BLACKBOURN RATES BEARS AS FAVORITE NOW, SAYS PACKERS MUFFED PASSES ON BIG CHANCES
OCTOBER 31 (Milwaukee Journal) - Despite their second straight four point licking by the Baltimore Colts, the Green Bay Packers find themselves "under a handkerchief" today. Certainly, a "hankie", rather than a blanket, would better describe what covers the first five teams in the western division. Only one game separates the quintet. The Packers share third place with the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, one game behind the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore. Coach Lisle Blackbourn was asked what he thought about it. "The Chicago Bears look like the favorite now," Blackbourn said Monday at Green Bay. "They're probably the best team in either division." Better than the Cleveland Browns? "Oh, we were probably down a little at Cleveland," he said, referring to the 41-10 defeat the Browns administered to the Packers a week ago. Blackbourn obviously was disappointed that his Packers failed twice against the Colts. They were a team which he felt sure Green Bay could beat. Now the Packers must face the Bears at Chicago's Wrigley Field Sunday. The Bears, winners of three straight after losing their first three games, certainly will be no easier to get along with when they recall the 24-3 shellacking the Packers hung on them at Green Bay a month ago. Blackbourn was asked about the Packers' failure to score at Baltimore Sunday night after they got first down on the Colts' eight yard line midway in the fourth quarter. "Sure, that was bad," he said. "On second down, Rote's pass was right in Howton's belly, Howton got hit from behind real hard, but the pass still could have been caught. On fourth down, Rote's pass hit Carmichael on the left hip. He was moving fast on the slant, but either or both of those passes could have been caught." Blackbourn refused to comment, because of a league rule, on Breezy Reid's ejection from the game in the first quarter. "All I can say is that it hurt," he said. "Ferguson had a real good night, but he tired badly toward the end. His knee was taped heavily, and he had to work against that, besides his efforts on runs and being tackled. He came out it okay, though, and maybe he won't have to be taped so much this week." With Reid out, Blackbourn was forced to switch Veryl Switzer all the way at left halfback and Al Carmichael at right half. Reid, besides being regular left halfback, can be used to spell Howie Ferguson at fullback and with the Georgia boy in there, Switzer and Carmichael would have alternated at right half. Blackbourn said that he thought the defense did a good job against passes, not so good against rushing. "Ameche was real good," he said. "I don't know if he was better than in the game at Milwaukee because maybe we weren't as a good as this time." Rookie Tom Bettis played a "pretty good game" in place of Roger Zatkoff at linebacker, Blackbourn said. Zatkoff was hospitalized in Baltimore the night before the game with a severe gastric disturbance and played only briefly. The coach praised quarterback Tobin Rote. "He's been a sick man now for three straight weeks," Blackbourn said. "That could just hangs on and plugs his ears with infection. We came out of the game in pretty good condition, but if Rote doesn't recover pretty soon, we're in tough shape." Blackbourn said that the Packers would hold no practice or meetings Monday or Tuesday. "Maybe the extra day off will give us a fresh start," he said.
BEARS THROW PRO TITLE RACE WIDE OPEN
NOVEMBER 1 (Chicago Tribune) - Who's going to meet the
Cleveland Browns in the pro football's annual playoff for the
championship? There appears little doubt that the Browns are
en route to filling their traditional role as the eastern division's
playoff representative. Cleveland's 26 to 20 victory over the
Chicago Cardinals Sunday left the Browns all along atop the
eastern standings with five victories against one defeat as the
campaign reached the halfway mark. But there's a real
scramble in the league's western division for the opportunity
to face the Browns. Five teams still are contenders. The
ultimate winner could be Los Angeles, 31 to 20 loser to the
Chicago Bears Sunday but still tied with Baltimore for the top
spot. It could be Baltimore, 14 to 10 winner over Green Bay
Saturday night. It could be the Packers, one of three teams
deadlocked in the runner-up spot only a game off the pace. It
could be the San Francisco 49ers, 38 to 21 victors over
Detroit and second of the three teams involved in the three
way tie. Or - sound the trumpets - it COULD be the amazing
Chicago Bears, busy making up for lost time as they strive to
record one of the greatest finishes in pro history. The Bears,
heeding the natural law of self-preservation after losing their
first three games, made Los Angeles their third straight victim
Sunday in a game that included an 86 yard Ed Brown to
Harlon Hill pass play - the longest in the league this season.
It was a must victory for the Bears, who would have been all
but mathematically eliminated from the title chase by defeat.
Now the Bears return home to face Green Bay Sunday in a
game with all the earmarks of a payoff struggle. Sunday's
victory zoomed the Bears to the top of the league's statistcal
chart in both total offense and rushing. They have amassed
2,221 yards, 1,156 on the ground. Passwise, the Bears have
completed 80 out of 161 attempts for a 49.7 percent average.
