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A Date To Remember: Shutting down the greatest ever

The Giants smother Jim Brown to win the 1958 Eastern Conference playoff

James Madison v West Virginia
Sam Huff and the 1958 Giants defense did the improbable: They completely shut down Jim Brown in his prime.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

A Date To Remember is an occasional series Big Blue View will be running through the Super Bowl, highlighting the glory of the Giants’ past and celebrating the biggest playoff wins in franchise history.

Third Time’s A Charm

Dec. 21, 1958

Eastern Conference playoff

Giants 10, Browns 0

The objective was simply daunting.

Stop Jim Brown.

He was a fullback who inflicted punishment and rarely suffered it. He was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. And he was maybe the greatest running back — and player — in league history.

The Giants entered the playoff at Yankee Stadium having beaten Brown and his Cleveland Browns twice in the regular season, both times with fourth-quarter comebacks. The second victory had come only a week earlier in the regular-season finale, when Pat Summerall hit a field goal in the snow for a 13-10 win to clinch the tiebreaker.

It would decide the conference’s representative in the NFL Championship game.

To get there, the Giants had to beat Brown and Co. a third time — twice in eight days.

But true to the franchise identity as a physical, defense-first team, the Giants took Brown completely and quite literally out of the game. The Associated Press’ 1958 MVP rushed for a career-low eight yards on seven carries.

Linebacker Sam Huff claims he knocked out Brown — or at least he almost did.

”I knocked him out, right at the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium,” he told Paul Schwartz in the book, Tales from the New York Giants Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Giants Stories Ever Told. “Dick Modzelewski hit him low, and Jim Brown was trying to shake him off and I came in and drilled him...

“He said he wasn’t knocked out. I said, ‘You might as well have been.’”

The offense provided 10 first-half points thanks to a Frank Gifford lateral to Charlie Conerly, who ran it in for a 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Summerall’s 26-yard field goal in the second.

The defense made the lead stick.

”We had a defense that could take a ballplayer and shut him down. I don’t care who he was,” Huff told Schwartz. “We shut Jim Brown down. No other defense has ever done that against Jim Brown.”

The Giants limited the Browns to only 24 yards on 13 carries and rushed for 211 yards on 53 attempts.

There were a whopping eight turnovers in the game, and the Giants fumbled six times (but lost only two).

The victory was the culmination of a terrific run for the Giants, who began the season 2-2 before winning eight of nine games, including a 19‐17 victory over the defending-champion Detroit Lions and a 24-21 win over the Baltimore Colts, to reach the NFL Championship.

It set up what came to be known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” a week later against those Colts. But that’s a story for another day.