Gifford and Giants Fall to Eagles
Having won three of four Eastern Conference titles, the Giants looked well-positioned to make another run in Week 8 of the 1960 season. The 6-1 Eagles were in town for a first-place showdown with the 5-1-1 Giants, and New York got off to a good start with a 10-0 halftime lead on a Joe Morrison touchdown run and a Pat Summerall field goal. At the half, the Giants had 12 first downs versus four for the Eagles, and Philadelphia quarterback Norm Van Brocklin was under constant pressure from the Giants defense, which held him to just one completion in six attempts.
To stabilize the Eagles’ front line, veteran linebacker Chuck Bednarik replaced rookie center Bill Lapham for the second half, telling Giants linebacker Sam Huff that the “men were taking over now.” This would be the first of several games in which Bednarik would play both ways during the Eagles’ stretch drive. The bolstered Eagles offense evened up the game on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald in the third quarter and a Bobby Walston field goal in the fourth quarter.
With the score tied at 10-10, the Giants got the ball back behind quarterback George Shaw, who was subbing for an injured Charley Conerly. Facing a third-and-inches at their 38-yard line, Shaw handed off to fullback Mel Triplett, but the exchange was shaky and when Triplett was hit by Bednarik at the line of scrimmage, the ball popped up in the air. Safety Jimmy Carr snatched it and raced untouched into the end zone for a 17-10 Eagles lead with 2:33 to play.
With the situation now desperate, Shaw hit Gifford for a 33-yard gain to midfield. Shaw overthrew Gifford on his next pass and then sent Bob Schnelker deep on second down. Schnelker was open and Shaw was on target, but the normally reliable receiver let the ball fall right through his hands.
Now came the play of the day. Needing a first down on third-and-10, Shaw went back to the team’s leader, Gifford, and hit him near the right hash mark at the Eagles’ 35. With two Eagles converging from the front and Bednarik circling from behind, Gifford attempted to cut back behind Bednarik.
In perhaps the most famous tackle in NFL history, Bednarik hit Gifford hard and high, knocking him backwards off his feet so that his head bounced off the frozen field, rendering Gifford unconscious. In the process, Gifford fumbled and Chuck Weber of Philadelphia recovered the ball. When Bednarik saw that, he leaped in the air to celebrate winning the game, but all the Giants and their fans saw was a cocky brute taunting their fallen star. The Giants’ 5’5″ team doctor screamed expletives at Bednarik, and quarterback Conerly called him a “cheap-shot artist,” but the hit was clean and brutal.
In a bit of quirky scheduling, the teams met again the following week in Philadelphia. Once again, the Giants got off to a lead 17-0 in the first quarter this time but could not hold it. The Eagles were in the midst of a magical season in which six of their 10 victories would be comeback wins. The Giants, by contrast, were headed to a 6-4-2 third-place finish and were starting to look old. A new coach, quarterback, and wide receiver would turn the club around in 1961, but Frank Gifford would retire and spend that season as a team scout while he began his broadcasting career.
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