Fans of televised football were reminded twice yesterday that one man often controls the fortunes of a professional football team.
On channel five, it was the absence of injured Y.A. Tittle that made the difference as the Pittsburgh Steelers pushed the New York Giants all around the 21-inch screen for a 31-0 win. Tittle's replacement, the over-hapless Ralph Guglielmi, looked especially awful as the Giants were shut out for the first time in 10 years. The defense, which held Pittsburgh to 13 points in first half, seemed to lose interest when it became clear that the Giants weren't going to score yesterday.
Later, and on another channel, the presence of another elderly quarter-back inspired the Boston Patriots to a 20-14 win over the previously undefeated Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. Vito (Babe) Parilli, who used to quarterback the Green, Bay Packers in the days when they weren't winning anything, played all the way for Boston.
17-0 Lead at Half
The score was closer than the game indicated. Parilli's team had a 17-0 lead at halftime, and not until five minutes of the fourth quarter had elapsed did the Raiders score their first seven, points. The Oakland squad had one chance to take the lead late in the game, but lost it on a pass interception.
Just one week ago Parilli had been forced to leave a game against the San. Diego Chargers with a pinched serve in his shoulder. The Patriots missed him sorely, and although reserve Tommy Yewcic played well, they dropped the game, 17-13. Until Friday there had been doubt that Parilli could face the Raiders and every time he was tackled, Boston fans wondered if he could continue.
But he got up time and again, and before the game was over he even took something pro quarterbacks are never the ball himself on a running play, supposed to do. It was on just such a play that the Giants' Tittle was hurt last week and lost to the club; Parilli had to have confidence in his physical condition to attempt the run.
If Parilli is well, the Patriots have a good chance to take the title in the well-balanced Eastern Division of the AFL. They lead now with a record of two wins and one loss, pursued by the New York Jets (1-1), the Houston Oilers (1-2), and the Buffalo Bills (0-2-1).
And they have taken the lead despite losing Parilli for one game and in the absence of flanker back Art Colclough, the team's number one receiver last year. Colclough played for a time in today's game, but was operating only at half speed.
The Patriots do not rely exclusively on their passing game; their Larry Garron is a tough runner, who was averaging over four yards a carry going into today's game. Behind him the team has Jim Crawford, a powerful halfback, and Billy Lott, a fine runner who can also catch a pass from time to time. He caught one today for 55 yards and the Patriots' first touchdown after a masterful fake by Parilli had drawn the Oakland defense (and the TV camera) in.
The Patriots also have a field-goal kicker named Gino Capeletti who could make any team in the NFL. He demonstrated his ability today with 43 and 47 yard field goals which ultimately provided the margin of victory.
The Patriots don't play a home game until they face Oakland at Fenway Park, October 11. When they return to Boston, however, it might be worth your while to go take a look. AFL football is getting good enough for any NFL fan to enjoy.