Greatness came to the Chicago Bears yesterday in the frigidity of Wrigley Field where the team of destiny gave the New York Giants all the best of the breaks and a thoro whipping to win the championship of the National Football league. The score was 14 to 10.
Before 45,801 mittened blanketed, and shivering spectators crowded into the north side ball park, the Bears brought the title back to Chicago for the first time in 17 years by rallying twice, then throttling New York's desperate last second challenge.
An estimated 50,000,000 other spectators viewed the game on television across the country, and an additional 26,000 followed the action comfortably in three Chicago indoor arenas where professional football conducted its first experience with closed circuit theater-TV.
Both Bear touchdowns were set up by interceptions and came on quarterback sneaks by Bill Wade, a gallant and steady performer this day. The Bears intercepted five passes, including two long ones into the end zones.
By their triumph, the Bears climaxed the career of one of football's greatest coaches, 68-year-old George Halas, the venerable pro pioneer who is virtually everybody's candidate for coach of the century. They also qualified to represent the National league next August in the College All-Star game, the Chicago Tribune Charities, Inc.'s annual midsummer gridiron spectacle which they helped inaugurate in 1934.
But there were moments of anguish for the 45,701 in Wrigley field and the millions before television sets before the Bears reached the throne room. Roger Leclerc missed two field goals, one from the 28-yard line in the third period and another from the 34 in the fourth. There were moments in the next 5 minutes when Bear partisans wished the Chicagoans had those six points, for Y.A. Tittle was still in the game, piloting the greatest offensive unit in football.
Start from 20
With 5 minutes to go, the Giants started from their 20 where the ball had been placed after Leclerc's second unsuccessful kick. One, two, three and on up to 10 plays were strung together as the Giants moved, apparently irresistibly, down the field. But on the 11th, Bennie McRae intercepted a Tittle pass in the end zone and the tension slackened.
The Bears made a first down in two plays and appeared to have a second. Make this and possibly one more and they were champions. But Ronnie Bull missed by inches on a third down smash, even tho he gained 3 yards. The Giants were still alive.
One minute and 38 seconds remained when Bobby Green fielded a high snap from center and got a punt away to the Giants' 16 yard line. For the Giants, victory was a minute and a half and 84 yards away. Tittle, in his long career, had gone that far, and more, in less time. A pass to Aaron Thomas, an end with magnet fingers, netted 10 yards. One minute and 24 seconds left. Another Thomas pass picked up 8 yards. A pass to Fullback Joe Morrison got 12. Fifty-six seconds to go! Time for at least four plays, any of which might be the celebrated Tittle bomb.
Tittle missed Veteran Hugh McElhenny with a pass. The crowd drew a deep breath. Thirty-nine seconds to go.
Frank Gifford took Tittle's pass on a down-and-out pattern on the sideline at the Bears' 40. It looked good to college fans among the screaming throng. But in professional football you must come down with both feet in bounds. Gifford had only one in when he landed. Incomplete. Twenty seconds left.
Tittle to Gifford, down-and-in, for 15 yards and a first down on the Bears' 39. Then it came that long anticipated, dreaded bomb. Tittle had plenty of time. He let Del Shofner go down, then in from the right side. But when the ball left his hand, it went into a high lob. It had no authority and no direction. Shofner could not have gotten there in a taxi. But Richie Petitbon could. And he did. Richie intercepted in the end zone and pandemonium broke loose.
Tittle Throws Helmet
Tittle, the epitome of defection and despair, jerked his helmet off his bald head and flung it to the ground. Three times he picked it up and smashed it into the turf; then he slumped off to the sidelines with tears streaming down his seamy face. Three times in three years now he had gotten the Giants into the playoff, and three times he was unable to get themout.
Bear reserves and coaches rushed from their bench. Most of the spectators were too limp and too relieved to move, but some broke thru police lines. Ushers and officers charged in to restore order. Two seconds remained; time enough for one play. They would have to play it out. There could be a fumble, you know, and a Giant recovery and race for victory by the recoverer. Anyway that's the rule.
When they finally cleared off playing room, Wade took the snap and stuck his nose into the ground, clutching the ball, and the championship, to his bosom as time ran out.
New York, contestants in five of the last six world series games and losers on each occasion, took a touchdown lead the first time it had the ball. A fumble by Quarterback Bill Wade set up the scoring thrust on the Bears' 41. Gifford got the touchdown on a 14-yard pass from Tittle, the picturesque wonder man from Louisiana State.
