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Kapp threw two of these mortar shots early in the game. One of them set up a touchdown and the other scored one. "Sometimes you get to a point when you know someone up there loves you," he said. "Some of those passes I threw today, He had to love me. That first pass I threw to Washington...that was a crappy pass."
On that heave Wide Receiver Gene Washington was racing down the sideline with Corner back Walt Sumner matching him stride for stride. The pass was underthrown, and both Washington and Sumner tried to slow down. Both slipped and fell. But as Washington was falling, the ball plopped into his arms. The Vikings had a first down on the Cleveland 24 on a 33-yard gain, but it could just as easily have been a Cleveland interception.
Two conventional running plays moved the ball to the Cleveland seven. Then Kapp improvised. He called Bill Brown into the middle of the line, only Brown slipped and ran full tilt into Kapp. While the impact knocked the 230-pound Brown back and almost down, Kapp, who still had the ball, spun around and began to run. Guard Jim Vellone applied a shattering block on Tackle Jim Kanicki at the line of scrimmage, and Kapp paddlefooted through the hole. In the short secondary he brushed by Free Safety Mike Howell. Tackle Walter Johnson and End Ron Snidow converged on him at the three and Kapp carried them into the end zone.
The play gave the Vikings their first touchdown and seemed to dispirit the Browns. They had played defense perfectly well, by the book, but it's a book Kapp has never taken out. He had succeeded twice on plays that should clearly have been failures, and he did it again about three minutes later, and whatever gods were looking down on the game must have been sitting in Valhalla. This time Kapp was operating from the Minnesota 25, third down, nine yards to go. He dropped back under an oppressive rush and threw one of his pop flies. Washington waited under it patiently, caught it and loped in for the touchdown with no defender within hailing distance. Erich Barnes, who had the primary responsibility for covering Washington on the play, had been knocked down by Houston, his own teammate. Had there been any kind of coverage, the pass could easily have been batted away.
That made the score 14-0 with only a few seconds over seven minutes gone in the game and, to all purposes, that made the Vikings NFL champions. Of course, it wasn't all Kapp. The Minnesota offensive line, which tirelessly blocks and pulls and traps without earning praise—much less a catchy nickname—played what may have been its best game of the year, prying narrow holes in the Cleveland defense through which Dave Osborn, for one, boomed for 108 yards in 18 carries.
Osborn, like Kapp and the rest of the Vikings, dominated Cleveland with pure physical strength. Once, cracking through a hole in the center of the Cleveland line, Osborn ran head on into Middle Linebacker Dale Lindsey, knocked him sideways, spun away and went on for six or seven more yards. On the touchdown run that sent the Vikings ahead 24-0, Osborn ripped through the left side, shrugged off one tentative tackle and rumbled 20 yards, breaking another tackle by Ernie Kellermann en route.
Despite the fact that many of the Browns wore sneakerlike broom ball shoes (broom ball is a game played on ice) to keep from slipping, they couldn't get going in the first half, in which they advanced no farther than the Minnesota 48 until the final minute. In fact, the score was 17-0 before Cleveland got its second first down. Nick Skorich, Coach Blanton Collier's chief offensive assistant, said, "We intended to run early to open up the pass. Then we felt we could complete passes in the cracks of the zone, 10 to 20 yards downfield. But their pass rush hurt us. Even when they weren't getting to Nelsen, they were coming in with their hands up and Nelsen couldn't find Warfield or Collins. Our running game wasn't going and we couldn't pass. That doesn't leave much."
Moreover, Bill Nelsen was knocked down and hurt early in the game. In the regular-season game against Minnesota, which the Vikings won 51-3, he was hurt, too, and his arm went dead. Now, in the first quarter, he was hit by Jim Marshall and again he lost all feeling in his arm from the elbow down.
"He hit me on top of the head," said Nelsen, who avoided most of the reporters by going into the treatment room directly after the game. "When I got up, my arm was numb and I thought, 'God, not again.' I had no feeling in my fingers. I would drop back to pass and I couldn't feel the ball and I couldn't throw it."
Nelsen, who was so sharp against Dallas the week before, completed only five passes in the first half. He wound up with 17 of 33 for 181 yards, but threw two interceptions and he had his most productive moments late in the game when the Browns didn't have a prayer. Kapp, on the other hand, completed seven of 13 for 169 yards and was the Vikings' second best rusher with 57 yards in eight carries.