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The mighty Chicago Bears came into a cavernous deep freeze called Yankee stadium here today and left as football's greatest enigma, humiliated by the New York Giants, 47 to 7, in the National league's 24th annual championship playoff.
Long after the last witness has forgotten the shocking details there will be a question of precisely what happened to the burly Western division champions.
What Was It?
Were they overtrained, worked out, and stale? Did they have no pride in achievement? Did the Giants find some defect in the Bears' defensive armour? Or were they just overrated, utterly lacking in the competitive qualities of a champion?
Along Broadway tonight, they were leaning toward the latter proposition. When the chips were down, with money and title at stake, these mighty Bears could not rise to the challenge of a Giant team that had played its best against them four weeks ago and only succeeded in tying, 17 to 7.
All-Star Game Next
The best hot weather team in football, they were saying, ran into a cold snap and congealed. The Bears were no more than a good practice opponent for a resolute Giant team that romped recklessly over a frozen gridiron in basketball shoes.
The triumph, scored easily for a record playoff purse, brought the Giants their first world championship since 1938 and qualified them as the National Football league's representative in the Chicago Tribune Charities, Inc.'s College All-Star game in Soldiers' field next August.
It was hardly a contest. From the opening kickoff, when Gene Filipski, a former All-American candidate from Villanova, sprinted 54 yards thru a frustrated, fumbling Bear defense, the Giants held the upper hand.
Fans Lose Interest
They scored 10 points on their first eight plays from scrimmage, led 13 to 0 at the end of the first quarter, and went on to pile up six touchdowns and two field goals in a contest that was so one-sided two-thirds of the 56,836 mufflered and blanketed spectators had retreated to the handiest fireside before the fourth quarter was five minutes old.
No one would have believed that the Bears ever would be caught again as they were in the Polo Grounds, just across the Harlem river from here in 1934 when the Giants, in stolen basketball shoes, rallied for 34 points in the second half to snatch a world championship from the immortal Bronko Nagurski and associates.
But they were. They were caught that way today, outsmarted, outplayed and outfought by a new Giant team that appeared to have greater desire for victory and less regard for the biting wind which blew most of the spectators home early.
Error is Expensive
Tests in pre-game practice dictated sneakers, after an unscheduled cold wave had tightened up the gridiron which yesterday was sticky and heavy. The Giants resorted to conventional basketball shoes, the Bears to a sneaker with a different sole. It was a costly error in selection.
The Bears broke four playoff records set by Washington, the Cleveland Browns, and Giants and they bettered 16 records of their own. But they did not block and tackle like the Bears who routed Detroit, 38 to 10, two weeks ago. All in all, they appeared inadequate and frustrated, with a performance that was best epitomized by the last play of the long, dismal afternoon when George Blanda passed into the arms of a spectator beyond the end zone.
Scores on 4th Play
Mel Triplett, the former Toledo university star and the starting full back on the 1954 Chicago College All-Star team, plunged 17 yards thru the arms of various defenders for the Giants' first touchdown on the fourth play of the game.
Thereafter the Giants appeared able to score at will and their defense, the best in the league statistically, was able to choke off the Bear offense, the best in the league, statistically, almost whenever it pleased. It held Rick Casares, the league's leading ground gainer, to 43 yards in 14 attempts and surrendered only eight first downs rushing to a team which had been rushing opponents to defeat.
Brown Drops Ball
On the second play after Triplett's opening touchdown, Ed Brown, who suffered thru one of his least impressive performances, dropped the ball on a handoff to Bobby Watkins and Andy Robustelli, a castoff from the Los Angeles Rams, recovered for New Year on the Bears' 15 yard line. Three players netted only 4 yards, picked up on a plunge by Frank Gifford, the league's most valuable player, so Ben Agajanian, the aged Armenian with the toeless foot, was sent in to place kick from the 17 yard line.
A few minutes later, after Brown had missed Harlon Hill by some 10 yard with a pass that was short and wide of the big end but right into the hands of Half Back Jimmy Patton of the Giants. Aagjanian came back in to place kick his longest field goal of the year, a 43 yarder that made the score 13 to 0.
Webster Gains 7
It was 13 to 0 when they changed goals for the second period, but New York had the ball. Alex Webster, a broad shouldered, hard driving refugee from Canadian football, turned the Bears' left end for seven yards. Triplett, who was the game's top gainer with 71 yards in 13 smashes, bolted off tackle for six and Charley Conerly passed 24 to Webster. This put the ball on the four yard line, from where Webster went over in two plunges. Agajanian again added the extra point and it was 20 to 0.
The Bears, as was the case most of the afternoon, were able to do little or nothing after the kickoff, and Brown punted down field to Em Tunnell. This developed into the Bears' only break. Tunnell fumbled and Rookie Tackle John Mellekas of Arizona recovered for the Bears on the Giants' 24.
Rick Saves 2 Yards
Brown, who because of his punting was the only Bear who did not wear sneakers, slipped and bumped Casares on the handoff, but big Rick salvaged two yards. Caroline gathered in Brown's flat pass for 7 yards and Casares fought his way thru center for 4 more.
Caroline appeared to be off for the goal on a reverse, but his sneakers did not hold when he cut and he settled for 2 yards, putting the ball on the Giants' 9. Casares then went over guard for the only Chicago touchdown. Blanda's extra point made it 20 to 7.
Toss Bears for Losses
Giant supremacy this day was demonstrated shockingly a minute and a half later. The kickoff bounced over Caroline's head and when Don Bingham finally got it, he could return only 6 yards to the 10. On the next three plays the Giants tossed the mighty Bear offense for losses. Caroline lost 2, Casares lost one and Brown was thrown back 5 yards to the 2 on an attempted third down pass.
Then when Brown went back to punt, four Giants poured thru the line and Guard Ray Beck from Georgia Tech, blocked the kick. Half Back Henry Moore fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and Agajanian added the extra point.
McColl Drops Pass
In the second half, trailing, 34 to 7, the Bears switched from their slot and T formation to a short punt with Brown back to pass. They put together their only sustained drive with this antiquated device, moving from their 46 to the Giants' 3 in 10 plays.
Bill McColl dropped Brown's third down pass into the end zone from here and on fourth down Brown passed to Hill. Hill made the catch and had possession, but Patton, coming up from behind, knocked the ball from his arms and the officials ruled it no pass, giving the Giants the ball.
It was a bad break for the Bears, but just how bad no one realized until, on second down, Conerly passed into the flat to Kyle Rote, who went 67 yards down the sidelines to the Bears' 12 before Stan Wallace caught him from behind. Webster picked up 3 yards, then Conerly passed to Rote, who was under the goal post right over the middle totally unnoticed by the Bear secondary. It was small consolation that Agajanian finally missed an extra point.
Watkins Fails to Gain
Blanda, in for Brown in the fourth quarter after Brown had been badly shaken up on a tackle by Walt Yowarsky, a 235 pound end from Kentucky, appeared to have another Bear march under way until he passed on fourth down with a yard to go. Watkins caught the flat pass, but failed to make the yard, and the Giants took over on their 45.
It took them just five plays to bring the score to its final status, 47 to 7, despite the fact that Gifford lost 7 yards on a first down pitchout. Triplett barged outside tackle for 15 yards. Conerly passed 24 to Gifford and then repeated immediately with a 14 yard toss to the former U.S.C. star in the end zone.
Coach Jim Lee Howell cleaned his bench in the last few minutes and what was left of the 56,836 were yelling, "We want another touchdown."
They didn't get it, but what they already had was more than anyone had expected or could explain.