1960 NFL Championship Game
In addition to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, in which the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants in sudden death overtime, the 1960 game has also been called a key event in football history. The game marked the lone playoff defeat for Packers coach Vince Lombardi before his Packers team established a dynasty that went on to win five NFL championships, including both the inaugural Super Bowl and Super Bowl II, in a span of seven years. The American Football League was playing its first season and would hold its inaugural title game less than a week later. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle convinced owners to move the league's headquarters from Philadelphia to New York City, and with Congressional passage of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 received an antitrust exemption that allowed the league to negotiate a common broadcasting network representing all of its teams, helping cement football's ascendancy as a national sport.
The game matched the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Eagles (10–2), who were making their first appearance in a championship game since 1949, against the Western Conference champion Green Bay Packers (8–4) who were making their first appearance since 1944. Due to the lack of lights at Franklin Field, the scheduled kickoff time was set for 12 p.m. EST because the league was concerned about the possibility of sudden death overtime, as had occurred at the 1958 NFL Championship Game. The game was played on a Monday, as the NFL did not want to play on Christmas.
The Green Bay team came into the game with a record of eight wins and four losses, coached by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi, finishing in first place in the Western Conference ahead of the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers who had tied for second place with identical records of seven wins and five losses. The much-feared Baltimore Colts led by quarterback Johnny Unitas, had stumbled to fourth place and a record of six wins and six losses. Green Bay had won six league championships before, most recently in 1944, but the intervening years saw a decline with the team winning only one game in the 1958 season.
At the time, Lombardi was better known as having been an assistant coach for the New York Giants. He had received his first opportunity as a head coach when he was hired by the Packers in the 1959 season leading the team to a record of seven wins and five losses. On the field, the Packers were led by quarterback Bart Starr, another future Hall of Famer, who was then lightly regarded, having thrown eight interceptions to go with his four touchdown passes in the 1960 season. Starr had shared the quarterbacking responsibilities with Lamar McHan, who won all four of the games he started, while Starr had four losses to go together with his four wins. In his four previous seasons in the league Starr had more interceptions than touchdowns in each season and he finished the 1960 season having passed for 1,358 yards, completing 98 of 172 passes for a completion percentage of 57.0. Other names that would shine during the dynasty the Packers built during the 1960s, such as halfback / placekicker Paul Hornung, linebacker Ray Nitschke and fullback Jim Taylor, were also at early points in their playing careers. These three all would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 1960 game represented a chance for Philadelphia to add to the two titles they had won in 1948 and 1949, but the team had declined to only two wins in 1958. Head coach Buck Shaw was in his third season with the Eagles, and in what turned out to be his final year as a head coach, and had turned around the team from a 2–9–1 record in 1958 to seven wins in 1959 to a divisional championship and the league's best record in 1960. The Eagles were led on the field by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, who was ranked second in the NFL with 2,471 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns, behind Johnny Unitas of the Colts in both statistics, and was playing in his final game before he retired.
- A capacity crowd of 67,325 Philadelphia fans gathered at Franklin Field, then (as now) the home field of the University of Pennsylvania football team, with 7,000 temporary seats having been added. The Philadelphia Eagles were major underdogs going into the Championship game. The game-time temperature was 48 degrees, creating difficult field conditions for both teams as the frozen playing surface thawed in spots leaving scattered puddles.
On the first play of the game, a lateral from Van Brocklin deflected off the hands of receiver Billy Ray Barnes and was intercepted by Bill Quinlan of the Packers, giving Green Bay possession at the Philadelphia 14-yard line. After Jim Taylor gained five yards on first down, the Packers were unable to score, turning the ball over to Philadelphia at the six-yard line. A fumble on the Eagles' third play after gaining possession by Bill Barnes was recovered by Bill Forester of Green Bay at the 22-yard line of Philadelphia. Two Paul Hornung rushes gave the Packers a first down at the 12-yard line, but two incomplete passes and another Hornung rush came up short. Lombardi elected to kick on fourth down, with Hornung connecting from 20 yards out and giving the Packers a 3–0 lead. Hornung kicked a second field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter from 23 yards out, after a Packers drive stalled on the 17-yard line, putting Green Bay up by six points. On a pair of passes from Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald of 22 yards and 35 yards respectively, the Eagles scored a touchdown and the extra point by kicker Bobby Walston gave them their first lead of the game. After getting the ball back from Green Bay, Van Brocklin connected on a pass of 41 yards to Pete Retzlaff that was followed three plays later by a 22-yard pass play to Ted Dean that put the Eagles on the Packers' eight-yard line. After three incomplete passes, a field goal gave the Eagles a 10–6 lead. On the following drive in the waning minutes of the first half, Green Bay took the ball to the Philadelphia seven-yard line. The threat fizzled after Bart Starr was sacked for a loss and the field goal attempt by Paul Hornung was wide left from 12 yards out.