It was the only touchdown pass Tittle has thrown in three playoff games and the first touchdown the Giant offense has scored in that span.
Another Giant chance developed almost immediately when Willie Galimore fumbled and Dick Pesonen, a defensive back, recovered on the Bears' 31.
Shake Off Jitters
By this time, however, the Bears had shaken off their pardonable big game jitters and the banditry began. Larry Morris, football's most underrated linebacker, made the first of five interceptions with which the Bears strangled the Giants' vaunted attack.
Morris, a reformed center, went charging down the field with struggling Giants strung out in his wake. Sixty-one torturous yards from where he had intercepted, Morris just could not go any further. His legs buckled up under him and he came sliding to a stop in a heap on the Giants' 5-yard line. In two plays the Bears were back in the game. Wade sneaked over from the 2, and Rookie Bob Jencks made it 7 to 7 with the extra point.
Giants Take Lead
Before the Giants surrendered the ball, they had regained the lead on a 13-yard field goal by Don Chandler, their veteran kicking specialist, and the teams went to the half with the New Yorkers in front, 10 to 7.
Play became rougher in the second half and feelings ran high, but thru all of the bruising, battering and illegal by-play the Bears kept their heads.
Ed O'Bradovich, the big defensive end whose rush on the passer elicited special attention from Giant blockers all day, picked off a screen pass by Tittle midway thru the third quarter and bulled his way 10 yards to the Giants' 14. Five plays later, Wade sneaked over the Giants' goal for the second time, this time from only two inches out, and the Bears had the lead again. Jencks' kick made it 14 to 10.
It was a bad day for Tittle, one of football's all-time quarterbacks. The 38-yearl-old veteran of 14 pro campaigns turned a knee under the impact of a tackle by Larry Morris on his touchdown pass to Gifford. In the second quarter he was hit again just as he let a pass go and limped off the field.
Shots in his knee allowed him to come back in the second half, but the knee did not cause him as much trouble as the bandits in the Bear secondary. They picked off four of his passes in the last two quarters.
McRae and Petitbon each intercepted long Tittle passes in the end zone. Petitbon's came in the final 10 seconds of play when the Giants had rousted 45,801 fans out of their seats with a drive that seemed destined to bring them their first league championship since they humiliated the Bears in Yankee stadium in 1956.
Tittle was not the only Giant casualty in the rough contest. Bookie Bolin, a guard from Mississippi, suffered a concussion in the fourth period. Tom Scott, a linebacker from Virginia, went out in the first period with a fractured arm. And finally Halfback Phil King went out in the second half with a leg injury.
It had been billed as a clash between the best offense [New York's] against football's stingiest defense. But it turned out to be a struggle of defenses and in that department the Bears take a back seat to no club ever assembled. Giant game plans called for special attention to O'Bradovich and his colleague, Big Doug Atkins, on the other end of the line.
Morris Most Valuable
While the eastern division title winners were making it rough on this pair, the rest of the Chicago defense passed examinations for doctor's degrees. Larry Morris, in particular, harassed Tittle to distraction. He was so effective in keeping football's best point producing attack from getting out of hand that he was named the game's outstanding player and awarded the sports car that goes with the honor each year.
The Giants will say, when they recover from the shock, that luck was against them. Shofner dropped a 31-yard pass in the end zone on the play before Larry Morris intercepted the pass that set up the tying touchdown in the first period. And Thomas dropped a pass behind the secondary in the second period. Both were labeled touchdowns.
They will not make much of the fact, of course, that Charlie Bivins recovered a kickoff fumbled by Rookie Charlie Killett of Memphis State, on the Giants 6-yard line after the Bears' first touchdown only to have the ball called back because the Bears were offside.
Huff No Angel
They may also complain of the way the Bears handled Tittle, but it is not likely that anyone will remind Sam Huff, Madison avenue's idea of a linebacker, and Erich Barnes, an old Bear, that boxing is dead. This pair played as if they had been locked out of a saloon. Fortunately, most of the Bears didn't get too upset over their antics and stuck to their knitting, the same plan Green Bay pursued under similar circumstances to beat the Giants a year ago.
New York got away with small consolation, all of it in the statistics, where they had an edge in first downs rushing, passing and total first downs; yards gained rushing, passing and total yards gained. Tittle bested Wade in passing on attempts and completions, [10 out of 28 against 11 out or 29], but Wade threw no interceptions. Even in total plays the Giants had the advantage, 69 to 60.
But the class belonged to the Bears, especially in the clutch. In the clutch, the Bears, beaten only once in 15 games, were champions all the way.