West 38

East 20

 

January 21, 1968


 

By Al Larson

Long Beach Independent

 

How much life and health insurance quarterback Fran Tarkenton carries is his private business, but if the broker, who underwrites the exciting and unpredictable passer's policies had been at the Coliseum Sunday, he might have considered canceling them in the fourth quarter of the Pro Bowl game.

 

The Western All-Stars cashed in Tarkenton's $600 fumble and Richie Petitbon's record 70-yard interception en route to a 21- point explosion in the final 12 minutes to dump the East, 38-20.

 

It seemed like only yesterday- give or take a few hundred yesterdays- that the pro football season got under way, but it came to a sudden end . . . mercifully for Tarkenton and a few of his Eastern compatriots.

 

The East entered the fourth quarter with a 20-17 lead, but a defensive corps spearheaded by Dave Robinson, Willie Davis, Deacon Jones, Maxie Baughan and Petitbon turned this grand prix of football contests around in a hurry.

 

Tarkenton tried to execute his famous scramble play while perched on the East's 49-yard line, but it resulted in a 46-yard debit, the loss of the ball and ultimately the difference of $600 since members of the winning team carted off $1,500 and losers, $900.

 

The New York Giants' dashing quarterback made the mistake of trying to match wits with defensive end Willie Davis and Tarkenton came out second best. Davis chased Fran back to his own 25, forced a fumble and teammate Dave Robinson was on the spot to pick up the loose ball and ramble to the three-yard line before Ken Gray made the saving tackle.

 

However, on the first play, Gale Sayers stepped over right tackle into the end zone and the West reclaimed the lead for good.

 

The East came right back and in six plays surged to the West 30 yard line, but Tarkenton's third-down pass intended for Jerry Smith in the left flat was picked off by Petitbon and the Chicago Bears' veteran defensive back sped 70 yards for a touchdown.

 

"I don't think I would have scored without Maxie's block on Tarkenton," Petitbon said later. "Fran had the angle on me and probably would have had me if Baughan hadn't taken him out.”

 

In discussing his first interception in four Pro Bowl appearances, Petibon said: "I was trying to knock the ball down, but instead I tipped it up."

 

The 21-ppint uprising in a span of 6:16 was completed when Viking fullback Bill Brown boomed through four would-be tacklers on his 19-yard power sweep. It also meant the West's 11th victory in 18 Pro Bowls was assured.

 

The West jumped off to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on Don Chandler's 26 yard field goal and Les Josephson's four-yard run.

 

Jim Bakken, the NFL's scoring leader, sliced the margin to 10-6 when the St. Louis kicking specialist booted field goals measuring 45 and 25 yards.

 

Mel Farr, Detroit's rookie sensation from UCLA, extended the West's lead to 17-6 when he made a tumbling, finger-tip stab of Roman Gabriel's 39-yard TD pass.

 

Up to this point, it hadn't been Bob Hayes' day. The Dallas Cowboys’ sprinter had provided the crowd of 53,289 with nothing but guffaws when he came on the field under the guise of a punter and wound up setting up the West's first two touchdowns with nubbers of six and 14-yards.

 

But, Hayes showed why he's regarded as the NFL's top threat when it comes to the bomb and his 45 yard reception before stepping out on the six-inch line resulted in Leroy Kelly's TD burst with 24 seconds remaining in the half.

 

Otto Graham’s Easterners dominated the third period as the West ran off only eight plays. And, when Don Meredith passed nine yards to Washington's Charley Taylor, the underdog East was on-top for the first time, 20-17, with 25 seconds left in the period.

 

The 80-yard drive was kept alive when the West goofed and had 12 men on the field as Hayes punted into the end zone. The penalty resulted in a first down, and seven plays later, Taylor outmaneuvered Herb Adderley on a slant over the middle for his TD catch.

 

It had been over a year since Coliseum' fans had been treated to a Tarkenton act, but this time it backfired and "The Great Chase" thus resulted in “The Great Flop."

 

West Coach Don Shula said "We knew we could play a big defense today. The turning point naturally was the two plays in the fourth quarter- Tarkenton's fumble and Petitbon's interception.”

 

"This is my second Pro Bowl victory The Coliseum has been a happy place for me to coach in except for one game- that's when we lost to the Rains this season", Shula told a small crowd of reporters.

 

Gabriel, who was playing in his first All-Star game, said: "It was a thrilling experience and one that's hard to describe.”

 

"All week I've been finding out that the people here are human. I felt that with more experience I can be as good," the Rams' quarterback said.

 

The East had an edge in most of the statistics, including 332 yards passing to the West's 106 and a plus of eight first downs (23-15). In addition, the East had the ball for 81 plays compared to 57 for the West.

 

"But we made the defensive plays when it counted," said defensive captain Baughan of the Rams.

 

Gale Sayers, who accounted for only 21 yards rushing in 11 carries but launched the game with a dazzling 74 yard kickoff return, was named the game's outstanding back. Dave Robinson was selected the top lineman by newsmen in attendance.

 

Gabriel, who had a couple of drops by Boyd Dowler, finished with only four completions in 11 attempts for 64 yards. John Unitas, who had the advantage of knowing Shula's Baltimore system, connected on 7 of 10 passes for 42 yards.

 

The men in white, shoes, David Jones and Roger Brown, laughed, as they originally planned to wear them in the Super Bowl. But since that day never arrived for the Rams, they figured the Pro Bowl was the next best place to show off the fancy footwear.

 

“Merlin Olsen would have had his, too," said Brown, "but he forgot to bring them. Otherwise, we would have had the entire Ram Fearsome Threesome decked but in white shoes.

 

“I think Willie Davis was jealous we didn't have a pair for him to wear," Brown

chuckled.”

 

Merlin Olsen (74) hunt down Leroy Kelly (44).

 

John Unitas of the West.

 

Gabriel passes to Rams teammate Les Josephson.

 

Green Bay's Dave Robinson sizes up the Browns' Leroy Kelly.

 

 

1967 1969

 

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