Colts and NFL Win Greatest Game Ever
It is to this day, the only overtime NFL championship game in history. The game, which was televised live to 45 million viewers, is credited with cementing the NFL’s popularity and leading to the launch of the AFL two years later.
How They Got There
The Western Conference Baltimore Colts, who were only in their 6th season and had only one prior winning season, had started the season winning their first six games before losing to the Eastern Conference New York Giants 24-21 (albeit with their start quarterback Johnny Unitas on the bench due to injury). Both teams finished 9-3 on top of their respective conferences, although the Giants were tied with the Cleveland Browns and beat them 10-0 in a playoff.
Playing at home at Yankee Stadium, the Giants went up 17-14. With only two-minutes to go and the ball on their own 14 yard line, Johnny Unitas led one of the first two-minute drills to the New York 13 yard line for the tying field goal. The Giants got the ball first in overtime, but punted it back to Baltimore. Then Unitas led an 80 yard drive that culminated in Alan Ameche’s 1 yard touchdown run for the victory.
|1st||Giants||Pat Summerall 36 yard field goal||0||3|
|2nd||Colts||Alan Ameche 2 yard rush (Steve Myhra kick)||7||3|
|Colts||Raymond Berry 15 yard pass from Johnny Unitas (Steve Myhra kick)||14||3|
|3rd||Giants||Mel Triplett 1 yard rush (Pat Summerall kick)||14||10|
|4th||Giants||Frank Gifford 15 yard pass from Charlie Conerly (Pat Summerall kick)||14||17|
|Colts||Steve Myhra 20 yard field goal||17||17|
|OT||Colts||Alan Ameche 1 yard rush||23||17|
The two teams played a rematch for the title the next year at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium with the Colts winning 31-16.
He was the first quarterback to throw for more than 40,000 yards, despite playing during an era when NFL teams played shorter seasons of 12 or 14 games (as opposed to today’s 16-game seasons) and prior to modern passing-friendly rules implemented in 1978. His 32 touchdown passes in 1959 were a record at the time, making Unitas the first QB to hit the 30 touchdown mark in a season. His 47-game consecutive touchdown streak between 1956 and 1960 was a record considered by many to be unbreakable. The streak stood for 52 years before being broken by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a game against the San Diego Chargers on October 7, 2012.
Super Bowl Coaches
- The Colts were coached by Weeb Ewbank who would coach the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III . . . over the Baltimore Colts.
- The loss ended the Giant career of offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi who took over as coach of the Green Bay Packers the following year and led them to Championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967 (the last two being Super Bowls I and II).
- The Giants lost their defensive coordinator the following year, when Tom Landry became the expansion Dallas Cowboys first coach. Landry coached the Cowboys to five Super Bowls, winning two, during his 29 years as coach.
- Unitas’ go-to receiver was Hall-of-Famer Raymond Berry, who coached the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1985.