The "Fearsome Foursome" of the Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams “Fearsome Foursome” came alive in the 1960s and became the most dominant defensive line of their era and respectively of all time.
Dick Butkus even called them "the most dominant line in football history.”
Other teams such as the New York Giants (1957), Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1961), and the Detroit Lions (1962) received the nickname “Fearsome Foursome.” Those front lines were short lived.
In 1963, the Los Angeles Rams acquired defensive tackle Rosey Grier from the New York Giants in exchange for defensive tackle John LoVetere and a high future draft pick.
Rosey would then join forces with Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Deacon Jones as the Los Angeles Rams starting defensive line. Shortly after, they became known as the Fearsome Foursome.
In 1966, these four guys would reign terror on opposing teams ranking second best in the league. They would continue the same success through the 1969 season. They would have a few alterations to line during that time.
During the preseason of 1967, Grier suffered an injury and retired. The Rams traded for Roger Brown of the Detroit Lions. Hall of Fame Rams guard Tom Mack recalled his first run-in with Brown when he played for the Lions. "I dove at him and hit him too high, and it was like hitting a solid wall," Mack said. "He slapped my helmet so hard it almost tore my head off."
Like Deacon Jones, Brown’s signature move was the head slap.
The season of 1967 was the year the team took off. Prior to the '67 season, the Rams had not made the playoffs since 1955 and broke a streak of eight losing seasons. From 1959-1965 the Rams registered a 25-65-4 performance.
By the time of the 1967 season, the team led the league in both offense and defense in points scored (398) and points allowed (196) while establishing a franchise best 11-1-2 season. Due to the success of the season, the defense front four got the attention they deserved. The nickname “Fearsome Foursome” started to stick and well deserved.
From 1967-69, the Rams were 32-7-3 and won two division titles, and defense fueled that success. The Rams front four were the main focal point during the 1960s.
The Rams had the misfortune, despite their record and regular season victory over the Packers, of having to go to Milwaukee for a playoff game played in frigid conditions, and they lost.
The front four made the Rams the hardest team to score on in the NFL. They only allowed only 196 points in 14 games in 1967. From 1964-1968, the Fearless Foursome allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL. They also averaged 44 quarterback sacks in a five-year time frame.
In 1969 Coy Bacon replaced Roger Brown and Diron Talbert replaced Lamar Lundy as starters. Ram defense took a hit, but not by much.
Deacon Jones made the term you know today “sack” famous. During 1967, Jones would earn the unofficial sack record of 26 quarterback takedowns. The feat is not a record because the sack did not become an official statistic until 1982.
One thing that made him so great, he came from the left side of the line—which is opposite of the quarterback's blind side. Jones was in full view of quarterbacks, yet they still could not escape the fierce competitor in him. Jones would go on to have great success making All-Pro five times (1965-1969) and played in eight Pro Bowls (1964-1970, and 1972).
Merlin Olsen was a huge contributor to the success of Deacon Jones and the Rams front four for so many season. Deacon and Olsen were great counterparts to each other’s game and success in the league.
Olsen once said, "Every quarterback we met was so ready for the rush that he threw the ball quicker. We didn't always get him, but we put the thought in his mind."
"Deac and I had a great unspoken rapport on the field," Olsen said. "After playing together for so long, we'd learn to anticipate each other's moves. I never had to worry about him."
Deacon replied, "We were lucky enough to blend so well. We put pressure on the quarterback on every play."
Lamar Lundy sometimes went unrecognized of the Fearsome Foursome, but he had an enormous amount of strength and size. He played for the Rams for 13 seasons (1957-1969). Lundy was notorious for always honoring his assignment. Because he typically stayed at home, it permitted Jones and Olsen the freedom to roam and cause havoc.
Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ram’s Ring of Honor, and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
During their time of play, they were often considered one of the best defensive lines in football history, along with the Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings and the Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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