NFL Championship Game, 1958: Wikis


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1958 NFL Championship Game
1 2 3 4 OT Total
Baltimore 0 14 0 3 6 23
New York 3 0 7 7 0 17
Date December 28, 1958
Stadium Yankee Stadium
City New York City
Referee Ron Gibbs[1]
Attendance 64,185
TV/Radio in the United States
TV Network NBC
TV Announcers Chris Schenkel, Chuck Thompson
Radio Network NBC (national)
WBAL (Colts)
WCBS (Giants)
Radio Announcers Joe Boland, Bill McColgan (NBC)
Bob Wolff (WBAL)
Les Keiter, Bob Cook (WCBS)

The 1958 National Football League Championship Game was played on December 28, 1958 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. It was the first ever National Football League (NFL) game to go into sudden death overtime. The final score was Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17. The game has since become widely known as The Greatest Game Ever Played.[2] The game was the 26th annual NFL championship game.[3][4][5][6]

The game marked the beginning of the NFL's popularity surge, and eventual rise to the top of the United States sports market.[2] A major reason was that the game was televised across the nation by NBC. Baltimore receiver Raymond Berry recorded 12 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown. His 12 receptions are a championship record that stands to this day.


Game summary

After the Giants scored first late in the first quarter with Pat Summerall's 36-yard field goal, a second quarter fumble by New York running back Frank Gifford set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Colts running back Alan Ameche. Gifford fumbled again later in the second quarter, and Baltimore converted that turnover into another touchdown with quarterback Johnny Unitas' 15-yard pass to end Raymond Berry to make the score 14-3 by halftime.

Then early in the third quarter, Baltimore reached the New York 1-yard line. But on third down, Ameche was stopped for no gain, and the Colts turned it over on downs after Ameche was tackled trying to go wide at the 5-yard line on a great play by linebacker Cliff Livingston, on a fourth down halfback option play. It was a huge reversal of momentum.

The Giants then went 95-yards in just four plays, scoring on a 1 yard touchdown run by Mel Triplett to cut the score, 14-10. The drive was highlighted by an unforgettable 86-yard pass play from deep within the Giants own territory at the closed end of the stadium: Quarterback Charlie Conerly threw to Kyle Rote downfield left-to-right across the middle where Rote then broke an arm tackle at about mid-field; then Rote fumbled when hit from behind, but NY Giant running back Alex Webster who was trailing the play, picked up the ball and ran it all the way to the 1-yard line where he was knocked out of bounds (although if challenged today, it probably would have been ruled a touchdown).

The Giants then went ahead early in the fourth quarter with Gifford's 15-yard touchdown reception from Conerly. But with about two minutes left in the game, the Colts took over at their own 14-yard line and Unitas engineered one of the most famous drives in football history—a "2-minute drill" before anyone called it that—moving the ball all the way to the Giants 13-yard line. This set up a 20-yard tying field goal by kicker Steve Myhra with seven seconds left to send the game into overtime—the first overtime game in NFL history.[2] As Unitas later stated, the players had never heard of overtime before the game. "When the game ended in a tie, we were standing on the sidelines waiting to see what came next. All of a sudden, the officials came over and said, 'Send the captain out. We're going to flip a coin to see who will receive.' That was the first we heard of the overtime period."[2]

In overtime, New York received the opening kickoff (which was muffed but recovered by the Giants) but were forced to punt. On their ensuing drive, Baltimore drove 80 yards in 13 plays (all called by QB Johnny Unitas) on a tired NY defense, and scored on Ameche's 1-yard touchdown run to win the game, 23-17. This drive is known as one of the best drives in NFL history, if not the best.

During overtime, when the Colts were on the eight-yard line of the Giants, a fan ran out onto the field of Yankee Stadium, causing the game to be delayed. He was actually an NBC employee who was ordered to create a distraction because the national television feed had gone dead. The difficulty was the result of a pulled plug, and the delay in the game bought NBC enough time to fix the problem before the next play.


