Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1959: New York Giants @ Baltimore Colts
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped
without losing the continuity of the article.

Bert Bell

Joe Morrison

Allie Sherman

Pat Summerall

Tom Landry

Sam Huff

Feeding off the enthusiasm created by the epic 1958 Championship Game, the NFL played to record crowds in 1959.

  • However, tragedy struck on October 11 when Commissioner Bert Bell died after suf­fering a heart attack sitting among the fans at an Eagles-Steelers game at Franklin Field.
  • The league functioned without a commissioner the rest of the season under the di­rection of Austin Gunsel, the Treasurer who was named president.
With essentially the same teams as in '58, the two conference champions were expected to repeat.
  • The Giants added RB Joe Morrison, drafted in the third round from Cincinnati. He contributed 348y of total offense plus an almost equal amount, 345y, in kick returns.
  • With Vince Lombardi now the head coach of the Packers, Allie Sherman took over the offense. Under his guidance, New York improved from 246 points to 284 (2nd best in the league) and 3330y to 4173 (3rd).
  • 38-year-old Charlie Conerly won the league passing title because he had an average gain of 8.79y per attempt.
  • K Pat Summerall had a great season. He led the NFL with 20 field goal (in 29 attempts) and a 69% accuracy mark.
  • Tom Landry's defense led the league in scoring defense (170) and yards allowed (2843, over 800 less than the second-place Bears).
  • The Giants dominated the Eastern Division, losing only twice in twelve games to lead the Browns by three games.

The defending champion Colts didn't have as easy a time in the stronger Western Confer­ence.

  • After starting 4-3, Baltimore found itself two games behind San Francisco.
  • But the Colts righted the ship and finished with five straight wins, including two over the 49ers, to defend their West title by one game over the Bears.
  • Johnny Unitas & Company led the NFL in points with 374, 90 more than the second place Giants, and yardage, 4458, 286 ahead of the Giants.
  • Unitas set a record with 32 touchdown passes. He also led the league in attempts, completions, and yardage.
  • FB Alan Ameche had played sparingly in the last few weeks due to an Achilles injury.

So the championship game would pit the league's top defense against the best attack.

  • You could get odds either way from the bookmakers: Colts by 3 1/2 in Baltimore, Giants by 3 1/2 in the Big Apple. New York sources said the game was the biggest betting proposition since the Dempsey-Tunney fight of 1927.
  • Both teams, which did not meet during the regular season, were known for their poise. They kept playing no matter what happened - good or bad.
  • The consensus was that Baltimore had more speed, but New York possessed more depth.
  • The Colts ran a more "daring" offense. Unitas took more chances than most quarterbacks. How­ever, Conerly was considered the better ball-handler, faker, and long passer.
  • The Giants felt more confident heading into the game than they did in '58. That year, they had to win a playoff game with Cleveland to gain a berth in the title game, which they entered worn down physically and psychologically.
  • The offense practiced hand signals for use when the Baltimore crowd roared.
    Baltimore CB Johnny Sample recalled that the Colts defense felt that Gifford was the key to the Giants' offense. The blue and white defenders considered Frank a "pretty boy" and knew he was training to become a broadcaster after his career ended. Stopping him became a personal crusade for me, Sample said. If I reduced his effectiveness in the game, it would certainly improve the Colts' chances for a win.

The Giants did as much if not more talking than the Colts.

  • Sam Huff: If we can score 21 points, we'll win. They won't score more than that against us.
  • Dick Modzelewski: We'll win because we have more confidence this year.
  • Allie Sherman: They are as good a defensive team as we have played all year, but we have the personnel to score on them.
  • Tom Landry: No question about it. Our chief problem is to contain Unitas.
  • Dick Lynch, a new CB: The only way to stop hotshots like Berry is to really blast them.
    Even the Giants' wives felt more confidence. Perian Conerly wrote this in an article for the New York Times: Personally, I detect a bit more enthusiasm, confidence and - if I may be old-fashioned - desire in the attitude of the team as a whole than was apparent before last year's championship game. Last season, we were fighting with our backs to the wall from the seventh game on.
    Every game was a must. The pressure was almost unbearable. One slip, one lapse and you're second best. Try not to think beyond the Sunday at hand. ...
    Meanwhile the Colts, who had sewn up the Western title at Game 10, were waiting in the wings - almost languidly.
    This year's match with the Colts is similar in background, but the situation is reversed. With a game remaining, the Giants had the Eastern Division title carelessly concealed beneath their helmets, while the Colts were fighting for their lives out West.

