With a nice mix of veterans and rookies, the Rams lost just one of our first 12 games. Les Josephson, in his fourth year, led the team with 800 rushing yards.
Dick Bass, a 30-year-old veteran, added 627 more yards on the ground; big flanker Bernie Casey led the team with 53 receptions; and Jack Snow, who was just coming into his own, finished with 28 catches.
In the trenches, the Rams were tough on both sides of the ball.
Jack Pardee, Tony Guillory, and Tom Mack were all tough as nails; they were the type of guys you needed on your team if you were going to be successful.
And, of course, there was our defensive line, the one that struck such terror into opponents that it became known as "the Fearsome Foursome."
Together, Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, Roger Brown, and Merlin Olsen could change the entire face of a game with a clothes-line of a running back or one blindside blast to a quarterback.
With two games left in the 1967 regular season and the Coastal Division title on the line, we faced a must-win situation against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, Casey ran a perfect corner route from a wing position, and I hit him with the touchdown pass that gave us the win and sent us against the Coastal rival Colts in what would turn out to be the game I'll never forget.
Looking up and down their lineup, we knew we were in for a game. The Colts had leadership in coach Don Shula, running back Lenny Moore, and quarterback John Unitas. They had athleticism in running back Tom Matte and receiver Willie Richardson. And they had toughness in linebacker Mike Curtis and rookie end Bubba Smith.
They also had depth, which they would need. Receivers Ray Berry and Jimmy Orr went down with injuries, while behemoth offensive tackle Jim Parker retired midway through the year. But Richardson and Alex Hawkins filled in for Berry and Orr, and Sam Ball was thrust into action in Parker's spot. All the while, the Colts continued to win. In fact, they were 11-0-2 entering this final game. We were 10-1-2, so the team that won this game would go to the playoffs.
The teams felt each other out for the first quarter or so, like two heavy-weights in a title bout. But after the Colts mounted 7-3 lead after one quarter, that changed. We took over on our 20 after Baltimore kicker Lou Michaels missed a field goal. On the first play, we called a play-action pass; it worked perfectly. The line did a great job of buying me some time, the backs sold the fake, and Snow ran a good route. He was behind the defense when I heaved the ball about 60 yards and into his arms. He look it the rest of the way untouched for a touchdown.
We scored 14 unanswered points in the second quarter, taking control of the game. But our sudden surge wasn't all the offense's doing. The defense helped us build on that lead when Deacon forced Unitas into throwing a wobbly pass that we intercepted. Using some quick-hit pass plays, we drove the ball down into Colts territory and scored on a 23-yard pass to Casey, which gave us a 17-7 lead al the half.
When the third quarter began, I felt as if our defense wasn't going to let them score and that our offense still had a few touchdowns left in us. Line-backer Pardee helped set up a field goal with another interception of Unitas, and after the Colts trimmed our edge to 20-10 with a field goal of their own, we broke the game open. In the fourth quarter, we drove the ball 67 yards downfield, hitting paydirt when I connected with Bill Truax on a nine-yard TD pass.
And when it came time to put the game away, it was fitting that it was our defense that set up our offense. Getting stronger as the day wore on, the defense sacked Unitas three times in four downs. When we took over on downs, we had the ball at our own four-yard line. We drove the ball down the field, and Bass scored on a two-yard run to give us a 34-10 victory and send the 77,000 fans in the Coliseum home happy.
I ended up completing 18 of 22 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. But the real story was our defense, which sacked Unitas seven times and pressured and pounded him on many other occasions. After all those years of losing, after the years of embarrassment and torment, I could hardly believe we were headed to the playoffs.