"No, we don't have any of that here," Van Brocklin replies to any charge of intimidation. "We have good morale."
He does volunteer the information that the Falcons have missed good chances to take charge in the West, and perhaps the team is a year away. Atlanta's two biggest wins came over Los Angeles, when Gabriel was injured, and against Green Bay in a quagmire.
The Falcons may have the best pair of defensive ends in the business in Claude Humphrey and John Zook—who, along with Linebacker Tommy Nobis, keyed this week's come-from-be-hind 23-20 victory over Denver—and when the running game with Dave Hampton and Art Malone works, Quarterback Bob Berry can manage some devastating tricks with his play-action passes. Still, Berry earns better marks for his courage than his talent. "That guy ought to be the highest-paid quarterback in football," said Defensive Tackle Diron Talbert of the Redskins after Atlanta blew a lead to Washington last week. "We hit the hell out of him, and he kept getting up."
If Berry should fail to take Atlanta to the title, it will reassure a lot of smug, self-appointed authorities who have decreed that he is too short (5'11") for a quarterback—just as Spurrier is too unemotional for the position. Of course, Spurrier will have another problem if he should win. He has been such an anonymous bench warmer for so long that he is still listed in the phone book as well as the roster. "I must be the only 49er who doesn't have an unlisted number," he says.
After six years of waiting for the call, his phone might soon be ringing off the hook.