1959 New York Giants
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
11 Don Heinrich QB 6-0 180 Washington 6
15 George Shaw QB 6-1 185 Oregon 5
16 Frank Gifford HB 6-1 195 USC 8
20 Jimmy Patton DB 5-11 185 Mississippi 5
22 Dick Lynch DB 6-1 200 Notre ame 2
24 Phil King KR 6-4 225 Vanderbilt 2
25 Dick Nolan DB 6-1 185 Maryland 6
29 Alex Webster HB 6-3 225 North Carolina State 4
31 George Scott HB 6-1 180 Miami (OH) 1
40 Joe Morrison HB 6-1 210 Cincinnati 1
33 Mel Triplett FB 6-1 215 Toledo 5
34 Don Chandler P 6-2 215 Florida 3
41 Lindon Crow DB 6-1 195 USC 5
42 Charlie Conerly QB 6-1 185 Mississippi 12
44 Kyle Rote HB 6-0 200 SMU 9
45 Emlen Tunnell DB 6-1 185 Toledo/Iowa 11
48 Bill Stits DB 6-4 194 UCLA 6
55 Ray Wietecha C 6-1 225 Northwestern 7
60 Melwood Guy T-G 6-3 250 Duke 2
62 Darrell Dess G 6-0 245 North Carolina State 2
66 Jack Stroud T-G 6-1 235 Tennessee 7
68 Al Barry G 6-2 240 USC 6
70 Sam Huff LB 6-1 230 West Virginia 4
71 Ellison Kelly G 6-1 235 Michigan State 1
72 Frank Youso T 6-4 255 Minnesota 2
75 Jim Katcavage DE 6-3 235 Dayton 4
76 Roosevelt Grier DT 6-5 285 Penn State 5
77 Dick Modzelewski DT 6-0 250 Maryland 7
78 Bob Schmidt OL 6-4 250 Minnesota 1
79 Roosevelt Brown T 6-3 255 Morgan State 7
80 Joe Biscaha E 6-1 190 Richmond 1
81 Andy Robustelli DE 6-1 230 Arnold 9
84 Harland Svare LB 6-0 215 Washington State 7
85 Bob Schnelker E 6-3 215 Bowling Green 7
88 Pat Summerall K 6-4 230 Arkansas 8
89 Cliff Livington DE 6-3 220 UCLA 6
1959 Baltimore Colts
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
17 Ray Brown P 6-2 195 Mississippi 2
19 Johnny Unitas QB 6-1 195 Louisville 4
20 Milt Davis DB 6-1 190 ULCA 3
21 Art DeCarlo DB 6-2 195 Georgia 7
23 Carl Taseff DB 5-11 190 John Carroll 9
24 Lenny Moore HB 6-1 190 Penn State 4
25 Alex Hawkins HB 6-0 190 South Carolina 1
26 Mike Sommer HB 5-11 190 George Washington 2
31 Billy Pricer FB 5-10 210 Oklahoma 3
35 Alan Ameche FB 6-0 220 Wisconsin 5
36 Bill Pellington LB 6-2 235 Rutgers 7
41 Jackie Simpson DB 5-10 185 Florida 2
43 Hal Lewis DB 6-0 200 Houston 1
45 L. G. Dupre HB 6-11 190 Baylor 5
47 Johnny Sample DB 6-1 205 Maryland Eastern Shore 2
50 Buzz Nutter C 6-4 230 Virginia Tech 6
52 Dick Szymanski C-LB 6-3 235 Notre Dame 4
60 George Preas T 6-2 245 Virginia Tech 5
63 Art Spinney G 6-0 230 Boston College 10
64 Marv Matuszak LB a6-3 230 Tulsa 7
65 Steve Myhra K-LB 6-1 235 Minnesota/North Dakota 3
66 Don Shinnick LB 6-0 230 UCLA 3
68 Alex Sandusky G 6-1 235 Clarion 6
70 Art Donovan DT 6-2 260 Notre Dame/Boston Coll. 10
76 Gene Lipscomb DT 6-6 285 None 7
77 Jim Parker T 6-3 275 Ohio State 3
78 Ray Krouse DT 6-3 265 Maryland 9
79 Sherman Plunkett T 6-4 290 Maryland Eastern Shore 2
80 Andy Nelson DB 6-1 180 Memphis State 3
81 Ordell Braase DE 6-4 245 South Dakota 3
82 Raymond Berry E 6-2 185 SMU 5
83 Don Joyce DE 6-3 255 Tulane 9
84 Jim Mutscheller E 6-1 205 Notre Dame 6
86 Dave Sherer P 6-3 210 SMU 1
87 Jerry Richardson E 6-3 185 Wofford 1
89 Gino Marchetti DE 6-4 245 San Francisco 8

Steve Myhra

Phil King

Kyle Rote

Frank Gifford

Alex Webster

Gino Marchetti

Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb

Don Chandler

Unitas spins to hand off.

