NFC 27



January 24, 1971

By Dave Newhouse

Oakland Tribune


Mel Renfro is no wallflower on the football field, so he had the perfect way to work off the week-long agony.


Im an ex-runner from Oregon." said Renfro. "If I get a little daylight, I'm going to do some dancing."


And dance he did, incorporating smooth moves into two explosive fourth-quarter punt returns that blasted the American Football Conference right out of its first Pro Bowl, 27-6, yesterday in Los Angeles.


Renfro turned what bad been a close, defense dominated game into a one sided outcome for the National Conference with 82 and  56-yard return that included all the steps you'd find in any Arthur Murray lesson, fast or slow.


"It's been a sad week for me." added Renfro of the Dallas Cowboys. "Maybe this will take a little of the bite out of losing that game last Sunday."


The Baltimore Colts were better prepared to stop Renfro's breakaway ability in the Super Bowl than were a group of all-stars, many of whom probably hadn't seen special team-duty since their sophomore years in college.


Coach Dick Nolan stressed the kicking game all year with the 49ers and he did it with us all week.'' declared Renfro, who allowed but one completion at his cornerback position yesterday as well.


Coach John Madden likewise accented the kicking game over at the America Conference camp. But, some good blocking and the element of surprise on the part of Renfro took more than just pregame preparation.


On the first return, "I think they were expecting me to let the ball run dead, but it took a good bounce to me, and once I got through the first wave I was gone."


On the second, "it was set up to go left, and they thought they had me at the sideline. But, I was able to cut back, and I knew I had clear sailing when I saw three (NFC) blue shirts ahead of me."


Dick Butkus of Chicago took out the last man (Houston's Zeke Moore) on the initial return and Len Hauss of Washington chopped down two men as Renfro cut, jumped and twisted his way to the 21st Pro Bowl's outstanding player award.


Green Bay's Fred Carr beat out Kansas City's Bobby Bell and Dallas' Bob Lilly for the top defensive honor.


Actually, Renfro was only put back to return punts after the Bears' Cecil Turner foolishly tried to catch a punt and run under murderous downfield coverage in the third quarter. He fumbled and the American Conference's Bob Trumpy of Cincinnati recovered at the NFC nine.


Jan Stenerud's second field goal of the game, from the 16, cut the NFC's lead to 13-6- and it should have been 13-10. Daryle Lamonica threw an apparent nine-yard touchdown pass to Oakland teammate Fred Biletnikoff. The video replay showed that Biletnikoff was in and Fred argued vigorously.


"If I knew I'm out of bounds, I never say anything," protested Biletnikoff.


"But I know I was in bounds, because my practice is to catch the ball and the look down at my feet,


"The official said my second step was out of bounds. Heck, I was dragging the foot. I've never had my second foot out of bounds in my pro career."


"When you're three down, you go about it a different way," said Madden, "because we know we have Stenerud.


"It's tough enough moving the ball, but two punt returns and now you're down by a big score, and they can tee off and go for the big play more.


"The score may look worse than the way the teams played. It was a defensive 13-6 game except for the punt returns."


"No," Madden answered to an expected question, "There's no conclusions about the conferences to be drawn from the game. Neither team controlled the ball, and both defenses were hitting and tackling well."


The National all-stars had better than a two-to-one edge in total yardage, 337 to 146. But they made considerable yardage between the 20s, getting only one offensive touchdown, as Kansas City punter Jerrel Wilson often pinned them back near their goal.


The one touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from the 49ers John Brodie to Minnesota's Dave Osborn, who slipped unnoticed out of the backfield- because of some deceptive blocking by Detroit tight end Charlie Sanders.


"It was a special play we put in," said Sanders, "figuring the linebacker (Pittsburgh's Andy Russell) would be in tight on me. I blocked him high and had my arms in his face- maybe that's not legal- and he didn't see Osborn until too late."


Quarterback leadership was a big factor in the game, as was the NFC's ability to produce the big play defensively.


Brodie completed 10 of 26 passes for 126 yards and no interceptions, while Lamonica had one of his most disappointing days ever, connecting on but four of 21 for 50 yards and two interceptions.


"The big point today was Brodie," said Renfro, "his ability to move the ball and his poise under pressure at finding receivers- it was tremendous."


Brodie and Fran Tarkcnton weren't dropped once. Lamonica and Bob Griese were sacked five times.


"They come in with good pressure as always," said Lamonica, "but really, I just had a bad day. I didn't feel too good.


MVP Mel Renfro returned two punts for touchdowns.



The AFC's Bob Griese is pursued by the NFC'c Gary Larsen (77) and Bob Lilly (74).


Fran Tarkenton quarterbacks the NFC.


Larry Wilson of the St. Louis Cardinals and the NFC.