Late in the third period Nettles, made wary by the long gainer against him, played Hayes too tightly on the next long pass to him and was called for interference. That put the ball on the Ram 29. The Rams threw the Cowboys back to the 36 in the next three downs, but Clark hit a 43-yard field goal, pulling the Cowboys up to 17-16.
Gabriel then produced the finest Ram football of the afternoon. He started a drive from the Ram 37 and whipsawed the Cowboy defense with alternate sweeps by Smith and Josephson. short passes to Snow and Josephson, and, finally, a nifty 17-yard run of his own, during which he put a great fake on one prospective tackier. Three plays later Gabe put his head down and went over from the one, and the Rams led 24-16.
The Cowboys, of course, got one more, too, when Morton, rolling out on nearly every play now to gain time, hit on successive passes to Rentzel, Hayes, Reeves and Rentzel again for an eight-yard touchdown. That brought it to 24-23, and the Cowboys had one more shot at winning with a minute and a half left in the game, but Eddie Meador ruined things with an interception.
"Ten in a row," said Allen after the game, savoring the Rams' 10 and 0 record. "That's a pretty good start, isn't it? We made the big plays when we had to. That's the story of this team in 1969. We've made the big plays when we needed them."
Gabriel, sitting in his dressing cubicle with an ice pack taped to his right knee, saw it somewhat differently. "If we go undefeated for the season and lose the playoff, you can forget it," he said. "When you win you're 10 and 0 Sunday night. But Monday morning, against the team you play next Sunday, you're 0 and 0.
"It wasn't an especially sharp game," he went on. "They're a good team, but this wasn't one of our best games. It was just a physical and an emotional win. They'll never admit we're a better team than they are, but as long as we win, then the next time we play, they'll remember that we beat them last time."
Gabriel is right. The Cowboys will remember. And one thing they won't forget is that they lost by only a point without Calvin Hill. "He could have played if he had to," Landry said. "But the toe is still sore, and if he played it might be sorer yet next week. We would have had him at half-speed for this game and at half-speed for the Thanksgiving Day game against the 49ers. By keeping him out of this game, he'll be at full speed for the rest of the year, and that's what we want."
Next time, with Hill, the Cowboys could give the Rams something to remember. If there is a next time.