Jim Mutscheller

Dick Nolan

Lenny Moore

Jim Katcavage

Cliff Livingston

Alan Ameche

Raymond Berry

Lindon Crow

Johnny Sample

HB FrakDick Modzelewski

Jimmy Patton

Andy Nelson

Colts sandwich Gifford.

Bill Pellington

Dick Lynch

Andy Robustelli

Billy Pricer

Harland Svare

Donovan and Marchetti close in
on Conerly.

Roosevelt Brown

Roosevelt Grier

Pellington horsecollars Schnelker late in first half.

Dick Szymanski

Alex Hawkins

Moore outraces Huff in Q4.

Unitas oversees measurement at the four in Q4.

Colts' PAT Q4.

Don Joyce

The game was sold out (57,545) the day after the Colts won the Western Division championship.
  • CBS telecast the contest in 44 states while NBC handled the coast-to-coast radio broadcast with Van Patrick and Byron Saam at the mike and also transmitted the game around the world via Armed Forces Radio.
  • Vice-President Richard Nixon made the short trip from Washington to attend the game.
The weather provided a late Christmas present on Sunday, December 27: 51 degrees, light wind.
  • A tarpaulin covered the field all week. When it was taken off Sunday morning, the playing area was in good shape except for a slippery spot in front of the Colts' bench. However, the efficacy of the tarp was confirmed by the fact that the edges of the field beyond the tarp were muddy due to rains during the week.
  • The sun broke through to complete the ideal conditions.
    During pregame warmups, Baltimore's brash second-year CB Johnny Sample si­dled over to Frank Gifford, who wrote colulmns for a New York newspaper. Hey, Gifford, when are you going to write an article about me? Frank answered, Kid, I don't even know your name. The game would change that.
  • NY head coach Jim Lee Howell just before the kickoff: It looks like a fast track. I hope our fellows won't be too tight. They might be because of so many fixed responsi­bilities today. Darrel Dess is responsible for Big Daddy Lipscomb, Frank Youso for Marchetti, Crow for Moore, Dick Lynch for Berry, and Huff for Ameche.
  • The Colt band played the National Anthem to climax its pregame show.
  • Just before the introduction of the players, a moment of silence was held in memory of Bert Bell, deceased Commissioner of the NFL, and one of the Colts directors, William F. Hilgenberg, who died earlier in the week.
  • Quarter 1
    The Giants won the toss and elected to receive. The flip, as usual, was made with the two coaches during the pregame warmups and simply reenacted with the cap­tains right before the kickoff.
    Steve Myhra's kickoff sailed 5y into the end zone. Phil King returned to the 20. Charlie Conerly went to the air right away to Kyle Rote on a down-and-out to the 42. Frank Gifford took a handout around right end into Colt territory at the 36. Conerly threw a long one intended for Gifford down the sideline, but Frank couldn't get it. On the fourth snap, the Giants ran a standard plunge play to Alex Webster for four. When Conerly tried to pass on third down, DE Gino Marchetti chased him out of the pocket and DT Big Daddy Lipscomb dragged him down for an 18y loss. Don Chandler punted into the end zone.
    Sample started in on Gifford after the kickoff and never let up. We yelled things at him, Johnny recalled. Every time I got close to him, I told him, "I'm going to mess up your face." Gifford complained to the officials about the harrassment. Years later, Frank said of Sample, He was just yapping. He yapped all through the game. Kids will do that.

    Marchetti rushes Conerly.
    Just like Conerly, Unitas passed on first down, hitting TE Jim Mutscheller over the middle at the 25, where he collided with DB Dick Nolan as he caught the ball. Len­ny Moore tried right end but lost two thanks to DE Jim Katcavage and LB Cliff Livingston. Unitas tossed to FB Alan Ameche wide open in the left flat. The Horse ran to the 37 for Baltimore's initial first down. Johnny faked a quick pass to the right, then put the ball in Ameche's midsection on a draw play to the 40 where Katcavage pulled him down. After an incompletion, the next play demonstrated Unitas's great­ness. The quarterback faked a pitchout to the left, then looked for LE Raymond Berry. But, finding him double-teamed in accordance with the New York game plan, Johnny turned to the right and fired the ball to Moore streaking across the middle. Splitting two de­fenders, Lenny caught the ball in stride at the 35 and outran Lindon Crow and No­lan into the end zone. Colts 7 Giants 0 (10:05)
    Moore admitted afterward that he improvised on the touchdown play. I didn't run a regular pattern on that one. The pass was supposed to go to the left side. I was just an out­let on the right, but I was open and the other fellow wasn't.
    D-coach Landry on Moore: He was running so hard, bringing his legs up so high, that one of his knees hit Lindon Crow in the head and left him groggy.
    The touchdown extended Unitas's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 39.

