of a spell as quarterback under Ohio State's Woody Hayes—the worst possible apprenticeship for a pro passer—reared back and passed the favored Cowboys to defeat. His statistics did not look like much—seven completions in 17 attempts—but two of those passes went for touchdowns and two others moved the Colts into position to score. When the Colts trotted into the dressing room after their 35-3 victory they were bragging that Matte could have shot down the Eastern Division champion Cleveland Browns.
It was the Colts who behaved like Texans should in the week before the game. Seven or eight of them rushed from practice each afternoon to the golf course, and right up to the eve of the game they played in the NFL golf tournament. The Cowboys left their clubs at home. The night before the game, Carroll Rosenbloom, owner of the Colts, gave a plush party for his players and their wives, and they were as relaxed and happy as they had been all week. The Cowboys went to bed early.
One of the most relaxed Colts was the stocky young Matte, who shot three rounds in the middle 80s in the golf tournament after spending mornings endeavoring to improve his long passing. In the pregame warmup he looked as if he needed another year or two of practice.
"I couldn't hit the side of a barn," he said after the game, nestling the trophy for the most valuable player in the crook of his arm. " Jimmy Orr told me I was making receivers obsolete, but I wasn't bothered."
Don Shula, the wise young coach of the Colts, had made a project of relaxing Matte and the rest of the team. "We worked in the morning, and they were on their own after that," Shula said. "They had just come off a terrible disappointment in losing to Green Bay in the playoff for the division championship, and they needed to rest. I didn't ask them to bear down until Friday."
Said a Baltimore veteran: "We were pretty loose."
The Cowboy owners, usually as Texan as Texans are supposed to be, were conspicuously absent. Bedford Wynne spent the week before the game at Bon Air, an island off the coast of Venezuela, with a group of 90 Dallas fans who had chartered a plane to go to the island, then fly to Miami the day before the game. Clint Murchison and the rest of the owners were scattered through the Bahamas.
True, there was one modest celebration on Friday afternoon. Twenty or 30 Texans cruised through the Inland Waterway on a 96-foot yacht, drinking cocktails and contemplating the imminent demise of the Colts, but even that party was a quiet one.
The liveliest member of the Cowboy team was Bob Hayes, the Olympic sprint champion, who was returning in glory to his home state as the best pass-catching rookie in the league. The ads for the game read "See the Dallas Cowboys, with the world's fastest human, Bob Hayes, against the Baltimore Colts."
Hayes was interviewed for radio, TV and the press and was both modest and articulate but, unfortunately for him and for his Miami admirers, the Colts had devised the world's stickiest coverage for him. "The quarterback has to have time to throw deep to a receiver like Hayes," said Corner Back Bobby Boyd. "We figured not to give Don Meredith enough time, by blitzing a lot more than we usually do. That left man-to-man coverage on Hayes but you notice they never hit him deep." Hayes caught four passes for a puny 24 yards.