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In the most unusual Sunday of the young professional football season, all of the favorites won. It has been a long time since the pros have been decent enough to pay such a handsome tribute to the handicappers.
No one believed, for instance, that the Philadelphia Eagles would repeat their recent and horrendous 49-21 upset of the New York Giants; and the Eagles, who were six-point underdogs for last Sunday's rematch, couldn't really make a contest of it after the first quarter as the defending Eastern Conference champions methodically whipsawed them with equally effective running and passing for a 24-7 victory. And not just incidentally, the 68,783 customers formed the second-largest crowd in Giant history, second only to last year's regular-season game with Baltimore.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, sadly surprised by the Washington Redskins a fortnight earlier, reacted violently this time, tackling so exuberantly they forced seven Redskin fumbles, scoring after three of them and whipping Washington 27-6. The Steeler pass defense, notably porous in the previous match against the Redskins, held Washington quarterbacks to three completions in 16 attempts and, unbelievably, to a minus 13 yards net in the passing statistics.
So it went throughout the league. The World Champion Baltimore Colts, miffed by reports that they are growing old and complacent, beat the Chicago Bears 21-7, with a late two-touchdown surge. The Los Angeles Rams, sometimes possessed of the most explosive offense in football, finally ignited it and burst the previously intact Green Bay bubble 45-6. The San Francisco 49ers, using the same aggressive, knowledgeable defense which held the Rams scoreless a couple of weeks ago, loosed two of the hardest-running backs in the league on the winless Detroit Lions for a 34-13 victory. J. D. Smith and elderly but spry Joe Perry gained 152 and 145 yards respectively.
Finally, the Cleveland Browns won their second game from the same team which provided them with their first victory. They beat the Chicago Cardinals 17-7, injuring both the first-line Cardinal quarterbacks in doing it. The Cardinals finished the game with tall, gangling John Roach at the controls. Roach is a defensive halfback who once played T quarterback for Southern Methodist.
The Giants' amazing reversal of the 49-21 upset by the Eagles was due largely to defense, and the first objective of the Giant defense was stopping a small, tow-headed youngster from Oklahoma named Tommy McDonald, the favorite target of the Eagles' fine quarterback, Norman Van Brocklin. In the Eagle upset of the Giants he scored four touchdowns. On this cool Sunday he caught only two passes.
"I've always been doing things with my hands," he said. "If I'm just standing still I'll put three pennies on the back of my hand, toss 'em up and catch 'em on the way down, one at a time."
He got up from the bed. "Like this," he said and flipped the pennies up and caught them, his hand flicking out rapidly three times, like a lizard's tongue.
"Lying down on the floor or on the bed and tossing a ball up and catching it helps, too," he said, lying down on the bed and tossing a penny up and catching it. "You have to keep your eyes up and your arms away from your body, like this. See my hands? They're over my head and spread so I can see to catch. That's a big help when you're going for the long pass."