    Unitas looks over defense.

    Unitas looks for a receiver.
    King took the kickoff a step in the end zone and ran it back to the 34. After a 1y run, an incompletion, and a 6y sack, Chandler punted. Johnny Sample gathered in the pigskin at the 28, shook off a tackler at his feet, and ran down the right sideline behind several blockers to the 15. But the ball was brought back to the Colt 42 where he stepped out.
    On second down, Katcavage chased Unitas deep. Johnny escaped Jim's clutches, then went to the ground before Dick Modzelewski could hit him for a 14y loss. After a pass floated incomplete, Dave Sherer booted to Jimmy Patton, who made a fair catch at the NY 40.
    The Colts were offside on first down. Two runs by Webster moved the chains to the Colt 49. Gifford went wide around right end for 5y. On a draw play, FB Mel Triplett showed no sign of the tonsilitis that had plagued him. He went on his patented head-bobbing ramble behind Ray Wietecha's great block straight up the middle all the way to the 16 where Andy Nelson took him down. After a timeout, Conerly passed too high down the middle to Rote, who was injured when he collided with Sample's knee as he fell to the ground. Kyle left the field groggy with a head injury and would not play until the second half.
    After putting Rote out of action, Sample told Gifford, You're next. Frank replied, Kid, you talk too much.
    Triplett went up the middle on another successful draw play to the 10. Conerly pump-faked to the left, then connected with Bob Schnelker on a flareout to the right. Bob went out of bounds at the five. 1st and Goal. Webster tried a run through left tackle but got only 2y. Facing a nine-man line, Conerly tossed a backward pass out to Gifford to the right. But LB Bill Pellington fought off a block and was waiting for Frank. So he reversed field and meandered through defenders until being trapped back at the eight. Conerly went back to pass and, not finding anyone open, tried to run but was smothered by Lipscomb and then Marchetti on the 16. So the Giants settled for the field goal by Summerall from the 23. Colts 7 Giants 3 (1:44).

    Summerall kicks field goal.
    Summerall kicked short to the 15, from where Mhyra returned 16y. The Colts de­clined the offside penalty on the Giants. Unitas handed to Moore who runs into a host of defenders at the 35. Johnny fired to Mutscheller, who almost lost the ball as he was hit by Crow but regained control as he fell at the 40. Unitas threw a quick pass to Berry for the first down at the 44 despite DB Dick Lynch hanging all over him. Mike Sommer followed Ameche into the line for a gain of a yard.
    END OF QUARTER 1: Colts 7 Giants 3

Colts defense swarms.
  • Quarter 2
    Unitas wanted to pass, escaped Andy Robustelli, but succumbed to Livingston at the 34 - a loss of 11. Undeterred by 3rd-and-20, Johnny took the next snap, step­ped up in the pocket, and threw a low pass that Moore grabbed near the right sideline. Lenny dodged defenders for a first down on the NY 45. Following Som­mer's 2y run, Unitas floated a pass into the left flat to Billy Pricer but Harland Svare came across and wrapped him up for a 2y loss. On 3rd-and-10, Unitas threw incomplete to Mutscheller. So Mhyra lined up for a field goal at the 42 with Ray Brown holding. But the boot went wide left.

