What may be the best running attack in professional football history was displayed last week by the San Francisco 49ers against a defensively bolstered Los Angeles Rams team and was good enough to win by a solitary point, 28 to 27. The teams looked that close in previous exhibitions this year, each massacring five identical opponents by almost identical scores.
A near sellout crowd of 84,527 at Los Angeles Coliseum, which saw Halfback Hugh McElhenny average a blistering 10.18 yards against the Rams, screamed as John Henry Johnson and Joe Perry ran like scalded dogs. In Y. A. (for Yelberton Abraham) Tittle they watched a rare professional quarterback who need not depend on his passing game.
The Rams' left side of the line, which showed weakness against running plays last year, now is bulwarked as is their porous secondary. It is a vastly improved team as compared with the one which defeated the Champion Detroit Lions in both their 1953 games.
Outstanding is the fact that the Rams again have two top quarterbacks—Billy Wade for conjuror sleights in ball handling, Norm Van Brocklin for the long pass.
Outlook: thunder in the West.
The forward passes of Bobby Layne, which transported the Detroit Lions into the professional football championship again last season, still have the look of jet planes streaking through the autumn sky, still carry the hopes of the Lions for their third successive championship. Last week, before 43,000 fans gathered under a bright full moon in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas, Layne completed 23 out of 35 passes against the Cleveland Browns in an exhibition game. One of them was a touchdowner to Doak Walker in the closing two seconds and brought the final score to Lions 56, Browns 31.
The Lions consistently outrushed and outpassed the ailing Browns but the hard-fought game revealed weaknesses that could be traced to the fact that the Lions' defensive backfield was not at full strength. Thereby the Browns were able at times to lead.
In the last 22 seconds of the game the Lions restored their standing by putting on two brilliant touchdown plays.
With tongue in well-whiskered cheek, Lions' players and coaches looked to the season ahead and said, "We should come in third, behind the Rams and 49ers."