A drive by the Packers in the third quarter advanced to the Philadelphia 34-yard line, but Green Bay failed to convert on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Eagles and losing Hornung to a shoulder injury. The Eagles promptly marched down deep into Green Bay territory but a Van Brocklin pass was intercepted in the end zone by John Symank. The touchback gave the Packers the ball on their own 20-yard line. In punt formation on fourth down, Max McGee ran for 35 yards to give Green Bay a first down in Philadelphia territory. Despite the successful run on the fake punt, Lombardi was not pleased, saying "We punt the ball; we don't run the ball" when the team sets up for a punt.
In the final quarter, continuing that same drive, the Packers advanced deep into Philadelphia territory on runs by backs Tom Moore and Jim Taylor and retook the lead with a seven-yard pass from Bart Starr to McGee with 13:07 left in the game. Hornung came off the bench to kick the extra point, giving Green Bay a 13–10 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Ted Dean received the ball on his own three-yard line and returned the ball 58 yards, giving Philadelphia excellent field position at the Green Bay 39-yard line. Dean provided what turned out to be the margin of victory for the Eagles with a five-yard touchdown run on a sweep led by a key block from guard Gerry Huth with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter, capping off a drive in which Van Brocklin passed the ball only one time. Despite having no time-outs left, Green Bay drove deep into Philadelphia territory. At the Philadelphia 22 with seconds to play, Starr threw a short pass to Jim Taylor; Chuck Bednarik, the last Eagle between Taylor and the end zone, tackled him at the Eagles' 10-yard line and remained atop Taylor as the final seconds ticked off the clock, ensuring that Taylor could not get up off the ground and that the Packers could not run another play. Bednarik had played both defense and offense, and was in for every play of the game; he growled "You can get up now, Taylor. This damn game's over."
The Eagles won despite being outgained in the game 401 yards to 296, with only 13 first downs as compared to 22 for the Packers. It would prove to be the only career playoff loss for Packers' coach Vince Lombardi (9–1), and is the Eagles' most recent championship. Lombardi would later rue his decision to go on fourth down on several occasions deep in Philadelphia territory rather than attempt field goals on such plays,saying "When you get down there, come out with something. I lost the game, not my players."
- First Quarter
- GB-20 yard FG 3–0 GB
- Second Quarter
- Third Quarter
- No scoring
- Fourth Quarter
- Longman, Jere. "Eagles’ 1960 Victory Was an N.F.L. Turning Point", The New York Times, January 6, 2011. Accessed January 6, 2011.
- via Associated Press. "PACKERS, EAGLES AT PEAK FOR GAME; Contrasting Attacks to Mark Title Contest Tomorrow Before 67,000 Fans Packers and Eagles at Peak For Title Contest Tomorrow", The New York Times, December 25, 1960. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- 1960 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2011.
- 1960 NFL Passing, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2011.
- Bart Starr, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2010.
- Buck Shaw, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- Sheehan, Joseph M. "EAGLES WIN, 17–13, TO TAKE PRO TITLE; 58-Yard Return of Kick-Off Helps Defeat Packers 5-YARD END SWEEP DECIDES, 17 TO 13 67,325 See Dean's 58-Yard Return of Kick-Off Start Eagles' Winning Drive", The New York Times, December 27, 1960. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- "Greatest Moments in Philadelphia History", Accessed January 15, 2013.
- Gruver, 2002 pg. 100
- "EAGLES BEAT PACKERS FOR TITLE 17–13". Milwaukee Journal (pages 21–24). December 27, 1960. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- Gruver, Edward (2002), Nitschke. Lanham:Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 1-58979-127-4