    Robustelli puts pressure on Unitas.
    Starting at the 20, Conerly faked a pitchout and handed to Triplett who went no­where. Conerly flipped to Gifford in the left flat to the 27. But a penalty for an in­eligible receiver downfield moved the pigskin back to the 10. Fading to his 2, Con­erly threw to RE Schnelker who snagged the pass a bit behind him and continued to the 22 where Carl Taseff made the tackle. Charlie tried to go to the air again, but Marchetti and Art Donovan destroyed the pocket. So the quarterback ate the ball at the 11. Sample returned Chandler's punt 20y to midfield. But the Colts were offside. So the Giants punted again to the 30, from where Sample ran up the middle, then turned right before T Roosevelt Brown brought him down from behind at the 39, over 10y short of the first return.
    Ameche ran a draw play to the 45 before running into MLB Sam Huff and DT Rosey Grier. Against a seven-man line, Moore gained 3. On 3rd-and-1 against an eight­man line, Unitas sneaked for the first down at midfield. Next came another example of the famed Unitas-to-Berry slant pass. Johnny took one step back and fired to Raymond, who escaped Lynch's tackle just as he received the ball and continued ahead until Patton wrestled him down at the 33. Ameche rolled through the middle for 4. Demonstrating his varied ways of connecting with receivers, Unitas took two steps back and threw off his back foot to Mutscheller down the middle to the 24 where Nolan made the tackle. Sommer dashed off RT to the 21 where Grier drag­ged him down. Retreating under heaving pressure, Unitas threw one to the side­line to Berry, but he caught the ball out of bounds at the 10. Hurrying the pass to avoid a blitz, Unitas threw too far in front of RE Mutscheller coming across from the middle. The Colts decided to go for it on 4th down. But the Giants derailed that plan by downing Unitas on the 26 as Robustelli and then Katcavage converged from the two flanks.
    Ewbank afterwards: I decided to go for the pass play because I just had a hunch we were going to hit. Sometimes you gamble and win. Sometimes you gamble and lose. We lost, but fortunately it didn't hurt us too much.
    After a 3y run by King and two incompletions, Chandler booted to Sample, who signalled for a fair catch at the 22.
    Trying to surprise the defense with a long one, Unitas had to run out of the pocket but lost 5y. Robustelli brought him down. Sommer took a flat pass but was trap­ped by Lynch and Grier on the 15. Once again facing 3rd-and-long, Unitas threw to Berry who took the ball at the 38 between defenders and ran out of bounds in the arms of Patton on the 43 for Baltimore's 8th first down. After a timeout, Kat­cavage and Grier poured in and sacked Unitas for a 6y loss. Playing an inspired game, Grier again rode Unitas down, this time at the 27. Johnny converted a 3rd­and-20 earlier but 3rd-and-27 was too much. Mutscheller made a leaping grab across the middle but could get no further than the 42. After the two-minute warn­ing, Crow dropped, then recovered the punt at the 17.
    Trying to make something happen before the half, Conerly threw an incompetion, then heaved one down the right sideline. 6'3" Schnelker outleaped 5'11" Taseff, turned around, and hustled down the sideline until Pellington piggy-backed him down at the Colt 34 - a 49y play! After an incompletion, King took a pass in the left flat and continued to the 31, but MLB Dick Szymanski stopped him before he could get out of bounds to stop the clock. The next throw went all the way to the end zone but was just over the fingertips of Joe Biscaha, the rookie who replaced Rote. So Summerall entered and put a 37y field goal through the uprights. The fans booed lustily as the Colts surrounded referee Ron Gibbs protesting that the ball missed outside the right upright. At the request of Marchetti and others, Gibbs consulted back judge Charley Sweeny, who confirmed the ball. Colts 7 Giants 6 (0:11)
    Reporters who sat in the baseball press box at that end of the field all thought Summerall's kick missed and by a wide margin.
    The gun sounded after Sample returned the kickoff. The fans again gave it to the officials as they left the field.
    HALFTIME SCORE: Colts 7 Giants 6

Unitas fades to pass.
  • Quarter 3
    Chandler kicked a line drive that Alex Hawkins took on the bounce at the 10. He returned to the 35 before fumbling forward when hit. Colt T Sherman Plunkett recovered at the 38. The Giants defense played without S Jim Patton, who suf­fered a pulled muscle in the arch of his foot in Q2. Two runs by Ameche sandwiched around an incompletion to Berry fell a yard short of the first down. So Sherer loft­ed a high spiral to Crow at the 9. Three Colts led by Mhyra smothered him 4y up­field.
    Following a 1y run, Conerly swung a pass to King in the right flat. Taseff and Nel­son made the tackle at the 25 for NY's seventh first down. Facing a six-man line, Conerly handed to Webster, who turned the LE corner for 9y. Gifford came wide right, stopped, and threw back across the field to Schnelker who caught the ball just inbounds at the Colt 47, where Sample dropped him. After Triplett gained 1, Conerly connected with Schnelker, who stirred up the dust with a diving catch at the 26. Webster gained three, and a Conerly-King swing pass added two more. Rote returned at this point. A defensive holding penalty on the next snap gave the NY an automatic first down on the 15. Conerly threw into the end zone to Rote, but Milt Da­vis leaped and batted the ball away. Charlie rolled to the right and overthrew Schnelker on the three. On a crucial 3rd down, Conerly threw to Gifford breaking toward the left sideline. But Sample raced over and knocked the pass down just before it reached the receiver's hands. So they brought in Summerall to kick from the 23. His third field goal tied a championship game record shared by three others. Giants 9 Colts 7 (7:39)

