Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1959: Colt Defense Inspires the Offense
NFL Championship Game: New York Giants @ Baltimore Colts
The Giants and Colts repeated as division champions to produce a rematch of their classic 1958 title game.
The Colts struck first on their initial possession as QB Johnny Unitas hit WR Lenny Moore streaking across the middle. Splitting two defenders, Moore caught the ball in stride and ran untouched to the end zone to complete the 60y touchdown and make it 7-0 after just five minutes of play.
The rest of the first half and the third quarter belonged to the New York defense, which held the Colts in check while their offense set up three field goals by Pat Summerall to take a 9-7 lead midway through the third period.
The Colts went three-and-out again, and the Giants had possession at their 44 with a chance to open a two-score lead. QB Charlie Conerly found HB Frank Gifford open on the left sideline for a gain of 18 to the Colt 37. On third-and-then, Charlie threw to WR Bob Schnelker, who 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, New York head coach Jim Lee Howell and offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi kept Sum­merall on the sideline. The Giants lined up in a tight T-formation for the fourth down play as the defense massed in the middle. HB Alex 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."

Colts defense swarms.
On the second play of the final period, Unitas hit WR Raymond Berry for 20y to the Colt 47. Two snaps later, 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. With the crowd roaring, FB Billy Pricer pushed to the nine. Then Unitas rolled right and threw short to TE Jim Mutscheller who reached behind him to catch the low pass before being planted by DB Lyndon Crow on the four. With two fullbacks, Alan 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 DE Cliff Livingston. Colts 14 Giants 9 (12:18)

Moore screens off Livingston for Unitas.

Unitas jumps into the end zone.
The Baltimore defense made the next big play. After an exchange of punts, the Giants faced third-and-eight from their nine. QB Charlie Conerly threw high down the middle. DB Andy Nelson intercepted on the 30 and set sail across the field before being thrown out of bounds at the 15.
"I was playing the center of a zone defense," said Nelson, "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
With momentum now totally on their side, the Colts defense intercepted their second and third passes of the game off Conerly, who had only four the entire season, to set up another touchdown and a field goal to win going away, 31-16.
Baltimore coach Weeb Ewbank 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."
Howell had the same opinion of the key play as Ewbank. The Giants coach 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."