CRONIN'S CORNER: The Greatest Football Game Ever Played

[EDITOR'S NOTE: George Cronin, one of the senior members of Big Blue View Nation, has been entertaining us throughout the off-season with stories of yesteryear. His columns appear here each Saturday.]

The 1958 championship matched the superb Giants' defense against the Colts' # 1 offense, led by Johnny Unitas, who called all his own plays.

I mentioned in the last installment that he was a rookie who took over when George Shaw went down.

I didn't mention that the first pass he threw in the pros was intercepted and that on the next two possessions he fumbled. Nevertheless, he impressed his teammates because he didn't lose a smidgen of his confidence (some would say cockiness.)

Worthy of mention also, to give a better idea of the quality of the Colts' roster is that Gino Marchetti was hailed as "the greatest defensive end of all time" in the 1999 Sporting News vote, and that Jim Parker was the first full time defensive lineman voted into the Hall Of Fame.

The Giants took an early lead on a Pat Summerall FG. The Colts came back with two scores (made possible by Frank Gifford fumbles) and led at the half, 14-3.

In the third quarter, the Giants made an heroic stand at their own 1-yard line, turning back the Colts four times.

Taking over at the five, the Giants began to move, helped by a Kyle Rote catch, which he lugged to the Colts 28. Hit hard, he coughed up the ball, but Webster grabbed it and took it to the one.

The Giants punched the ball in and cut the lead to four points. When they got the ball back, Charlie Conerly connected on three passes for 78 yards, the last a 15-yard strike to Giff in the end zone.

With 1:56 left, the Giants led 17-14.

The Colts last chance came with the ball on their own 14. Considering their inability to get into the end zone when they had a first down on the Giants 1, I was sure the Giants had the game in the bag, particularly when the Colts gained nothing on their first two downs. However, on third down, Unitas completed an 11-yard pass to Moore.

His next completion demonstrated why Unitas to Berry is considered perhaps the most storied combination in football history. They worked after practice all the time, rehearsing their plays over and over, coming up with ways to deal with game situations.

According to Berry, one play they worked up and used only once covered a situation should an LB walk up on Berry on a play that called for him to run a square-in. They decided Berry should fake outside, hoping to get bumped, and then slant underneath.

On 2nd and 10, with no time outs left, the teams lined up and a Giants' linebacker moved up on Berry. He and Unitas glanced at each other, both knowing it was time for the play they had worked on in practice.

Unitas hit him for a 25-yard gain to midfield. On the next play, he connected with him for 15; the next, 22. With seven seconds left, the Colts sent the game into OT with a field goal.

The Giants received and went three and out. The Colts got the ball at the 20. Unitas drove them 80 yards in 13 plays, with fullback Alan Ameche pounding in from the 1 for a Baltimore victory.

During the game, Unitas hit Berry 12 times for 178 yards.

With the value of practice between QB and receiver so clear from football history, why don't Plax and Shock work with Eli in training camp?

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