"That's the whole game of football," Tarkenton said. "I know we have to make those plays to win. I figure, it doesn't matter if you lose a few yards, because you're going to have to give up the ball anyway. So there's no point being cautious. You might as well try anything you can. I guess that's why I seem to do most of my scrambling on third down." As he scrambled, Tarkenton found Preston Carpenter and Red Phillips in the open for several key gains. He also found room to run. He passed or ran the ball on seven of the Vikings' 14 third-down successes and called the right running plays for the other seven.
This kind of ball control became most important in the third period. With the game tied at 10-10, the Packers took the second-half kickoff and staged a typical Green Bay drive. In seven minutes and 35 seconds they ran 15 plays and moved 86 yards to score, and they appeared ready to take charge.
But Minnesota—that old go-for-the-bomb, hope-for-the-best, scrambling team—came right back and matched the Packer offensive. They took 17 plays and seven and a half minutes before they settled for a field goal that kept them in contention. Now it was up to the defense. Another time-consuming, demoralizing Packer push would put the game out of reach.
Warwick, who came off the bench to replace the retired Rip Hawkins this season, raced into the defensive huddle and started yelling. "Listen, you guys, the offense is doing its job for us. Are we going to let them down and blow this game? Let's tee off on them now."
On third down with three to go, Left Linebacker Roy Winston crashed through and stopped Jim Taylor for a loss—one of very few he suffered—and the Packers had to punt for the first time. The offense, sparked by an extraordinary 38-yard broken-play pass from Tarkenton to Red Phillips, again did its job, and five minutes later Minnesota had the lead 20-17.
But eight minutes remained, plenty of time for another long Packer drive. Starting from his own 20, Bart Starr calmly handed the ball to Elijah Pitts, who had gained consistently throughout the game and figured to get the Packers rolling again. Gary Larsen and Warwick stopped Pitts dead. Starr dropped back to pass—something he had been able to do with little trouble earlier. Marshall rushed him so hard he missed an easy screen pass to Taylor. On third down Starr faded again—and Eller and Paul Dickson smothered him. "It wasn't a matter of rinding a way to rush around or inside the blockers," said Eller. "It was a matter of overpowering them—of giving 200% instead of just 100%. And when we had to do it, we did it. That's all there was to it."
So ended the last Packer hope for a sustained offensive. Starr got two more opportunities, but time was running out and he was forced to try long passes. The Viking rushers never gave him a chance to get set. "We've been pretty proud of our defense this year," said Eller. "But today the offense made us look like Little Leaguers. We were glad we finally got a chance to do our part."
The offense succeeded with the same kind of simple power that Eller was talking about. The blockers didn't trick or outmaneuver the mighty Packers. They just outplayed them. "We used a lot of option running plays," explained Guard Milt Sunde. "That means that we just fire out and try to move the defensive lineman back. Then it's up to the backs to find the holes." The fact that the holes were there at all is pretty remarkable. Sunde "fired out" into the wily Henry Jordan. Jim Vellone, a rookie starting his second pro game, charged into Ron Kostelnik—and moved him. Another rookie, Doug Davis, kept Willie Davis out of the Viking backfield.
Fullback Bill Brown did most of the running. Tommy Mason, usually the most explosive Viking rusher, was ineffective and left the game when he reinjured his bad knee in the third period. But Dave Osborn, a seldom-used second-year man from North Dakota, came in to make several important gains. "That's another thing about this team now," said Van Brocklin. "For the first time, we have depth. When we lose a starter we don't have to panic. It's a good feeling."
For a team with a 3-4-1 record, the Vikings are feeling very good indeed. They've beaten the best, and now they all agree with Assistant Coach Jim Carr's pregame prediction that "we'll win all the rest. An eight-game streak would be perfect—just like that streak we had on the Eagles in 1960." In 1960, with Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback and Jim Carr in the defensive backfield, the Eagles won the NFL title. That goal is out of reach for Minnesota now, but the mood is similar. "It's not any phony esprit de corps," said Van Brocklin. "It's genuine leadership. Jim Marshall describes it right—it's real pride."