Scoring summary

  • NYG - FG Summerall 36 3-0 NYG
  • BAL - Ameche 2 run (Myhra kick) 7-3 BAL
  • BAL - Berry 15 pass from Unitas (Myhra kick) 14-3 BAL
  • NYG - Triplett 1 run (Summerall kick) 14-10 BAL
  • NYG - Gifford 15 pass from Conerly (Summerall kick) 17-14 NYG
  • BAL - FG Myhra 20 17-17 TIE
  • BAL - Ameche 1 run 23-17 BAL

Players in the Hall of Fame

As of 2008, 17 individuals (including coaches and administration) who were involved in this game are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[7][8][9] They are:

New York Giants

Baltimore Colts


An estimated 45 million people watched the game on television in the United States. This audience could have been even greater because, due to NFL restrictions, the game was not sold out and thus was blacked out in the greater New York City area. Still, the impact from this game is far reaching. One year later, Texas billionaire Lamar Hunt would form the American Football League, which began play with 8 teams in the 1960 season. The growth of the popularity of the sport, through franchise expansion, the eventual merger with the AFL, and popularity on television, the game is commonly referred to as a turning point in the history of football.

The game is, to date, the only NFL championship game ever decided in overtime. The drive by Baltimore at the end of regulation, with Unitas leading the team quickly down the field to set up the game-tying field goal, is often cited as the first instance of a "Two Minute Drill", for which Unitas became famous.

The Baltimore head coach was Weeb Ewbank. He would coach Baltimore to a second straight championship game win over New York the very next season. Ewbank would eventually be fired from the Colts, and would take the job of head coach for the New York Jets. Ewbank led the Jets to victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III, also considered a monumental victory in the history of pro football.

The Giants head coach was Jim Lee Howell, and he was aided by two coordinators who went on to greatness themselves. The defensive coordinator was Tom Landry, who left the team in 1960 to take over the then-expansion Dallas Cowboys, and led them to two Super Bowl championships. The offensive coordinator was Vince Lombardi, who left the team following the game to take the head coaching position with the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi led the Packers to five championships in the 1960s, along with having the Super Bowl Trophy named after him.


In honor of the greatest game ever played, ESPN presented this game to a national audience on December 13, 2008. This presentation is a two-hour documentary which includes restored footage with colorization as well as a living room approach which included players past and present and fans. This was put together by ESPN Films and NFL Films. It also documents the controversial call on the field denying the Giants the first down with today's technology (the officials got it right).

Final statistics

Source:The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional Football, (1973), p.111, Macmillan Publishing Co. New York, NY, LCCN 73-3862

Statistical comparison

Baltimore Colts New York Giants
First downs 27 10
First downs rushing 9 3
First downs passing 17 7
First downs penalty 1 0
Total yards 460 266
Passing yards 322 178
Passing – Completions-attempts 26-40 12-18
Passing – Yards per attempt 8.1 9.9
Interceptions-return yards 0-0 1-5
Rushing yards 138 88
Rushing attempts 39 31
Yards per rush 3.5 2.8
Penalties-yards 3-15 2-22
Fumbles-lost 2-2 6-4
Punts-Average 4-50.8 6-45.6

Individual leaders

Colts Passing
Johnny Unitas 26/40 349 1 1
Colts Rushing
Car Yds TD
Alan Ameche 14 65 2
L.G Dupre 11 30 0
Lenny Moore 8 23 0
Johnny Unitas 6 20 0
Colts Receiving
Rec Yds TD
Raymond Berry 12 187 1
Moore 6 101 0
Mutscheller 3 46 0
Ameche 3 17 0
Giants Passing
Charlie Conerly 10/14 187 1 0
Don Heinrich 2/4 13 0 0
Giants Rushing
Car Yds TD
Frank Gifford 12 60 0
Webster 9 24 0
Triplett 5 12 1
Giants Receiving
Rec Yds TD
Gifford 3 15 1
Kyle Rote 2 76 0

See also


  1. ^ Sandomir, Richard (2008-12-04). "The ‘Greatest Game’ in Collective Memory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13.  
  2. ^ a b c d Barnidge, Tom. 1958 Colts remember the 'Greatest Game',, reprinted from Official Super Bowl XXXIII Game Program, accessed March 21, 2007.
  3. ^ Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  4. ^ "Dec. 28, 1958: A legend is born",
  5. ^ "Title game wasn't that great for '58 Colts" by Eddie Epstein,
  6. ^ "The Turning Point",
  7. ^ Pro Football Hall of Fame Press Release
  8. ^ 1958 New York Giants roster
  9. ^ 1958 Baltimore Colts roster
Preceded by
NFL Championship Game, 1957
NFL Championship Game
Succeeded by
NFL Championship Game, 1959


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