    Schnelker makes a diving catch as Taseff arrives too late.
    Baltimore started on the 20 after the kick went into the end zone. Moore tried the middle for two as Huff tackled. Lynch, who had been so close several times in the first half, batted down the next pass intended for Berry. On 3rd down, Unitas threw way down the field to Moore, but the pass was no good as Crow matched Lenny stride for stride. Morrison made a fair catch of Sherer's punt at the NY 44.
    On 2nd-and-9 Conerly again went to Schnelker on the 30, but Pellington smacked the receiver and knocked the ball loose - incomplete. Conerly found Gifford wide open on the left sideline. Frank caught the ball just before Sample arrived to push him out of bounds for a gain of 18. After Gifford gained nothing, Lipscomb batted down Conerly's pass. Next, Schnelker caught a pass on the sideline and stretched for­ward toward the 27. The measurement showed the ball was a foot short. Thinking a touchdown could still beat them even if they kicked the field goal, Howell and offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi kept Sum­merall on the sideline. The Giants lined up in a tight T-formation for the 4th down play as the defense massed in the middle also. Webster took the handoff and banged into a stonewall at right guard. The chain gang came in again, and the ball was still short. Webster lost 10 inches instead of gaining 10 inches. Baltimore ball.
    Many observers would point to this play as the turning point in the game. Baltimore Sun: At that point, the ballgame began to explode in the Giants' collective face.
    Sommer ran for five. Then Pricer pushed it forward four more. As the Colts lined up for 3rd-and-1, G Art Spinney was called for movement. Unitas had to pass but was pulled down by Robustelli aided by Grier to force a punt. Sherer booted high to Morrison at the NY 43.
    When the Colts defense forced a three-and-out, Chandler kicked out of bounds on the 16.
    Unitas flipped a swing pass to Pricer who ran for 9y. Sommer got the necessary yard for the first down, then another yard as the quarter dominated by the Giants ended. The Colts made only first down in the period.
    Giants 9 Colts 7
  • Quarter 4
    Unitas overthrew Mutscheller to bring up 3rd-and-eight. Johnny rolled left and threw to Berry, who was tackled immediately by Lynch at the 47. After FB Pricer went up the middle for 4y, Unitas took a step back and fired to Moore. In a play reminiscent of the touchdown, Lenny broke the tackle of Crow and ran free down the middle until Lynch corraled him from behind at the 13.

    Lynch brings down Moore with help from Huff.
    With the crowd roaring, Pricer pushed to the nine. Then Unitas rolled right and threw short to Mutscheller who reached behind him to catch the low pass before being planted by Crow on the four. With two fullbacks, Ameche (limping badly) and Pricer in the backfield, Johnny rolled right on an option play. But with the defenders playing the receivers, he ran into the end zone behind the screening block of Moore on Livingston. Colts 14 Giants 9 (12:18)

    Moore screens off Livingston for Unitas.

