It was not just the Deacon's presence that lifted the Rams. On the first play he almost caught Leroy Kelly behind the goal line for a safety. Two more running plays accomplished nothing, and there were still 58 seconds left, so Don Cockroft went in to punt from the end zone. Nine Rams poured in on him, and it was Dave Pivec who got his hand on the ball as it left Cockroft's foot. It bounced out of the end zone for a safety, and the Rams retired for the evening feeling invincible. All of them seem confident that 1968 is their year.
"I don't know exactly how to put it," Merlin Olsen said afterward. "We just have this attitude that we're always going to win. It's a kind of spirit that the team has." Merlin, who plays alongside the Deacon in the Fearsome Foursome, is a serious, rather studious little thing of 6'6" and 270 pounds, and maybe he should know.
As for the Deacon, he was still in uniform and surrounded by admirers after most of his teammates had showered, shaved and headed for their first 24-hour liberty since camp convened in mid-July. Towering over his audience like some hyperheroic legend, wearing a smile that refused to come off, the white, white teeth punctuating the black skin, the Deacon was back in the cleated world he owns. He was happy. He was telling how it is. "It's funny," he was saying, still unable to get rid of the big smile, "but I'm not tired at all—after standing there on the sidelines for two hours."
But it was those brief moments he spent in the game that may have given the Rams what they needed for the season they think is theirs.