Giant-Size Chain Reaction

The atomic New York Giants fissure the Colts and (helped by Lions and Bears) tighten the pro race
November 17, 1958

The crowd had the uninhibited exuberance of college sophomores at the biggest game in the nation's biggest city on pro football's biggest weekend of the season. Some 10,000 grade-A fans who had made the 186-mile trip from Baltimore helped swell the attendance to 71,163, a record for professional football in New York; they whooped and howled and noisily followed the cues of a dozen short-skirted young ladies who led cheers, but all in vain. When the day ended the Baltimore Colts had lost to the New York Giants 24-21, setting off a chain reaction which tightened up the race in both conferences in the National Football League. The Giant victory lifted that team into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Cleveland Browns, who before 75,563 fans in Municipal Stadium lost to Detroit 30-10. The loss dropped the Colts within reaching distance of the second-place Chicago Bears, 24-10 victors over Green Bay, and third-place Los Angeles, 56-7 winners over San Francisco before 95,082 in Memorial Coliseum.

The mammoth crowd in New York watched a tremendously exciting game. The Colts, with their No. 1 quarterback, John Unitas, still in the hospital with broken ribs suffered last week, came into the game feeling an apprehension which quieted the dressing room as the players suited up. They were still a bit jittery when the Giants took over after the kickoff, and Quarterback Charley Conerly, a grizzled, gray-haired veteran who is as cool as an Eskimo chessplayer, promptly staggered Baltimore by calling a daring first play which saw Halfback Frank Gifford hurl a 63-yard pass-run to End Bob Schnelker thereby setting up an immediate Giant touchdown. The Colts fought back, but this wasn't their day. The incredible Giant defensive platoon clamped down on the wonderfully varied Colt offense. Shooting two linebackers through gaps in the Colt line during the first half, the Giant defenders had trouble putting pressure on George Shaw, filling in for Unitas. Shaw, taking advantage of this and the fact that the Giants put two men on Ray Berry, league-leading pass receiver, threw his most effective passes to Halfback Lenny Moore. Then when the Giant defense had become Moore-conscious, he hit Berry for a touchdown.

But the Giant offense was rolling, too. Kyle Rote, after running, over and over again, a pattern which sent him down to Milt Davis, the Colt defensive halfback, then in toward the middle of the field, informed Conerly that he had Davis set up for a fake. On the next play Rote went down, cut to the middle, then cut back again into the corner of the Colt end zone. Conerly's pass was a trifle long, but Rote left his feet in a wonderful diving try, caught the ball and skidded out of the end zone on his head and shoulder, leaving a long dark scar across the turf. The Giants played audaciously after that; their pregame strategy had been to sweep the Colt flank manned by End Don Joyce and Linebacker Leo Sanford on the theory that Joyce has less lateral speed than Gino Marchetti, the other Colt end. The strategy worked and, late in the game, the Giants doubled up on both Berry and Moore and stifled a Colt air attack. It was a beautifully conceived strategy for the Giants and put them where they deserve to be: alongside Cleveland in first place.

PHOTORICHARD MEEKGIANT AUDACITY began on first play of game when Frank Gifford, taking handoff from old, bold Charley Conerly, tossed ball for 63-yard run-pass play to lonesome end Bob Schnelker (85). PHOTORICHARD MEEKGIANT TRICKERY freed End Kyle Rote for touchdown pass behind Colt Defender Milt Davis. Rote, flying through the air, made twisting, diving catch. PHOTORICHARD MEEKGIANT MISTAKE allowed Colts' Lenny Moore to haul in this desperate pass from George Shaw in last quarter as Halfback Lindon Crow watches sadly.