By George Cronin
[NOTE: This is the final installment of George Cronin's off-season series about old-time Giants' teams. I have to give George my thanks. It's been great reading. I hope you guys have enjoyed -- and learned as much from it -- as I have.]
The Giants won the Eastern division yet again, finishing with an 11-3 record. They had the best offense, leading the league by averaging 32 pts/game and YA set a record for TD passes with 36. Two of his receivers, Shofner and Giff were Pro Bowlers.
The Bears won the West with an 11-1-2 mark. They featured three players (Mike Ditka, Bill George, Doug Atkins). Their head coach was Hall of Famer George Halas. According to Ditka, “he threw nickels around like manhole covers.” Their Defensive Coordinator George Allen was another HOFer.
As HC, Allen is the 3rd winningest HC in history (behind Lombardi and Madden), and his coaching transformed what had been a mediocre defense the year before into an awesome force, allowingg an average of only 10 points/game. In 2 games vs GB it allowed no TDs; in 2 games vs. Unitas and the Colts, no passing TDs. CB Rosey Taylor led the league with 9 interceptions
The teams played in 9 degree weather, once again far from ideal conditions for Tittle and the passing game. Many of the Bears later complained that it was the coldest weather they’d ever played in. Nevertheless, in the first quarter, YA led an 83 yard drive culminating in a TD strike to Giff. On that first series, the Bears played their usual defense. After that, they blitzed, hitting YA as often as possible.
Later in the first, the Giants recovered a fumble at the Bears 31. YA hit a wide open Shofner in end zone, but glue-fingered Del dropped it. DE Doug Atkins said, “…I could have caught it. If he had caught that pass, the Giants would have been in command, and I think they would have won. But, that was the kind of season it was for us. We got just about every break.”
The blitzing strategy work when LB Larry Morris smashed his helmet into YA’s knee, tearing ligaments. Tittle’s bad leg slowed his set ups and forced him to throw off his back foot. Morris intercepted a screen and rambled 61 yards to the Giants 5. Wade QB sneaked for a TD.
In the second quarter, the Giants kicked an FG to go ahead, 10-7. On the next series, YA got hit again and knocked out of the game. On the next two series, with Glynn Griffing QBing the Giants gained minus yards and kicked once on 3rd down.
Despite Sam Huff’s pleas to stay off the field, knee shot full of pain killer and anti-inflammatory drugs, YA returned after the half. The Bears gave him a brutal beating for the rest of the game. After another interception, Wade snuck in again to put the Bears up 14-10 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was scoreless, although the Giants still had a chance with 10 seconds left when YA threw a pass intercepted in the end zone. Morris was the game’s MVP. The Bears awarded the game ball to Allen. YA won the league’s MVP as he had in ’61.
A hobbled YA was picked 5 times, but the Giants defense played superbly, never letting the Bears offense past the 50. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Allie. In the off season, having already packed Grier off to LA, he traded away Huff, Modzelewski and Barnes. The Giants went 2-10-2, beginning an 18-year slide before turning things around in a wild-card game vs Philly in 1981.
1963 was another in a series of heartbreaking defeats in championship games, the fifth in six years.
Somewhere around the Tampa game last year, I was overcome by a serene feeling that maybe our bad luck over the long haul was about to turn. After all, but for the Fickle Finger of Fate, four of those games between ’58-’63 could have been Giants wins.
I could cite other misfortunes, not the least of which was the strike season when we had a damn good chance of repeating as SBG champs. That’s why I’ve said on this site more than once that I believe Lady Luck owes us. Tyree’s miracle catch doesn’t make up for the bad luck we experienced from ’58-’63.
My calm certainty about our future remains and I expect a past of habitual frowns from Lady Luck to turn to smiles for years to come.