SI Vault
Edwin Shrake
October 24, 1966
Dallas came whirling into St. Louis with a hurricane offense but fell afoul of an aroused Cardinal defense and had to settle for a tie, leaving the NFL's Eastern title race as suspenseful as it was before
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October 24, 1966

Wild Cards Tame The Tempest

Dallas came whirling into St. Louis with a hurricane offense but fell afoul of an aroused Cardinal defense and had to settle for a tie, leaving the NFL's Eastern title race as suspenseful as it was before

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What the Cardinals intended to do was play their own game and see what the Cowboys might be up to before making adjustments. Neither Drulis nor Winner wanted to bend the team out of shape to devote special attention to Dallas Flanker Bob Hayes, the fastest deep receiver ever. " Bobby Mitchell and Homer Jones are very fast, too, and they have good moves. We don't consider Hayes any more of a problem than they are," said Drulis.

Two weeks ago the Philadelphia Eagles played the Cowboys with a touch of madness. The Eagles used a three-man front with four linebackers and placed one roaming back so far behind the others that he could have sold hot dogs. The idea was not to let Hayes break for a long gain. So Hayes caught three touchdown passes and Dallas won 56-7.

"I remember something Tom Landry [the Dallas coach] said when he was at New York," said Winner. " Lenny Moore was having a big year for us at Baltimore and Landry was asked how he planned to defense Moore. He said he didn't plan to do anything extraordinary. Moore had to be conceded a touchdown or two, and there was no point tearing everything up because of him. That's how I feel about Hayes."

The Cardinals" overall defensive strategy was to put pressure on Meredith, try to keep him from rolling toward the sideline, prepare for short passes against their blitz and see what kind of answers the Cowboys could think of.

The Cowboys, in fact, were hoping that the Cardinals would triple-team Hayes. With receivers like Frank Clarke, Buddy Dial, Pete Gent, Pettis Norman, the limping Mel Renfro and his remarkable replacement, Dan Reeves, they had proved that they do not have to rely on Hayes alone. Against Atlanta, Meredith completed 10 passes to his tight ends, Clarke and Norman, while the Falcons went goofy searching for Hayes.

The Cowboys also were hoping that the Cardinals would come at them with their entire blitzing repertoire, since that is exactly what the Dallas offense is designed to beat. The Cowboys have what they call a "hot receiver," a man who is never the primary receiver, but who, because of the blitz, will have no more than one-on-one coverage—and not even that for a couple of seconds—and thus will be popping open if Meredith knows where to look. If Meredith is willing to risk the rush and can get the ball away, the hot receiver is frequently in a position to turn a short pass into a long gain, especially if the hot receiver is Hayes, Clarke or Reeves.

"This may sound peculiar, but I wish everybody we play would throw the full blitz at us," Meredith said as the Cowboys were running through an offensive drill on the eve of the Cardinal game.

Going into the meeting with the Cardinals, Meredith was the NFL's No. 1 passer. He had completed 70% of the passes he had thrown against blitzing defenses and had got nine of his 14 touchdown passes while linebackers were frantically grabbing at him.

In other years the Cowboys have changed their offense from week to week, reasoning that they had to win by deception This year, although they use 10 different formations, the Cowboys have condensed their offense and have stuck with it. The benefits were obvious: five straight preseason wins and four league wins in a row as they came to St. Louis. The pass blocking had improved so much that Meredith was getting spoiled. He had been thrown only seven times, twice by defensive ends who were knocked down, then got up and found Meredith still looking. "Now when I'm blocking for Don there's hardly ever more than one man for me to pick up," said Fullback Don Perkins. "It used to be that there were four or five of them, and I had to decide which was the most urgent."

Even though they had their hot-receiver tactics ready, the Cowboys were determined to run against the Cardinals. They planned to show all their formations, judge the St. Louis response, stay with the more effective plays, keep the ball and drive it.

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