By George Cronin
[NOTE: This is the latest installment of George Cronin's look back at the Giants of yesteryear. So far, George has taken us an a history lesson from the 1930s all the way the '60s. Today, he talks about 1962.]
Giff came back in’62 and played his third position on the team, flanker, replacing Rote, who retired. The Giants won the Eastern Division again with a 12-2 record. They led the league in total offense, gaining more than 5,000 yards and scoring 35 TD passes (33 by YA.)
They met the Pack (13-0) for the NFL championship, fired up to avenge their humiliating loss in the previous year. The teams fielded 15 HOF players. Jim Taylor led the league in rushing, the only time in Jim Brown's career that he failed to gain that honor.
In 1961, despite a clear, blustery day that made passing tough, the field conditions in Lambeau were good. A snowstorm had been forecast and the field was covered hith bales of hay. The hay and snow were removed the morning of the game, and the turf was in good shape.
In ’62, an unexpected, overnight ice storm froze the Yankee Stadium field. The temperature was 13, and swirling 40 MPH winds brought the wind chill factor down to -25. Gusts blew the heavy sideline benches over. Ice formed around players’ eyelids and noses. YA talked of being snake-bitten by the weather two years in a row and of a ball frozen like a block of ice.
Green Bay players have been quoted as swearing that it was colder than the “Ice Bowl” game vs. Dallas in ’67. Hornung called it the hardest game he ever played. Lombardi as fine a football game as he'd ever seen. Blacked out in NYC, I watched this game in a crowded bar on the Jersey shore. The game plan was simple: control the clock by run, run, running Taylor, mostly on sweeps behind a wall of blockers including Hornung and the offensive line.
In the first quarter, Jerry Kramer, who earlier in the year replaced Hornung (leg injury) as placekicker, put Green Bay ahead with a field goal one, of three successes out of five attempts. He wore cleats with a kicking toe, unlike the sneaks worn by all the other players from both teams
In the second quarter, Giants FB Phil King fumbled on the Giants 28 yard line and Ray Nitschke, the Pack’s MLB recovered. On first down, Hornung hit on an option pass to the Giants 7. On the next play Taylor scored on one of the few cutbacks he made that day, which the pursuing defense overran. Later, the Giants tightened things up when CB Erich Barnes blocked a punt and one of his teammates fell on the ball for a TD. GB led at the half, 10-7.
In the second half, the Pack kept battering the Giants defense with Taylor. He needed stitches in his arm during half time, which kept opening every time he scraped them on the frozen ground during the second half. Spitting blood from a bitten tongue, Taylor heaved up from every pile up challenging the Giants to hit him harder.
By the end of the day, The Giants outgained Green Bay in yardage, 291-244, but couldn’t score again and went down to defeat 16-7, the fourth loss in a championship game in five years. Taylor carried the ball 31 times for 85 yards.
Ray Nitschke won the MVP. He played like a wild man, made tackles all over the field, deflected a pass on GB’s 10 that led to interception and recovered two fumbles. One led to a TD; the other, a FG. The Pack players awarded the team ball to Kramer for insuring the win with FGs in impossible conditions.
Allie Sherman won Coach-of-the Year honors for the second time in a row. I believe that’s the only time that has happened.
So the Giants wound up losing the championship game for the fourth time in five years. As a fan, I take the little consolation provided by the knowledge that, in the judgment of most experts, the Colts of 1958-59 (along with the Packers of 1961-62) were among the best teams to ever play in the NFL. But damn, we could have won as many as three of those games.