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Tex Maule
January 05, 1970
Besieged at the half, Minnesota fought back to gun down the Rams and win in the West. Then Cleveland throttled Dallas to set up a showdown between two NFL tough guys
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January 05, 1970

The Purple Gang Rubs Out L.a.

Besieged at the half, Minnesota fought back to gun down the Rams and win in the West. Then Cleveland throttled Dallas to set up a showdown between two NFL tough guys

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Later in the third quarter Eddie Meador intercepted a Kapp pass to stop a drive that had reached the Los Angeles 11-yard line, and the next time the Vikings got the ball Richie Petitbon picked one off on the Minnesota 40.

"I forced the pass Meador intercepted," Kapp said. "I never saw Petitbon." Knocked down as he threw the second interception, Kapp yelled to his defensive team as it streamed by him onto the field, "Get me the seed, defense! Get me the damn seed back."

The Rams got a 27-yard field goal out of the Petitbon interception to lead 20-14 early in the fourth period, but Kapp put the Vikings ahead to stay the first time he got the seed back. He had only one fairly long pass, to Henderson, in the drive and scored himself, rolling around the left side from the two behind strong blocks by Brown and Osborn and leaping over Nettles. It was, all told, a splendid afternoon for Kapp. He completed 12 of 19 passes and, with 42 yards in seven carries, was Minnesota's leading rusher.

As Eller and Tight End John Beasley stood on the sideline watching the next kickoff, Beasley said to the Viking defensive end, "Come on, Carl. Do something." "Watch me on the first play," Eller said. The Rams had the ball on their own 12, and on the first play Eller swept wide around Bob Brown's block to drop Gabriel in the end zone for a safety that made the score 23-20.

The Rams got the ball again with nearly four minutes left, but Gabriel was only able to move the team to the Minnesota 44 before Page's interception.

In the Ram locker room, Deacon Jones thundered, "We've been to the door twice. Bam! We've been denied. It always comes down to one throw of the dice and then you're through. It hurts, man, and it will hurt the whole off season. I still don't believe it. Maybe someone will pinch me and it will be game time again."

"Six months, seven days a week down the drain in one afternoon," said Bob Brown. "You don't know the work, my wife doesn't know the work, that's gone into this. I sacrificed. I never sacrificed until I came here, and then to blow it all. This is the worst day of my life."

It was, of course, the best day of Kapp's life. "He's a hell of a leader," Defensive Back Dale Hackbart said. "He picked us up. There are three kinds of quarterbacks. There's the brain, like Bart Starr, and the arm, like Joe Namath, and the leader, like Joe Kapp."

In Nelsen, a onetime 10th draft choice from USC, the Cleveland Browns have come up with a quarterback in the Kapp mold. He is a seven-year veteran who spent five rather undistinguished seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before being traded to Cleveland in 1968. Surprisingly, Coach Blanton Collier benched Frank Ryan in favor of Nelsen early that season and he led the club to the Eastern Conference championship, beating Dallas 31-20 in the playoff game. Like Kapp, Nelsen throws the ball with more effect than beauty; sometimes his passes flutter like sick butterflies, but more often than not they are on target.

The difference between the Browns and the Cowboys last Sunday was, in the end, the difference between Nelsen and Craig Morton, and it was very big. On a field dampened by rain but still firm underfoot, Nelsen completed 18 of 27 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game in the fourth period. For the most part he threw into the shockingly wide gaps in the Dallas secondary, frequently going to Paul Warfield, a fleet wide receiver-with the moves of a water bug. Warfield, who was often guarded by rookie, Cornerback Otto Brown, had a pleasant afternoon out by himself in the fresh air as he ran a variety of patterns and caught eight passes for 99 yards.

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