In the week before their game with Dallas, the Rams prepared themselves so meticulously that Tex Schramm, the president of the Cowboys (and a former general manager of the Rams), claimed the whole business smacked more of a James Bond novel than it did of legitimate scouting. What got Schramm was a yellow Chevrolet that was parked near the Cowboys' temporary practice area, a high school field borrowed pending the reclamation of their regular practice site. At the close of Thursday practice, Head Coach Tom Landry dispatched a guard to find out who was in the car, where-upon the Chevy raced away.
The guard took the license number (KRZ 308), and Schramm checked with the Hertz Rent-A-Car agency at the Dallas airfield. He found that the car had been rented on Tuesday evening by J. R. Sanders, Los Angeles Rams, 7813 Beverly Boulevard. A little more detective work revealed that Johnny Sanders, chief of the Rams' talent-scouting staff, and Norm Pollom, an aide, had checked into the Executive Inn, a hostelry near the airport, on Tuesday evening. In a fine rage, Schramm fired off a hot wire to Commissioner Pete Rozelle, complaining of what he called the Rams' "chicanery." George Allen, the head coach of the Rams, was confronted with the spy charges when the club landed in Dallas Friday evening but, understandably, he denied all and filed a countercharge of his own.
"There was a guy sitting in a eucalyptus tree overlooking our practice field Thursday," said Allen seriously. "By the time we saw him and sent someone after him, he climbed down and ran away. From the rear he looked like Bucko Kilroy."
Kilroy is a Cowboy scout and weighs in the vicinity of 300 pounds. It is hard to believe that he could have climbed a eucalyptus tree, much less perched among the limbs of one to take notes, as unnoticed as a sparrow.
Whatever the truth of the charges, it is doubtful that either Bucko Kilroy or Johnny Sanders contributed materially to the game plans of their respective clubs. As Allen pointed out, both teams are plentifully supplied with film of previous games and each is well acquainted with the plays—and ploys—of the other. Allen also stressed that he had prepared his game plan long before Friday, when he would have received information from Sanders.
"That's all true enough," said the quiet, scholarly Landry. "They know all of our offense, but we use a lot of offensive sets and it would certainly be valuable for them to know which ones we had on our ready list. It is an unethical thing to do."
In the game itself it was not Bondian lunatricks so much as the Los Angeles football team itself that made the difference. The Rams are equipped with an enormous amount of muscle, morale and mobility. They added a surprisingly good offense to the best defense in the National Football League and demolished the Dallas Cowboys 35-13 before 75,000 dismayed fans in the Cotton Bowl. The game placed the Rams at the head of the NFL along with Green Bay and Baltimore. It also established their defense as the very best.
Long before spies became an issue, George Allen had thoroughly briefed his club on the multiple, complex offense of the Cowboys. Los Angeles gave up two touchdowns, but the first of these came in the second period as a result of a blocked punt that put the ball on the Ram one, first and goal. Only once during the game could the Cowboys contrive a real drive.
"We get a hundred-page scouting report on Monday of every week, covering the club we play the next Sunday," said Max Baughan, the linebacker who came to the Rams from the Philadelphia Eagles and now captains the defensive unit. He was in the Ram dressing room after the game, his uniform drenched in perspiration, his thin, sandy hair plastered flat on his head. "From Monday to Wednesday I live in a state of confusion," he went on. "By Thursday it begins to come clear. By Friday we have it down pat and we're ready to play our game. Coach Allen gives us a completely different defense for each club. I mean our defenses are basically the same, but the application is different for each team. We knew just about what the Cowboys would try to do to us, and they didn't have any surprises."
The Ram defense is based primarily on a fine line. The ends are 6'5" David Jones and 6'7" Lamar Lundy. The tackles are 6'5" Merlin Olsen and 6'5" Roger Brown. They add up to 1,090 pounds, which is what sometimes lands on opposing quarterbacks.
