The Detroit Lions moved up into a share of first place in the Western Division last week, stepping heavily on the San Francisco 49ers 31-10. The Lions' defense, rock-solid after a shaky start this season, be-labored the 49ers' Y. A. Tittle until he had trouble getting the ball away; Bobby Layne, the Detroit quarterback, had more than adequate protection, coolly completed 17 of 24 passes attempted in the first half for a 21-3 lead which buried the 49ers quickly and dimmed their title hopes.
Back in 1953, the San Francisco 49ers won five games in a row to start the season. In a fit of uncontrollable enthusiasm they printed very elaborate tickets for a possible championship game in San Francisco. Not long after that they very sadly burned all the tickets; they wound up the season with a 9-3 record, in second place. This year the 49ers have had some orders for tickets for a possible championship game, since they again started at a 5-1 early clip. But this year, far from printing championship tickets, the club has carefully refunded all the money on advance orders, with a cautiously phrased letter which says, "The game you are ordering tickets for has not been scheduled. If it is, we will be glad to take your order." Nowhere in the letter is the word "championship" mentioned. The 49ers are jinx-conscious.
The 1957 49ers are a much better team than the 1956 version. First, in R. C. Owens, Clyde Conner and Billy Wilson they have as good a trio of receivers as any club in the league. This makes Y. A. Tittle, who has always been a fine passer, even more effective. This, in turn, makes the running easier for a pair of the best runners in the league—Joe Perry and Hugh McElhenny.
But, sadly enough, the 49ers, as has happened before, are stumbling, and for roughly the same reason—injuries. In losing to Detroit last week 31-10, the 49ers lost Conner, their best end, with a shoulder separation. The week before they lost a first-string defensive halfback Bobby Holladay—who broke an ankle. Before Holladay's injury, Bob St. Clair, who was the best blocking lineman on the team, went out with a shoulder separation. So in the last two games, both losses, Tittle has been unmercifully punished by hard-rushing defensive lines; the 49er pass defense has broken down; with Conner out for most of the Detroit game, the passing offense broke down, too. For the 49ers, unhappily, it looks like another year of frustration.
X-RAY OF LAST WEEK'S GAMES
Pittsburgh and Chicago Cardinals not scheduled, will play game December 22 at Chicago