Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1938: Giants Prove Previous Game No Fluke
1938 NFL championship game: Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants
The title clash pitted the best offensive team in the NFL (Green Bay - 223 points) against the best defensive club (New York - 79 points).
Rookie Cecil Isbell from Purdue alternated at tailback for Curly Lambeau's Packers with veteran Arnie Herber. As required by the position, both could run and pass.
Part of the reason the Giants gave up the fewest points in the league was their dominant ground game, which allowed them to control the ball. They boasted the circuit's second leading rusher in Tuffy Leemans (463y). Leemans and Hank Soar ranked fourth and third respectively in rushing attempts. Yet QB Ed Danowski was no slouch as a passer. The Fordham product threw for 848y, tied for third in the league and only 17y behind the leader. Ed's performance helped the Giants finish second in points scored.
Mel Hein anchored the Giants offensive line at center and the defense at linebacker. He rarely came out of games. As a result of his all-around play, he earned the league's first Most Valuable Player award
Packers TB Cecil Isbell
L-R: Cecil Isbell, Arnie Herber, Tuffy Leemans, Ed Danowski
The Giants defeated the Packers 15-3 in their regular season meeting three weeks ear­lier in New York. The score was deceptive because the Giants scored their two touchdowns on a blocked field goal return and an interception runback. Also, Green Bay's sensational E Don Hutson didn't play in the game because of "strained ligaments" in his knee. He would also be questionable for the championship game.
Taking all the extenuating circumstances into account, the oddsmakers installed the Giants as just 6-to-5 favorites.
More than one writer would comment on the ferocity of the hitting in the title game. The most eloquent was Arthur Daley of the New York Times.
The play for the full sixty vibrant minutes was absolutely ferocious. No such blocking and tackling by two football teams ever had been seen at the Polo Grounds. Tempers were so frayed and tattered that stray punch­es were tossed around all afternoon. This was the gridiron sport at its primitive best.
Two Blocked Punts
With Hutson on the sideline, the Packers could go nowhere on their first two possess­ions. When Hinkle attempted to punt for the second time, E Jim Lee Howell (future Giants head coach) flashed in, blocked the kick, then caught the ball in the air and was dropped at the seven.
New York gained only a yard on two rushes and an incompletion. So Ward Cuff booted a field goal from the 13. Giants 3 Packers 0
Two minutes later, Green Bay had to punt again. This time the opposite end, Jim Poole blocked Isbell's boot, Howell covering the ball on the 27. It took the G-men only four plays to cross the goal line with Leemans crashing through left tackle from the six and, despite being hit four times, diving into the end zone. John Gildea missed the PAT.
Giants 9 Packers 0

L-R: Jim Poole, Ward Cuff, Clark Hinkle
Herber to Mulleneaux
Green Bay finally gained some momentum in the second quarter when Tiny Engelbret­sen (who at 238lb was anything but tiny) intercepted Leeman's partially tipped pass near midfield. After two rushes by Andy Uram to the 40, Herber floated a pass down the mid­dle just beyond Gildea's reach to Carl Mulleneaux standing on the one. Carl turned and walked under the crossbar. Engelbretsen's kicked the PAT. Giants 9 Packers 7
Officials Infuriate Lambeau
The Giants quickly boosted their lead back to nine after Hein recovered a fumble at mid­field. Leemans made a first down on the GB 40, then passed 20y to Len "Feets" Bar­num. Per­haps because a rookie who caught only three passes all season was startled to receive one in the title game, Barnum fumbled the ball out of bounds on the 22 when hit hard by Herber. The official nearest the play ruled the pass incomplete. But head linesman Larry Conover overturned the call and gave the Giants the first down. Lambeau and his players stormed and raved to the officials that the receiver never had control of the ball–to no avail, of course. Curly would proclaim after the game, "It just isn't fair for us to lose a game on account of incompetent officiating."

