Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on October 3, 1971 · Page 43
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 43

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 3, 1971
Page 43
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DETROIT FREE PRESS Sunday, October .1, '71 7-C Lions9 Pass Defense to Get Test From Unbeaten Falcons RZADUO'S BY JACK SAYLOR Frt Prtn Sperts Wrltar Bird season being upon us, the Lions go gunning for Falcons Sunday. The Lions meet an undefeated team for the third straight week of the National Football League season as they entertain Atlanta at 1 p.m. before 54,000 Tiger Stadium fans. This was not expected to be one of the Lions' sterner tests of the season, but there the Falcons are perched atop the National Conference's Western Division, a veritable juggernaut. Tie Lions, who haven't lost to Atlanta in four previous meetings, got unpacked offensively in a 34-7 victory over New England, but need another victory to stay in the thick of what sud-denly has become a four-team race in the (Central Division. In other games, the Central Division-leading Bears (2-0) are at Los Angeles while Minnesota and Green Bay take on AFC opponents, Buffalo and Cincinnati, respectively. THE DAY'S TOP attraction matches Dallas and Washington, both undefeated, In the Cotton Bowl. The only other unbeaten teams after just two weeks' NFL action are .Cleveland and Miami. . Atlanta's emergence into this lofty status has been achieved by combining a toughened defense with some torrid passing by Bob Berry. The revved-up Falcons currently lead the conference in passing offense and are second in overall offense. "Our defensive club is pretty damn good," observed Atlanta coach Norm Van Rrocklin. "It's the best defensive team we've had since I've been here." The leading defensive people are Tommy Nobis, the brilliant linebacker, and ends Claude Humphrey and John Zook, who threw John Brodie once in the 49er game and Roman Gabriel twice in the LA game, causing fumbles on each occasion. "We'll have to be more physical this week," Joe Schmidt warned. "The Falcons are a team who'll knock you down if you don't knock them down first." VAN BROCKLIN got his psychological licks in, too. "The Lions are the kind of team you can play without having a football out there they're a rough tough hunch," the Dutchman praised. "We'll have to buckle our chinstraps when we get there." The Lions may be rough and tough, but they are also hurting, although reserve linebacker Ed Mooney is the only one who is likely to sit out the game. He has an injured knee. The other walking wounded include Greg Landry (ankle and knee), Jim Mitchell and Mike Lucci (knees), Wayne Walker (broken finger), Frank Gallagher (thigh) and Mel Farr, who rested knee and rib bruises last week. "Landry's ankle is sore, but he's OK . . . he'll start," said Schmidt. "The rest are all OK to play, too. I haven't decided yet on Farr or Steve Owens. They'll both play, but I don't know how we'll work it." The Falcons got two regulars defensive tackle Glenn Condren and safety Rudy Redmond back off the injury list and will he at full strength for the Lions. The game will send Landry against his 1968 College All-Star coach (Van Brocklin) and against Berry's Imposing statistics. Landry has thrown for 259 yards and two touchdowns without being intercepted as the Lions split their first two games. Berry has 486 yards, three touchdowns and one Interception. Atlanta also has five good running backs, led by Cannonball Butler and Art Malone, but there, are other reasons behind its newly-found success. For one, the Falcon offensive line is healthy this year. For example, George Kunz, the veteran tackle from Notre Dame, shut out Deacon Jones of the Rams last Sunday. FOR ANOTHER, there is some outside receiving to take the pressure off star tight end Jim Mitchell. At split end is Ken Burrow, a fancy dresser from San Diego State who became a bridegroom last Monday. "He lights up like a tote board," Van Brocklin said of Burrow's clothes. Still another first-year man, corner-back Tom Hayes, has already won an NFL defensive player-of-the-week designation. The play of the rockies has taken some heat off the Falcons, who received local criticism of their draft. "They've made our Brand-X draft look pretty good," cracked Van Brocklin. Now they're trying to put a brand on the Lions, who are rated a 7-point favorite. There is no local TV, hut the game will be broadcast on WJR Radio (760). Piston Vets Facing the Ax? Sometime during the next few days, Piston Coach Bill van Breda Kolff may have to pull off a VBK first cut a veteran player. He's never had to do that in his first four seasons of coaching in the National Basketball Association, but it appears he won't have any other recourse unless a ' last-minute trade or two can be negotiated. The Pistons enter their final week of exhibitions Tuesday, playing Los Angeles at New York, with 14 players still on their roster, plus the still missing Mel Counts, who the team expects to get sooner or later in payment for the traded Otto Moore. ELEVEN OF the current Pistons are veterans, and VBK says that he won't carry more than 11 men when the season begins a week from Tuesday at New York. But with rookie forwards Curtis Rowe and Willie Norwood both impressing more and more and the Pistons still high on rookie guard Bunny Wilson, who has been laid up with a kidney infection since the first day of practice, the lives of some Piston veterans may be in peril. Actually, the absences of Wilson and Counts could put a crimp into how VBK cuts down. The coach has said that Counts would help the team both as a backup center for Bob Lanier and at forward. As matters now stand, VBK is using eight forwards, one of whom, the veteran E r w 1 n Mueller, also has worked at center. 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