Tittle began his career in the All-America Football Conference with the original Baltimore Colts. He then spent a decade in San Francisco as part of the 49ers’ “Million-Dollar Backfield” with Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, and John Henry Johnson. Tittle was a very precise passer with a sidearm throwing motion. He was one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but he never got to a championship game. In 1961, the 49ers shifted to the shotgun offense and felt they had no need for a 35-year-old quarterback, so they traded Tittle to New York for forgettable lineman Lou Cordileone. Tittle came into a difficult situation in New York supplanting the 40-year-old respected veteran Charley Conerly but ultimately his leadership knit the whole team together into one unit. Tittle led the aging Giants to three straight NFL Championship Games from 1961 to 1963; he won Player of the Year recognition each year. In those three years, Tittle threw for 86 touchdowns, including a record 33 in 1962 and a record 36 the following season. In the two latter seasons, he threw for more than 3,000 yards and ran the best passing offense in the NFL. The Giants lost all three title games, however, and then time ran out on Tittle and the team in 1964. Despite his brief time in blue, the Giants retired Tittle’s No. 14 jersey because of his unequalled passing. Tittle completions culminated with a 32-yard touchdown to Shofner. Tittle’s fifth touchdown pass went to Walton for 26 yards, and his sixth to Frank Gifford for 63 yards. The league record for touchdown passes in a game was seven, held by Sid Luckman and Adrian Burk, so that left Tittle just one shy. In the midst of this scoring explosion, Y. A. completed 12 passes in a row, just one short of another NFL record, as the Giants took a commanding 42-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
Midway through the final period, Tittle hit Shofner again for 50 yards to take the ball to the Washington 15. Three plays later came the record-tying seventh touchdown pass on a well-crafted play. With Walton and Gifford on the right side, the two ran crisscrossing patterns Gifford in and Walton out that confused
Washington’s secondary and left Walton all alone by the flag, where Tittle hit him for the last touchdown. The crowd began calling for touchdown pass number eight, but Tittle took the air out of the ball with the Giants up by 29 points. The Redskins managed two late touchdowns to make the score closer, but Tittle did not counter with any further air strikes.
For the day, Shofner caught 11 passes for 269 yards, and Tittle completed 27-of-39 for 505 yards and those seven touchdowns not bad for a couple of banged-up veterans. The Giants were within a game of first place; they would not lose again until the championship game against the Packers. By contrast, the upstart Redskins would lose seven of their last eight games and finish in fourth place in the East.
Del Shbfnei Y. A. Tittle’s roommate also came to the Giants in a 1961 trade, and he gave Tittle the best target he ever had. Del Shofner was a tall, wispy, injury-prone receiver who had great hands and blazing speed. He and Tittle teamed up to form the best long-ball threat in the game, as they showed on a 32-yard touchdown on this day of seven touchdown passes.
Shofner was originally drafted by the Rams with a number-one pick they had obtained from the Giants for Hall of Fame defensive end Andy Robustelli. Shofner first played defensive back but then was shifted to receiver, and he led the NFL in receiving yards in his second season.
After an injury-riddled 1960 season, Shofner was dealt to the Giants for a first-round draft pick. He led the Giants in receiving for the next three seasons, setting a club record in 1961 with 68 catches. He went over 1,000 yards each year from 1961 to 1963 and scored 32 touchdowns in that time, only missing one game to injury. Age and injuries caught up to him after 1963, though. In his last four seasons, he only played in 37 games and caught 54 passes for just three touchdowns. For his career, he averaged 18.5 yards per catch and was a five-time All-Pro.
Wide receiver Del Shofner teamed with Y.A. Tittle to form one of the game’s most dangerous passing combinations. (Photo courtesy of Wirelmages)
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On the final touchdown pass, Joe Walton (80) and Frank Gifford (16) are on the right side. Both head straight down the field, and then Gifford breaks in and Walton breaks out as they crisscross. Both Washington’s safety (41) and cornerback (20) stay with Gifford, although the corner should have switched his coverage to Walton after the crisscross. The result is an uncovered Walton at the flag, and he catches an easy toss from Tittle (14) for the score.
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