The Green Bay Packers won the Western Conference championship of the National Football League last week by beating the second-best team in the world 20 to 17.
The Packers whipped the New York Giants where they were supposed to be strongest—on defense. With scythelike blocks, Green Bay's offensive line time and again cleared a wide route for Fullback Jim Taylor (below), who responded by setting a new club record for yards gained rushing—186 in 26 tries.
During the third quarter the Packers controlled the ball some three-fourths of the time, and the aging Giant line, which had had to play too long, lost its strength. By the time the teams went into the final period the Packers were biting out large chunks of yardage on every running play.
"This was the best blocking we've had all year," Taylor said after the game. "Thurston and Skoronski were cleaning out the right side of the Giant line. I was popping through into the secondary with no tacklers to bother me at the line of scrimmage. And don't forget Paul Hornung. He never missed a block on the corner linebackers."
Roosevelt Grier, the Giant defensive right tackle, had a particularly unpleasant afternoon. Depending upon the blocking pattern called by Green Bay's cool quarterback, Bart Starr, Grier was knocked down by either Fred Thurston or Bob Skoronski all afternoon. He spent the day looking into the cloudy sky over Milwaukee's County Stadium.
The night before the game the Green Bay offensive line coach, Bill Austin, said confidently, "We will run on the Giants." Austin was probably the only man in pro football who felt that this could be done. He was right.
The Packers now play either the Giants or the Philadelphia Eagles in the championship game on December 31. They would prefer to meet the Eagles because they want to prove they are a better team than the one that lost to Philadelphia in the championship game last season. But no matter who they play, the Packers should win easily. To go with the violent, bruising running game that gained 270 yards against the tough Giant line Sunday, Green Bay revealed what is probably the most underrated passing game in football. Starr gets wonderful protection from that offensive line, and in Max McGee, Boyd Dowler and Ron Kramer he has three of the best pass receivers in the National League. He throws a low, fast, flat trajectory pass that is occasionally intercepted (he lost two to the Giants) but which is more often directly on target. Should the Giants—or the Eagles—set up to stop the Packer running, Starr could resort to passing with a comfortable margin of probable success.
The Packer defense is good, too. It proved more than adequate to handle the previously successful Giant passing game. Coach Vince Lombardi assigned Jesse Whittenton to cover Giant End Del Shofner man-on-man wherever he went and Whittenton did a marvelous job, holding Shofner to one completion. But for all the finesse of individual players on Green Bay, the key to this wonderful football team seems to lie in its power. By the end of last week's game the Packers had established an absolute physical domination over New York. Should they play the Eagles instead of the Giants in the championship game on New Year's Eve, they appear certain to outmuscle them just as badly. And the main reason is Taylor, who is the strongest runner in the league and is, or seems to be, utterly tireless.