But was it? On the first Sunday of the season George Halas' huge and rugged Bears from Chicago appeared at Memorial Stadium, and while 36,000 patient Baitimoreans sat in the stands waiting for the inevitable, the frisky young Colts ran up a lead of 17 points and held on to most of it throughout the game. The next Saturday they were visited by Detroit, and the Lions were sent tumbling 28-13. The third week they were off to Milwaukee, where they provided the same medicine for unbeaten Green Bay. Now it was 3 up and 3 down, and the scent of a league pennant began to drift through Baltimore.
Last weekend it was the Bears again but this time on their own home grounds at Wrigley Field. The 34 athletes who set off for Chicago in a chartered plane on Saturday morning were almost sure they had something of a miracle in the making. Almost. Weeb Ewbank, a short and jolly fellow off the football field who seems to grow big and angry when a game begins, had coached his boys—among other things—never to underestimate the power of the Bears. Besides, the players had only to look around the plane to see two sobering reminders. Gino Marchetti, the 245-pound defensive end, had his left arm in a sling, the result of a shoulder dislocation, and Middle Guard Joe Campanella was nursing a painfully bruised knee. Neither would play, thus depriving the Colts of 40% of what is probably the strongest defensive line in football today.
By Sunday morning the heady visions of league pennants had given way to the quieting prospects of the violent afternoon ahead. The gags and even the conversation were now scarce as the men stared thoughtfully out the bus windows at Lake Michigan on their way to Wrigley Field. In the dressing room it was quiet as these huge men sat on folding chairs in front of their lockers and slowly, almost reluctantly it seemed, took off one piece of clothing after another and painstakingly worked their way into the intricate armor demanded by modern football. Dick Chorovich, the 260-pound tackle, told the man at the next locker what the tension was doing to him. "As soon as I finished that steak this morning," he said, "I went right upstairs to my room and lost it all."
SOME EARLY DOUBTS
There was no pep talk by Coach Ewbank, no histrionics. Just a last-minute summary on the blackboard to refresh all minds on the afternoon's strategy. The first three plays to be used on offense were assigned, and then players and coaches knelt in a brief, silent prayer.
On his way to the field Weeb Ewbank wondered aloud. "The boys have been high for three weeks," he said to no one in particular. "I don't know how long it can last. Those Bears are always tough, but here in Chicago they're toughest."
Ewbank's early doubts were soon justified. By the end of the first quarter after an exchange of field goals had tied the score at 3-3, it was apparent that the Colts were not the team that had been pushing their elders around the field for three weeks. The supercharged Bear line, hungry for its first league victory, was giving George Shaw very little time for his passes, and only his feline speed and agility was saving him from serious trouble. The blocking for Ameche was seldom crisp, but his immense running power was able to hold up his average of nearly five yards a try against the swarming Bears.
On the other hand, the Bears, larger and far more poised than the men from Baltimore, were as uncompromising as the Colts were ragged. In the second quarter they opened a hole in the Colt line for Rookie Rick Casares, who squirted into the open and went 81 yards for a touchdown. A few minutes later, when a Colt defender slipped and fell, George Blanda's pass sailed easily into the arms of Gene Schroeder, who trotted a few unmolested yards to a second touchdown. From then on it seemed that nothing worked for the Colts, everything for the Bears. In one egregious mental lapse Colt safety man Bert Rechichar made a fair catch of a Bear punt on his own two-yard line instead of letting it go for a touchback—the kind of thing a high school boy would be ashamed of. It was that way for the rest of the afternoon, and the score was 31-3 before Baltimore crossed the Bear goal line for its only touchdown of the day. As the thoroughly beaten and depressed Colts dragged themselves into their dressing room, a Bear rooter taunted Tackle Chorovich. Big Dick said all there was to say: "That's the way it goes. Some days you can't make a nickel."
But the Colts are a young team, and they believe in themselves; and their new and enthusiastic friends in Baltimore believe in them. The gloom of their long three-hour plane ride home on Sunday night was suddenly broken at the Baltimore airport. There to welcome them home were 6,000 fans who didn't seem to care what had happened in Chicago. Their Colts were still tied for first in this most unpredictable season in NFL history.