It was a different time and a different kind of football. Players played the game with much less safety equipment, the halftime shows were basic, no Hollywood with laser lights and wardrobe malfunctions, and the emphasis was on "rock 'em, sock 'em football." There were really no frills, just grit, determination, hard hitting and a lot of pain and dirt. And every little boy in America who ever played backyard football was glued to his family black and white TV for the game.
My older brother and I were included in the fervor. We generally rooted for the Giants except that they weren't our favorite team. Just about any boy growing up in Newport News or anywhere in Virginia were Redskin fans but, sadly, the Redskins just weren't very good in those days. They had some great individual players, but just couldn't put a whole team together to compete with the likes of the Giants or Colts except for on that "any given Sunday" when the underdog rises up.
The game was a good defensive struggle with flashes of offensive strikes like incoming artillery periodically and it was truly a great game to watch. At the end of the first quarter, the Giants' field goal by Pat Summerall was the only score. New York quarterback Don Heinrich was found to be ineffective and was quickly benched for Charley Conerley, who would prove it to be a good move as time went on.
Baltimore bounced back quickly in the second, scoring two touchdowns as the connection of Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry started getting smooth. Alan Ameche added power on the ground while Conerley was beginning to get his "game legs" and the Colts went to the dressing room with a 14-3 lead.
The second half became a different ball game as the Giants responded with fourteen unanswered points, one touchdown in each quarter, to go ahead 17-14. Names like Mel Triplett, Kyle Rote, Frank Gifford and Alex Webster played prominently in the action as Conerley got in the groove. But when they were stopped on downs with two minutes left in regulation, Unitas came in and operated the two minute drill before it was even called that. Now, I don't know how often or even if the two minute drill was used before, but the Baltimore quarterback used it to perfection, moving the ball to within field goal range. Steve Myhre came on the field, kicked the ball through the uprights and the score was tied as time expired. The game would go into sudden death overtime with the first team scoring being the winner.
The Giants got the ball, went three and out and had to kick. In their first and only possession of the overtime, Unitas quickly went to work. With the help of the sure-handed Raymond Berry making two clutch catches, the Colts moved near the gold line and ultimately scored with Alan Ameche bulling his way over from the one. Final score: Colts 23, Giants 17.
There are a couple of noteworthy things to add. Defensive end and star Gino Marchetti of the Colts suffered a broken ankle in heavy action before the game ended. He opted to stay on the field on a stretcher to see the ending. Don Shula was the Baltimore coach and the tandem of Unitas and Berry would go down as one of the greatest offensive duos of their time. Men like Ameche for the Colts and Alex Webster and Frank Gifford would be remembered as great players and, of course, Gifford would go on to a long career with Monday Night Football back when it was worth watching. But most importantly of all, the game showed grit and determination, where team spirit trumped individual glory and the players played because they loved the game, not because they wanted to be rich.
Winners share for each Colt player was $4718; each of the Giants received $3111. Think about that when you listen to all the whining of spoiled athletes complaining about their low salaries and bad treatment and the weak management types who have allowed it to become what it is today. There's today's football and then there was real football. At least to me, I'm glad I was able to witness the real thing. A great game by a bunch of tough and gritty players. Thanks for the memories.