- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
But the Rams' simple offense, hampered by the lack of a good running back to supplement the all but heroic efforts of Dick Bass, managed very little. This year, bent on improving the running, Allen traded with the Minnesota Vikings for two good veterans—Mason, who is, when healthy, one of the two or three best runners in the NFL, and Hal Bedsole, a big, tough tight end from USC, who last year could have given the Ram offensive line the extra blocking punch it needed. Bedsole, unfortunately, has not recovered from an operation and is out for at least half the year.
"Our two principal objectives for 1967 have to do with offense," Allen said. "We must pick up short yardage on third down; that's one reason we went for Mason, to take the pressure off Bass. Last year, in 19 third-and-one situations, we made the yardage only six times. We gave up the ball 13 times and you cannot do that against good offensive teams. Second, we must protect the quarterback better."
The Ram quarterbacks were caught attempting to pass 54 times in 1966. "Our objective in 1967," said Allen, who is a precise man, "is no more than 31 times."
On defense, Allen has told his charges that he wants them to limit opponents to fewer than 200 points, or about two touchdowns per club per game. Once before in his coaching career, when he was the defensive coach for the Chicago Bears, Allen realized this objective. In 1963, when the offense-poor Bears won the NFL championship, the defense limited opponents to 144 points. After the Bears beat the Giants in the championship game, the team gave the game ball to Allen.
With the best defensive line in football, a strong set of linebackers and a good secondary which is made better by the pressure of that defensive line, the Rams could have the best all-round defense in the league.
As far as the championship goes, a good deal depends on how much polish Allen has added to last year's lackluster offense. Roman Gabriel, the No. 1 quarterback, has in the past been slow in delivering the ball and has been trapped for losses. This year his delivery is quicker.
Complementing Bass and Mason is rookie Willie Ellison from Texas Southern. Mason and Ellison could create a vast improvement and open paths for Bass by providing an outside running attack. In dire need of a deep, fast receiver, Allen acquired Bernie Casey, who caught 50 passes for San Francisco last season, and Casey has looked very good. The Rams have a better than competent corps of receivers. They include Tommy McDonald (possible trade bait), Bucky Pope and Jack Snow.
Allen, always an innovator, has kept both Bass and Mason out of preseason games. "We know what they can do," he says. "There is no sense in risking them in preseason games. I kept Dick out of the preseason games last year and got a big season out of him. I think I can do the same with him and Mason this year."
The other day Mason came from a Ram practice back to the dressing room sweating profusely but relaxed and happy. He stripped off his pants, revealing legs taped from ankle to mid-thigh, and smiled. "I feel good," he said. "My knees swell, but I'm not afraid of them. I feel better than I have in a long time. This is a different camp from the Vikings'. George is a low-key guy and Norm Van Brocklin wasn't, but I think we're better able to win a championship than the Vikings were. This is a mature team. The year people were picking Minnesota to win it, we weren't mentally ready. This club is. I'm looking for a big year."
He should have it. A fast Mason, a quick Gabriel and a Casey who can go deep, aided by a competent and quite well-seasoned offensive line, will put points on the scoreboard. And that is about all the Rams need. No one will score much against them.