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Cronin's Corner: 1958 Eastern Division Playoff

[EDITOR'S NOTE: George Cronin, one of the elder statesman of Big Blue View Nation, has been entertaining us with stories of yesteryear. This is his latest installment.]

By George Cronin

Playing at home and having already topped the Browns twice, the Giants were confident.

There was also the fact that since the Browns entered the league in 1950, the Giants defense had more success vs. them than any other team.

Steve Owen emphasized defense. When he retired, Tom Landry became Defensive Coordinator. His analytic skills gave Paul Brown fits.

Cleveland's team's offense was a relentless machine. Landry recognized that, like all machines, it was predictable. Without computers to help him, no matter where the Browns were or what down it might be, he knew with a remarkable degree of accuracy what play Cleveland would run and how to mobilize his superb defenders to stop it.

The Giants scored but one TD in the game, a dipsy doodle that involved a handoff from Conerly to Webster, a reverse from Webster to Gifford and a lateral from Giff to Charlie, who ran 19 yards untouched into the end zone.

It was poetic revenge of sorts for the loss in an earlier championship game when Sid Luckman ran for a 19-yard bootleg TD.

After the game, the Browns refused to believe Lombardi had designed the play, thinking instead it was an inspired superb bit of spur of the moment playground ball.

Later in the game, Summerall kicked a field goal, and, with the defense holding Jim Brown to 8 yards from scrimmage, the Giants won, 10-0.

The Jints looked forward to playing the Colts for the NFL title, having beaten them once earlier in the season. Johhny Unitas was a rookie that year. After having being chosen by Pittsburgh (his home town) in the ninth round in the previous year, he was cut and played a year of semi-pro ball.

Alerted by a fan impressed by his play, Weeb Ewbank brought Unitas in in 1958 to back up George Shaw. When Shaw went down with a broken leg, Johnny became the Baltimore QB until 1972. (In 1959, Shaw went to the Giants and backed up Conerly.)

Besides Unitas, the Baltimore roster included five other future Hall of Famers--Ray Berry, Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan, Jim Parker, and Lenny Moore. With the exception of Donovan, they all made the Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players of All Time.

Ewbank (who coached Namath and the Jets to a Super Bowl win over his old team) made the Hall as a coach.

Don Manynard played his only year for NY in 1958, so each team fielded six future HOFers.

Next: "The Greatest Game Ever Played."