    Unitas jumps into the end zone.
    New York started on the 20 after the touchback. A Gifford run, a screen pass to King, and a batted down pass by Szymanski brought up 4th-and-6. Chandler got off another excellent kick, but Taseff ran it back 10y to the Baltimore 40.
    The Giants defense did what it had to do, holding the Colts to 4y on three plays. So Sherer punted to Crow on the 15. He returned to the 22, but a personal foul penalty moved the ball back to the seven with 9:13 on the clock.
    On 3rd-and-8, Conerly threw high down the middle. Nelson intercepted on the 30 and set sail across the field before being thrown out of bounds by King on the 15.
    Nelson: I was playing the center of a zone defense and picked up Gifford as he came into my area. Then I saw the ball heading for me and forgot all about Gifford.
    Smelling blood, Unitas handed to Ameche to the 12. Then the crafty quarterback sent LE Berry into the end zone to draw off two defenders and threw underneath to TE Jerry Richardson, who caught the ball at the eight and ran toward the pylon untouched into the end zone. Colts 21 Giants 9
    Morrison fumbled the kick in the end zone, then ran out to the 17. On 2nd down, Conerly connected with Schnelker slanting over the middle to the 29. But with the Colts knowing the ageless quarterback had to pass, tackles Donovan and Lipscomb sacked him on the 25. Trying to blunt the rush, Conerly handed to King on a draw play but gained only two. Then disaster struck again. Conerly threw toward Gifford down the left sideline. But Sample, backing up his trash talk with action, ran across and snatched the ball out of the air at the 42. Johnny ran unmolested until encountering Roosevelt Brown at the five. But he escaped the tackle and pushed through King into the end zone. So Conerly, who threw only four interceptionss during the regular season, now had two in the fourth quarter. Colts 28 Giants 9 (5:19)
    Like Nelson a few minutes earlier, Sample was covering Gifford in a zone. No, I wasn't afraid he's get behind me and go all the way. I saw the ball all the way and felt sure I could beat him on it.
    The irony of Sample playing an important role in the championship game was that he had almost been kicked off the team during training camp. After multiple play­ers reported money missing from their wallets after practices, a member of the training staff hiding in an AC vent identified Johnny as the culprit. Owner Rosen­bloom convened what amount to a court-martial with Marchetti and Unitas presi­ding. Sample, crying, begged for another chance. Jim Parker recalled, We all voted, and every one of us voted that m****** f****** out, except Unitas. "He's a teammate, he's got a family," Unitas said. "It's a chickenshit thing for him to do, but let's try to save him. Despite the overwhelming vote, Rosenbloom was reluctant to act, possibly because Ewbank told him what a terrific training camp Sample was having or because Unitas had put in a good word for the miscreant. Carroll just washed his hands of the whole affair, and Johnny stayed on the team.
    Ray Brown from Ole Miss, whom Sample replaced at right safety, said: First he took my money. Then he took my job. Some reporters got wind of what happened, but all decided to leave the story out of the newspapers.
    At Sunday mass during the season, Sample dropped a dollar or two into the col­lection basket. Donovan yelled out, Gino, he's giving our money to the church!
    Morrison ran the kickoff back to the 26. With the Colts expecting a pass, Gifford ran around right end and followed his blockers all the way to NY 49. Then Conerly tried a dipsy-do, faking to Gifford, then turning and throwing backwards to Frank in the right flat. The halfback threw down the middle for Schnelker, but Sample struck again, returning the ball 27y to the NY 28.
    Needing only to run some clock, Unitas handed to Pricer for 2y. Then he threw a slant to Berry who was hit by Lynch as he caught the ball on the 17. An incomple­tion on 3rd down brought in Mhyra, who booted a 25y field goal to make it 24 straight points for the home team. Colts 31 Giants 9
    Coach Ewbank revealed after the game that he wanted a fake field goal. I yelled to (holder) Ray Brown to throw to Gino Marchetti. I wasn't trying to pour it on. I just wanted to see Marchetti score a touchdown. But Brown didn't hear me when I yelled to him. So we got the field goal instead.
    Triplett, who had to rest on the sidelines for portions of the game because of his weakness from tonsilitis, ran the kickoff to the 31. DE Don Joyce ankle-tackled King on a draw at the line of scrimmage. Rote finally hauled in another catch down the left sideline to the 48. Ray Brown replaced Sample who got a cheer from the crowd as he went to the bench. With the Colts lying back to stop the deep ball, Conerly hit Schnelker over the middle to the 32. Timeout with 0:43 remaining. King threw a HB pass incomplete as Schnelker fell down. Conerly then threw long down the right side to Schnelker running into the end zone to make the final score more closely resemble the difference between the teams. Colts 31 Giants 16
    With fans crowding the sidelines, Baltimore ran out the clock.
    Some fans tried dismantling the steel goal posts set in concrete and partially suc­ceeded.
Unitas won the MVP award for the second straight year but this time didn't keep the Corvette.

Final statistics:

  • First downs: Colts 13 Giants 16
  • Yards rushing: Colts 25-73 Giants 24-124
  • Passing: Colts 29-18-0 Giants 40-18-3
  • Return yardage: Colts 10-180 Giants 6-141
  • Fumbles-Lost: Colts 1-0 Giants 1-0
  • Penalties: Colts 4-20 Giants 3-23
  • Punting average: Colts 6-36.7 Giants 6-47.8
Ten players and two coaches who participated in the '59 title game are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Colts: Raymond Berry, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Lenny Moore, Jim Parker, John­ny Unitas, Head Coach Weeb Ewbank
Giants: Roosevelt Brown, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, Defensive Coor­dinator Tom Landry
You can add Giants owner Tim Mara and Vice President/Secretary Wellington Mara.

The gross receipts added up to $666,281.

  • The players' pool totaled $389,020, a league record.
  • The Colts divied up $210,070 or $4,674.44 each.
  • The losing club got $140,047 or $3,083 per man.


Baltimore Locker Room

  • Amid the ruckus, Ewbank chuckled: Those old men did a fine job. He was referring to pre-season comments - fortified by a mid-season slump - that age had robbed the Colt forward wall of its brilliance.
    He indicated the pressure the Giants put on Unitas was partially a result of his in­structions to his quarterback. I stressed to John he shouldn't throw until he was ready. But I believe his caution led to the victory. He had no interceptions, and I believe that was the key to the game. I told him not to throw until he had someone clear. The Giants were forcing him, and he just had to eat the ball. I think that eventually paid off for us. Weeb agreed that the turning point was his defense stopping Webster on 4th down in the third quarter. Holding them to less than a yard was the key to the switch (in momen­tum). It fired us up. ... Once the snowball got rolling, there was no stopping it. Weeb praised the opponent. That was a great team we beat. And we feel happy and fortu­nate that the fellow upstairs was smiling on us.
  • Vice President Nixon congratulated Ewbank and the players. He asked Unitas about a smudge on his cheek. It's nothing, grinned Johnny. The Giants did a great job on our receivers. I had time to throw, but no one could get clear.
  • Berry, who had only five catches after burning the Giants with 12 in the '58 title game, praised his defender. Dick Lynch is as good as they say he is.
  • Donovan made no bones about his opinion. They shot their mouths off all week, and we played football today. We're just a better football team, that's all.

