The Cowboy defensive line is a grudging one, combining extraordinary mobility in All-Pro Tackle Bob Lilly and rookie End Willie Townes with solid execution from Jim Colvin and George Andrie. But it lacks the experience of the Green Bay offensive line.
The championship game may well boil down to how successfully Bart Starr can discover exploitable seams in the Dallas pass defense. Cornell Green, who has developed from a college basketball player into the best corner back in the Eastern Division, will have to handle Boyd Dowler, Warren Livingston must stop Bob Long or Max McGee, and Mike Gaechter will be giving away a good deal of height and weight to Marv Fleming, the massive Green Bay tight end. In Mel Renfro the Cowboys have a free safety to match Willie Wood.
As Sonny Jurgensen and the Washington Redskins demonstrated so clearly last Sunday, the soft spot in the Dallas defense is Livingston, one of the few players who came into the league with the original Cowboys in 1960. In the Redskins' 34-31 victory over Dallas, Jurgensen threw at Livingston time and again in situations where he needed a first down or a touchdown, and time and again either Bobby Mitchell or Charley Taylor left Livingston hanging helplessly in midair after they had made their fakes.
The Cowboys also underlined the deficiency they must suffer should Meredith be injured. After Don was blitzed hard early in the third quarter, Landry went to Rhome and Morton, shuttling his substitute quarterbacks as he did a few years ago, and they seemed fairly effective. But they did not approach the �lan and poise of Bratkowski. With a flawed defense and no effective help behind the injury-susceptible Meredith, the Cowboys have only a slim chance against Green Bay on New Year's Day.
In the most unlikely event that the Cowboys cannot manage a tie or a win against the Giants in Yankee Stadium next Sunday, and then lose a subsequent division playoff to the Cardinals, Green Bay would meet the Cards in St. Louis and would beat them.
The Cards are blessed with a wonderful hell-for-leather blitzing defense that has accounted for most of their success this season. For other teams, the blitz is a surprise thrown into a game to remind the quarterback that he does not have all day to throw the ball. For the Cardinals, it is a way of life.
Under Nofsinger, their offense has been negligible. Most teams are willing to concede an untried quarterback time to pass. They concentrate on stopping the running game. Nofsinger, to his credit, has improved, but for practical purposes his experience extends only over half a season. Starr is just the kind of quarterback who can take advantage of a blitzing team, and the Cardinals would be an easier opponent for Green Bay than the Cowboys. Also, Starr is well equipped to capitalize on a weakness in an opponent's secondary. Over the years, he has done this time and again, and so has Bratkowski.
The Packers will win the championship game on short, sharp passes to the backs and to Dowler, Long, McGee and Fleming. Taylor and Pitts will remind the Cowboys that they cannot let their linebackers stray too far from the line of scrimmage, and, if he chooses, Starr may emulate Jurgensen and loft a long pass or two into the right side of the Cowboy secondary. Short or long, he should be successful. The Packers are old pros. They do not blow a million dollars.