Meanwhile, Landry has perfected a nice piece of flimflam: a flanker in motion toward the ball. To make certain the crackback blocks are as lethal as the rules allow, he got Otto Stowe, a first-rate blocker, from Miami and converted Running Back Mike Montgomery to flanker. Landry is gearing up for the two Redskin games. He believes a split would give Dallas the division title.
Second-string Giant Quarterback Randy Johnson considers the past and the present with some hard words. "With our dinky passing offense, I could have led the league instead of Norm Snead," he says. "Oh, those three-foot completions!" But that's the Giant game plan: send a receiver deep but always have a safety valve handy. Inevitably, Snead chose the trailer, which is the reason the fine tight end, Bob Tucker, caught 55 passes, and Ron Johnson, the mighty running back, 45. Coach Alex Webster's theory is never be greedy but keep the offensive moving. Snead does just that.
And for the first time in his 13-year career he is the right man for the job: an unexpected virtuoso, a cautious hero. This is an era of conservatism and caution for the pro game. It pays off in the statistics. Giant quarterbacks were sacked only 10 times, a remarkable figure since the line is resolute but not strong and the outside receivers lack speed.
Credit Ron Johnson and his quick thrusts with a large assist. Relief is in sight for this overworked ballcarrier: the Giants have discovered a fullback, Vin Clements, to share the rushing. Until now it was an unequal battle for New York. The offense ranked fourth in the NFL, the defense was 18th. But the downtrodden are on the rise, may well have risen. Led by All-Pro Defensive End Jack Gregory and John Mendenhall, who plays over the center, the rush line is more potent. The linebacking, with Jim Files in the middle, is shaping up and only an aging secondary raises doubts. "The Giants have arrived," says Webster.
Neither Philadelphia nor St. Louis has, although both teams have hired sound, intelligent head coaches who have laid calm hands on their troubled squads. Philadelphia's Mike McCormack and the Cardinals' Don Coryell have given their clubs a new sense of direction.
In the scuffle to escape the bottom, McCormack has the advantage. The Eagles simply have more ability. Were it not for limp linebacking, Philadelphia, with a powerful front four and a seasoned deep secondary, would have a sound defense. Two good rookie linemen, Tackle Jerry Sisemore and Tight End Charles Young, beef up the offensive line, but the interior is extremely questionable. This makes the expensive trade for Quarterback Roman Gabriel difficult to understand. McCormack may have to turn the Eagles into a running team as an alternative to Gabriel's limited passing range.
Coryell has even less talent to work with. Hence, Jim Hart is going to throw the ball 30 times a game to, among others, Ahmad Rashad (formerly Bobby Moore). Coryell also has a dazzling runner in rookie Terry Metcalf, but he sometimes neglects to carry the football with him. Well, there's always Jim Bakken.