L-R: Curly Lambeau, Steve Owen, Don Hutson
Danowski to Barnard
Two plays later, Danowski launched an aerial to another rookie, Charles "Hap" Bar­nard in the end zone. With the catch, Barnard doubled his receptions for the year. Giants 16 Packers 7
Hinkle Crashes Over
As they did after the Giants' first touchdown, the Packers answered with a scoring drive of their own. They traveled 80y in seven plays. The big gainer was Isbell's flat pass to Lay­land Becker who took it on the 30 and raced down the sideline before Hank Soar roared over to push him out on the 17 after a gain of 66y. After Cecil gained eight on a fake re­verse, Hinkle ran the ball five straight times, finally bucking over from inside the one to pull within two after Tiny's true PAT kick. Giants 16 Packers 14
Hinkle Stopped Just Short of Goal Line.
Hinkle is stopped just short of the goal line one play before scoring.
Packers Edge in Front
The Packers took the second half kickoff and drove for the go-ahead touchdown. Joe Laws ran the kickoff back to the 32. In just five plays, the Packers were at the Giants14. Three more snaps moved the ball to the five where they faced 4th-and-one. In a decision that would be second-guessed afterwards, Lambeau settled for a 15y field goal by Enge­bretsen to take the lead by a point. Packers 17 Giants 16
Soar Takes Over
Giants coach Steve Owen had used his players in two separate units during the season to wear down the enemy. But behind with injuries piling up, he picked his best 11 able bod­ies and sent them out to regain the lead. And that's exactly what they did.
Soar recalled what happened after the Packers took the lead. "Steve took me out of the game, and he said, 'I want you to go back in again. You call the plays and don't call any­body's plays but your own. You carry the ball every goddamned time.' Well, they hit me with everything except the stands, and that was because they couldn't move the stands. ... It seemed like six years before the clock ran out. ... I think that game was the biggest thrill as far as football is concerned."
Soar returned the kickoff 19y to his 39. Then Hank carried to ball on five of the next six plays, faking one way and cutting back against the Packers' sliding defense. on 4th-and-one at the GB 44, Owen took a big gamble, signalling Danowski to go for it.
"I knew," the coach explained later, that was what he wanted to do anyway, and I agreed with him."
Soar drilled into the line but didn't gain much. But when they brought the chains in, the Giants had a first down by the length of the ball.
After Soar threw an incompletion, Danowski decided to use him as a receiver for a gain of 10. After Workhorse Hank ran again for four to the 24, Ed tossed to him cutting over the middle even though two Packers covered him. Soar grabbed the ball over his shoulder off Hinkle's fingertips at the seven. He was tackled from behind but fell into the end zone. Cuff booted the PAT. Giants 23 Packers 17
Years later, Soar remembered his winning touchdown catch: "I was near the goal line, and when I came down with the ball, I had three of four Packers all around me. Clarke Hinkle grabbed me by one leg, but I pulled and pulled and jerked loose and went in."
The Packers moved the ball on the weary Giant eleven until Danowski intercepted on his 32.
Giants RB Hank Soar
L: Hank Soar; R: Soar scores the go-ahead touchdown.
New York Defense Holds On
The final period was scoreless, but that doesn't mean it was devoid of excitement.
Hein reentered the game with a concussion to call the defensive signals and help his mates repel Green Bay's sorties after missing the third quarter.
The first one came right away when the Packers went for it on fourth down from their 36. Herber whipped a long pass to Wayland Becker, who leaped into the air and caught the ball on the 20. But after he took one stride, Cuff charged in from his defensive halfback position. The impact was heard all over the stadium. The ball bounded from Becker's arms as he fell, and Giant G Kayo Lunday recovered on the 22.
But the Giants offense had totally spent itself on the last touchdown drive and wasn't able to muster much of a push in the final period. So Green Bay quickly got the ball back.
The first play added to Lambeau's rage against the officials. Herber threw a 17y pass from a spread formation to E Milt Gantenbein to the NY 43, but head linesman Conover called the play back and gave the ball to New York on the GB 44, ruling that, on the pre­snap shift, the wide flanker moved too close to the line, covering up Gantenbein and ma­king him an ineligible receiver.
Afterward, Lambeau complained bitterly about the ineligible receiver call. "We had used [the play] seven times previously this year, and there never was a protest." He mentioned that Herber actually motioned to the sideline that he wanted to take the team off the field to protest what the Packers considered a rank injustice. But Curly wouldn't let him be­cause "we still had enough time to score."
In a foul mood, the Packers were penalized 15y for piling on Leemans, an action that provoked a half-minute of fisticuffs. That helped move the Giants close enough for Cuff to try a 36y field goal, but it sailed wide.
Eve­ryone knew what was going to happen when Hutson and Herber trotted off the bench, Herber helmetless, his bushy hair a dark halo under the lights. Arnie faded to mid­field and threw one high toward the goal line. It bounced free on the five as Hutson was herded out of the play.
Two minutes later, the Packers had the ball again after Danowski punted into the end zone. Herber tried the hook-and-ladder play. He threw to Carl Mulleneaux. As a posse of Giants closed in, Carl lateralled to Hutson. Don pivoted on one heel and seemed to have a clear path to the goal line. But Soar reached out and pulled him down from behind after a 40y gain. As the last seconds ticked off, Herber tried to get off a desperation pass, but the Giants' furious rush caused the pass to bounce crazily on the soggy turf with no receiver near it.
Coach Owen gloated: "I think we proved beyond a doubt that we were not lucky when we beat the Packers the last time." He admitted the Giants were determined to stop the Packers' running game. "Yep, they tore us apart and ran through us the other time [No­vember 20]. But not this time. Those kids of mine just made up their minds that famous Packer attack was going to be stopped. And how they stopped it."

Steve also revealed that he had changed all the blocking assignments in his pet "A for­mation." "Then, too, we didn't throw as many passes as usual. When we found out early in the game we didn't have to pitch 'em, well, we just didn't." The Giants' major domo also said that his men were fired up by the talk that they were lucky. "After we beat the Pack­ers two weeks ago and Washington last week, everybody hollered we were the luckiest club ever ... So no one gave my kids credit for being as smart as they really are–and they fooled everybody, including Green Bay."