1958 NFL Championship - The Greatest Game Ever Played
The December 28, 1958, championship game against the New York Giants in Yankee Stadium elevated football into the national spotlight. It was the first ever championship game to go into overtime and the first to be televised. The 58' championship game wasn't the best game ever played (though it had 13 Hall of Famers in it), but instead was the most important game ever played - showing the excitement of professional football.
This game was loaded with 12 Hall of Fame players and 3 Hall of Fame coaches. Of these, the Colts featured Raymond Berry, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Lenny Moore, Jim Parker, Johnny Unitas, and head coach Weeb Ewbank; and the Giants featured Rosey Brown, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Don Maynard, Andy Robustelli, Emlen Tunnell, and phenomenal assistant coaches Vince Lombardi (offense) and Tom Landry (defense).
The Giants took a 0-3 lead after the first quarter. Frank Gifford fumbled in the second quarter that lead to a 2-yard touchdown run by Alan Ameche. Later this same quarter, Gifford fumbled again that lead to a Unitas to Berry 15-yard touchdown pass. Berry end the game with 12 catches for 178 yards and the touchdown.
In the third quarter, the Colts went for it on fourth and 1 only to be stuffed 5 yards back on a halfback option. The Giants took over and went 95 yards (helped by an 86-yard fumbled pass completion) for their first TD on a run by Mel Triplett. The Colts lead 14-10.
In the fourth quarter, Gifford scored on a 15-yard pass from Charlie Conerly, giving the Giants the lead 14-17. With just a few minutes left, the Giants were killing the clock and faced a 3rd and 4 from the Giants 40. Gifford got the call along the right side, but was stopped short. He still contends to this day that he made the first down and the spot was poor. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough thanks to Marchetti’s tackle and subsequent broken lag.
As the end of the fourth quarter drew near, the Colts had the ball at their own 14 with 1:56 remaining. For the Giants, it was 1:56 too long with Johnny U at the helm. The Colts marched down the field (using the Unitas-invented two-minute drill) to the Giants 13 where Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. This drive was helped by 3 consecutive Unitas to Berry connections for 62 total yards.
The Giants received the OT kickoff , but were forced to punt. Unitas told the players they’d end things now and that’s exactly what happened. Thanks to plenty of “Unitas to Berry Baltimore went 80 yards in 13 plays and scored on a 1-yard run by Ameche. The Colts had won 23-17 and the NFL as we know it had its foundation.
For more details of the game, visit Wikipedia’s page where I borrowed much of my information.
For more information, checkout these articles:
Sports Illustrated: Actual January 5, 1959, article.
Sports Illustrated: The Colts-Giants in '58 was a door between two eras
New York Times: 40-Year Anniversary of the "Greatest Game Ever Played".
1959 NFL Championship - Proving The ‘58 Game Was No Fluke
Essentially the same Colts team came followed-up the championship season with another powerhouse performance, scoring more than any team in the league by almost 100 points. The Colts met the Giants again for the NFL Championship and easily won 31-16.
Wikipedia’s 1959 NFL Championship page.