New York Locker Room

  • Howell: Their defense made all their points for them, not the offense. Both defensive teams were better than both offensive teams. Their defense got the points for them on interceptions and then stopped us pretty good. ... We weren't able to keep Marchetti and Lipscomb out enough. That's what ruined us. Howell agreed the turning point was the stop of Webster on the 4th and inches in the third period. That was it. We were moving well in the second half with our dives and sweeps. If we got that first down and the touchdown, well ... we didn't. The team seemed to go down a bit after that, though they never once stopped trying. ... Conerly had to pass and they knew it. They inter­cepted our passes, and Unitas took it from there. Our defensive line was great. But it let up a little on Unitas in the last period. ... Lynch did a great job on Ray Berry even though Ray made some good catches. Dick was shadowing him when it mattered. ... We didn't play as good a game as we're capable nor did they, I feel. But I don't know if our good game would have been good enough to beat Baltimore today. You just can't expect a 9-7 lead to stand against a team like the Colts. He also said that losing Rote for half the game hurt. He's the kind of a receiver who is ready-made for a defense like the Colts. He is good and fast and can help you move on those short passes. When he returned later in the game, we couldn't afford to inch along like that. Kyle came back later when he insisted he was okay, and the doctor gave him the green light. But he wasn't up to his usual performance, and we couldn't use a number of plays we had built around him. Losing Patton for the second half also took its toll but you can't blame our defense. We held them to seven points for about 45 minutes, and we had plenty of chances to blow the game open.
    He praised the Colts signal-callerOn one third-down play, Unitas needed 17 yards and threw for 29. Another time, he needed 21 and threw for 31. Those are the things that break your spirit.
  • Dick Modzelewski didn't think the '59 Colts were as good as the '58 champions. We faced a much better club last year. But you can't take it away from them. They're champs.
  • Huff: We handled their running game, but Unitas clobbered us with quickie look-ins and slants. I don't care what you say, there's no way of stopping that.
  • Lynch said Berry was the best end he had ever played against. I looked for him after the game but couldn't find him. I just wanted to tell him it was a privilege playing against him.
  • Conerly dismissed crowd noise as a problem for his offense, but the Colts front four was another matter. I was never rushed like that this year.
  • Wellington Mara, co-owner of the Giants, and his brother Jack went around con­gratulating the players. We lost to a better club. I have no complaints, said Welling­ton.
Rumors swirled that Tom Landry had coached the Giants defense for the last time. Re­ports indicated he would take a coaching position with the Houston club of the new American Football League. That rumor proved to be true as regards the state but not the city. Landry became head coach of the new Dallas Cowboys franchise of the NFL for the 1960 season, a post he would hold for 29 seasons.
Johnny Sample played one more season with the Colts before moving to the Pitts­burgh Steelers. He had been a pariah his last two years in Baltimore. He later told Tom Callahan: Don't let anybody ever kid you that the Colts were the closest team in the world. The blacks didn't hang out with, or have dinner with, or go to a club with, or go to a party with, the whites. We knew at the start of every season that an even number of us would make the team. Why? Because you had to have a roommate.
Sample got revenge against the Colts in Super Bowl III when he played CB for the New York Jets coached by Weeb Ewbank and quarterbacked by Joe Namath. Unitas didn't enter the game until Q4. Johnny was always good to me, Sample said. Here in Philly, he'd come on my radio show every year ... Jogging onto the field that Sunday in Miami, Unitas passed by Sample, who said, Not today, John. Not this time, big fella. Unitas responded, Do you still have my watch?
Three years after retiring from football following the 1969 season, Sample was convict­ed of check fraud and served a year in prison.
The 1959 title clash has been called "The greatest game nobody remembers." That's because it will always be overshadowed by the 1958 classic. On the 50th anniversary in 2009, Lenny Moore, one of the stars of the '59 game, was asked about his memories. Don't remember it at all. Man, oh man. Can you believe that? I don't remember me.
Marchetti: That game is lost in space.
Berry: You couldn't come up with a scenario to beat the '58 game even if you stayed up all night to plot it. My memories of it are vivid. But the second one? I've hardly given any thought at all to that.
References: When the Colts Belonged to Baltimore, William Gildea (1994)
War Stories from the Field, Joseph Hession & Kevin Lynch (1994)
Johnny U: The Life & Times of John Unitas, Tom Callahan (2006)
Top of Page