Pittsburgh's Steelers went the way of all who threaten the
Browns' legendary hold on the Eastern plum. The Steelers,
who had shared first place with Cleveland, were set down by
the Philadelphia Eagles, 24 to 0. Spectator interest in the two
colorful races kept the cash registers jingling as the six
weekend games drew 229,466 fans, bringing attendance for
the first half of the season to 1,350,908. Top crowd was the
69,587 who watched the Bears and Rams in Los Angeles. Don
Paul's 60 yard runback of a punt for a Cleveland touchdown
against the Cardinals in the second quarter brought cries of
anguish from some southside partisans yesterday. The fans
apparently questioned Cardinal strategy in punting on fourth
down with only inches to go. The ball was on the Cardinals 25.
Answered Ray Richards, the Cardinal coach: "It is basic football strategy to punt on fourth down when deep in your own territory, particularly early in the game, as was the case. The slippery condition of the turf would have made it even more dangerous to go for a first down. The fact that the punt was returned for a touchdown has nothing to do with the soundness of the strategy dictating a punt in such a situation. There is a time for gambling, but this was not it."
SPINKS ON BAY ROSTER
NOVEMBER 1 (Green Bay) - George Timberlake, Packer defensive back, left the club Tuesday to go into military service and was replaced on the roster by Jack Spinks, a lineman from Alcorn (Miss.) A&M. Spinks, an offensive guard and tackle, tried out with the Packers early this season but was dropped when the club had to pare its roster to meet NFL limitations.
PACKERS INTERESTING, BUT ALSO FRUSTRATING, IN THOSE CLOSE ONES
NOVEMBER 1 (Milwaukee Journal) - One thing you can say about Lisle Blackbourn's Green Bay Packers, they play the most interesting football games and at most times the most frustrating kind of any team around these days. In 18 NFL games over a season and a half of Blackbourn's regime at Green Bay, the Packers have lost 11 games. In eight of them, six last season and two this year, they were in there right up to the gun, dropping the eight games by a combined total of 35 points. They have been soundly licked only twice - by the 49ers at San Francisco last season, 35-0, after their bid to go anywhere had been foiled too many times, and by the Browns at Cleveland a week ago Sunday, 41-10. Otherwise, it has been a defeat by from one to eight points in nine games. They lost the finale to the Rams at Los Angeles last season, 35-27, in their only other setback which found them completely out of contention when time ran out. Two of this year's defeats, each by four points to the Baltimore Colts, have been especially frustrating. In the contest here three weeks ago, the Packers did everything but run the Colts out of the Stadium in the last quarter, yet could not push over the winning touchdown. At Baltimore last Saturday night, Green Bay marched right down to Baltimore's five yard line with six minutes to play, then frittered the potential winning touchdown away. The Packers before the game felt certain they would gain revenge. Instead, they lost, 14-10. Lack of depth clearly is the problem. Give Blackbourn four or five more good football players and the pattern probably would be reversed. Two examples come to mind immediately. First, quarterback Tobin Rote. Here is the most inconsistent quarterback in football, a great competitor, but one given to splurges of great play, then moments when he can do nothing right. Rote, as quarterback of a team which plays close ones every Sunday, is under great strain. And there is no relief for him, because every play is a key one and because Bobby Garrett last season and Charlie Brackins this year just could not and cannot be used in such situations. For the last three games, Rote has played under great physical handicap. A mean cold, which plugs up his ears with infection, has refused to let go of him. Yet he must play under the circumstances, or the Packers would have no chance at all. The second example occurred at Baltimore Saturday night. On an intercepted pass in the first quarter, Green Bay halfback Breezy Reid, the old Georgian, was knocked down by a Colt blocker, got up and was blocked and generally roughed up by another Colt. Reid arose the second time and took a swing. An official saw him and tossed him out of the game. Actually, Green Bay was through right there. Without Reid Blackbourn could do no juggling to give even brief respite to his other running backs. - the injured Howie Ferguson or Veryl Switzer or Al Carmichael, who double as kickoff and punt return men. At that, the Packers almost won anyway. Billy Howton got two or three steps behind Baltimore's defenders in the fourth quarter and made 60 yards on Rote's long pass. He was caught from behind when he lost his stride in a muddy spot along the sidelines. Otherwise, the Rice rabbit never would have been overhauled. Then, from the 20, the Packers moved to the Baltimore five, only to give up the ball and the ball game because Rote's receivers, on difficult but not impossible chances, could not hang onto his passes. Nevertheless, what Blackbourn and his courageous boys have accomplished remains the wonder of the rest of the league. It was best expressed by a scout from a rival team after the Browns had trounced the Packers. "After seeing the difference in personnel out there today." he said, "you just have think that Liz is doing it with mirrors."