The spearpoint of an attack is the quarterback, said Paul Brown, a trifle wistfully. The sharp difference between his Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants in the 7-7 tie that allowed the New York team to sidle into the Eastern Conference NFL championship last week had been the Giant quarterbacks, Y. A. Tittle and Charlie Conerly, who give the Giants a two-pronged spear. Brown's own quarterback, Milt Plum, was more of a butt than a point in this game. Time and again, under the savage pressure of the Giant defense, he overthrew, underthrew or didn't throw; Tittle and Conerly, under almost equal pressure, moved the Giant team well enough to preserve the tie New York needed for its 12th NFL division championship.
The Giants, of course, will now play the fearsome Green Bay Packers in Green Bay on New Year's Eve for the world championship. It is perhaps unfair to say they sidled into their conference championship. They won by being the best team in the East and they proved that this Sunday in a violent, strong effort against the best performance the Browns have managed this season.
Possibly the biggest factor in the Giant tie—in view of its importance to the Giants it is almost impossible to resist calling it a victory—was the siege gun punting of thick-thighed Don Chandler. Twice in the first half he set the Browns back to their three-yard line, once with a kick that skipped sideways on the five to go out of bounds and again with a punt that bounded high in the air over the head of Cleveland safety Bobby Mitchell and was killed on the Browns' three by Bob Simms. Chandler reserved his most prodigious effort, though, for the last period. With two minutes left in the Giant-Brown game and the news of Philadelphia's 27-24 victory over Detroit already on the scoreboard, he stood on the Giant 20-yard line and lifted a high, sailing kick clear over the head of Mitchell, some 60 yards downfield. The ball was downed on the Cleveland seven, again by Simms. From there the Browns could not find room to mount a final attack.
Ironically, one of the few good passes Plum threw on this cold, gray and damp afternoon was dropped late in the fourth quarter by the usually sure-fingered Ray Renfro on the Giant 10-yard line. Renfro had outmaneuvered the Giant secondary, and the long pass fell cleanly into his hands only to squirt out again as he raced toward the five.
December 25, 1961
For New York the game was a good preparation for the championship game. Cleveland, with Jim Brown, a fullback comparable to the Packers' Jim Taylor, explored the possibility of running off the left side of the Giant line, as Green Bay had done so successfully three weeks earlier. But there was no hole there for Fullback Brown. With the blocking of Bob Skoronski and Fuzzy Thurston in the line and Paul Hornung from the backfield, the Packers probably will be more dangerous than the Browns, but New York may have found at least a partial answer to the Green Bay running offense.
"We pinched in to close the off-tackle hole," said Giant Defensive End Andy Robustelli. "We wanted to force Brown to the outside, where he's easier to bring down."
Al Sherman, the young Giant coach who did a remarkable job in winning a conference championship in his freshman year, juggled his two quarterbacks judiciously. Tittle played the entire first half, relying on Alex Webster as his principal weapon. As the second half began Sherman sent in Conerly.
"I wanted to get away from Webster for a while," he said happily after the game, a small, red-faced man standing in a circle of importunate reporters. "I wanted to use Wells. I knew what Wells could do, and I wanted Y. A. to watch the way Conerly used him." Joel Wells, behind massive blocking from the Giant line, ripped for several tidy six-or seven-yard gains.
The Giant defense, as usual, diagnosed Cleveland's attack almost perfectly. The one Cleveland touchdown came when Paul Brown clearly outguessed the Giant defenders. With second and 10 for the Browns on the Giant 38, the Giants tried a blitz, sending middle linebacker Sam Huff scurrying up the middle after Plum. Plum, who, because he hasn't spent enough time in the league, does not retreat as deeply into the pocket as more experienced quarterbacks like Tittle and Conerly, is usually vulnerable to this kind of rush. This time, however, he was just able to throw, hitting End Leon Clarke over the middle in the area Huff probably would have been covering had he not been rushing. Clarke hung onto the ball and won a foot race to the goal line for the touchdown.
After the game Tittle, who won his first division championship in his 14th year as a pro, called his wife in Atherton, Calif. Theirs was a singularly unproductive conversation. "Damn it, honey," Y. A. said. "We did it after 14 years." Mrs. Tittle began to cry, Y. A. joined her and they cried together for four minutes and then hung up.
In the American Football League the Houston Oilers, as everyone expected, demolished the Oakland Raiders, 47-16, to win the Eastern Division title. The Oilers will play the San Diego Chargers in San Diego December 24 for the AFL title. This will be a replay of last year's title game and, in view of the rather listless recent efforts of San Diego (the Chargers lost to the Boston Patriots 41-0 in the last game of the season), Houston should win again.
And in the NFL, don't bet against Green Bay.