In this game, Allen's strategy was to prevent the Cowboys from scoring on long plays while allowing them the opportunity to run or to attempt short passes. "Most passes are thrown from play action now," said Lundy, the smallest (260 pounds) but senior member of the four. "The quarterback fakes to a back going into the line, hoping you'll react to the run, and then he drops back and throws. Well, we just flat ignored the run. We went after Meredith. Sure, they ran on us a little and they got some short ones, but they didn't drop any bombs on us and no team's ever gonna beat us on short passes and runs. Not when our offense plays the way it did today. They were just fantastic out there. We were really prepared for this game. I mean really."
After the game the man responsible for the preparation, Allen, said: "They did just about what we thought they would do. We knew we had to shut off Bob Hayes, and we concentrated our efforts on that. How many balls did he get? Two for 18 yards. We shut him off pretty good."
The Ram power and muscle made itself felt most keenly in the second half, when Los Angeles scored twice within less than two minutes to put the game out of reach. The big defensive line, which might have been expected to flag in the 90° heat on the Cotton Bowl field, seemed instead to grow stronger as the day grew long.
"I prepared them to be a strong second-half team," said Allen proudly. "In training camp, in the heat at Fullerton, we had some very long workouts, and we always worked in full pads and head gear. That kind of work pays off on a day like this one."
The four are a relaxed, uninhibited group before and after a game, and they are fond of kidding Allen. During training camp in California, when they felt that his practices were stretching out a little too long, they had their own way to serve warning on him. All defensive teams break a huddle with a clap of their hands and a shout of "Hey!" The foursome, to let Allen know it was time to quit, would yell, "Hey, ice cream!" If he went on anyway, they changed the call to, "Hey, papaya!" Allen is very fond of ice cream and drinks papaya juice to allay a stomach ulcer.
During the long afternoon they spent chasing Dallas Quarterbacks Don Meredith and Craig Morton, the four reached them only twice, for a total loss of 16 yards. But time and again they made them hurry their throws. The Rams wound up with three pass interceptions and they recovered one fumble, and even though they were not concentrating on stopping the Dallas running attack they limited the Cowboys to just 51 yards rushing. Dan Reeves, the strong Dallas back who was the Cowboys' leading rusher last season, carried the ball nine times and wound up with a loss of two yards.
For the first time this year, the Ram defense was augmented by an equally powerful offense. Roman Gabriel, the 6'4" quarterback, completed 14 of his 25 passes. He rolled out around his right end from the three-yard line for the Rams' first score, then repeated the play in the fourth quarter from the one. The Rams also put on an impressive exhibition of skill and strength running the ball. They gained 221 yards in all, and this against a defensive line that is rated as second only to their own.
Ironically, the Ram whose running caused the most damage to Cowboy hopes was Les Josephson. A big, deceptively fast man who blocks as well as he runs, Josephson came to Los Angeles in a trade with Dallas. He gained 82 yards Sunday, and on the second of Gabriel's roll-out touchdowns it was Josephson who swept aside Cowboy Linebacker Chuck Howley at the goal line to free him.
Two of the best runs of the afternoon, though, were turned in by Tommy Mason, the back Allen obtained from the Minnesota Vikings and kept out of the preseason games, saving him for the regular season. Mason got free for good, twisting runs of 16 and 15 yards, breaking tackles both times and cutting quickly and sharply. Dick Bass, the small Ram fullback, should be even more effective from now on with the powerful outside threat that Mason provides. He scored the Rams' last touchdown against the Cowboys when Gabriel faked wide to Mason, then handed off to him on a trap over tackle. Bass burst through the hole, bounced off a would-be tackle by Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, then feinted his way through the Dallas secondary on a run that carried 21 yards to the goal.
By the end of the long, hot day it was obvious that the Cowboys had been beaten by a better team, one with bigger and stronger defense and a smooth, beautifully articulated offense. The Rams needed no notes from Johnny Sanders sitting in a yellow Chevrolet outside a Dallas practice field to win this one. Spies will not be a deciding factor, either, in the remainder of their schedule. The Rams clearly are one of the three best teams in the league.