Professional football was on the rise in the 1950s and reached a crescendo during the latter part of the decade. Much of the popularity can be traced to a single game – the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants.
Gino Marchetti watched the action on a stretcher from the sideline after suffering a broken leg.
The game played at Yankee Stadium in New York attracted a national television audience and became known in football lore as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” More importantly, the game captured the collective attention of the nation and as a result, pro football exploded across the country in the following years. By the mid-1960s, professional football became the nation’s favorite sport to watch and has remained on top ever since.
The drama was high on December 28, 1958 as the NFL’s title game moved into its final minutes of regulation. While an enamored crowd watched, the television audience lost contact when someone inadvertently nudged a cable and knocked NBC off the air for several minutes.
Hall of Famer Gino Marchetti watched from the sideline as he nursed a broken leg suffered earlier in the game. Historians note that the game actually contained its fair share of sloppiness – six lost fumbles, missed field goals, interceptions, and conservative play-calling – which would detract from its moniker claiming to be the greatest game ever.
But, there’s no denying that the excitement of the back-and-forth battle reached epic proportions as quarterback Johnny Unitas led the Colts’ offense onto the field late in the game. With the clock ticking, the Colts began from their own 14-yard line. After two incomplete passes, Unitas connected with halfback Lenny Moore on an 11-yard play to start moving the offense up the field.
|Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal with seven seconds to play in regulation to force the first overtime in NFL playoff history.
Johnny U. missed on a long pass to L.G. “Long Gone” Dupre, before turning to his favorite target. On second-and-ten, he found Raymond Berry for a 25-yard gain to midfield. Then, Unitas looked down the left sideline and connected with Berry for another 15 yards. One more Unitas-to-Berry hook-up, which was good for 22 yards, put the Colts at the Giants’ 13-yard line. With seven seconds to play in regulation, kicker Steve Myhra trotted onto the field and booted the 20-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. It marked the first time in league history that a championship game would be decided in sudden death.
The Giants won the coin toss but were forced to punt after they went three-and-out. Seizing the opportunity, Baltimore’s offense methodically controlled the ball and moved 80 yards on 13 plays. History was made when fullback Alan Ameche punched through the line on a one-yard, game-winning touchdown after 8 minutes and 15 seconds of overtime to give the Colts a 23-17 win and the NFL title!
HALL OF FAMERS
This game featured 17 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Raymond Berry | Art Donovan | Weeb Ewbank (coach) | Gino Marchetti | Lenny Moore | Jim Parker | Johnny Unitas
Roosevelt Brown | Frank Gifford | Sam Huff | Tom Landry (asst. coach) | Vince Lombardi (asst. coach) | Tim Mara (Owner) | Wellington Mara (Vice President and Secretary) | Don Maynard | Andy Robustelli | Emlen Tunnell
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Box score and play-by-play from the 1958 NFL Championship Game
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