1963 NFL Championship Game
The 1963 National Football League Championship Game was played on December 29, 1963 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The game pitted the visiting New York Giants (11–3) against the Chicago Bears (11–1–2) in the 31st annual championship game. Originally, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle asked Bears owner/coach George Halas to move the game to Soldier Field due to increased seating capacity as well as lights, in case the sun would set during the game. When Halas refused, Rozelle pulled the starting time of the game to 12:05 pm Central Time. The championship was also played on a day when the game time temperature was between 9–11 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Giants, coached by Allie Sherman, were known for their powerful offense, which scored 448 points in 14 games. They were led by quarterback Y. A. Tittle who threw 36 touchdown passes during the season, then an NFL record. Other contributing players on offense were Pro Bowlers Del Shofner and Frank Gifford. Wide receiver Shofner caught 64 passes for 1,181 yards and 9 touchdowns. Another target was flanker Frank Gifford who had 42 receptions for 657 yards and 7 touchdowns. Gifford, formerly a star halfback, had switched to the flanker position in 1962, having sat out the 1961 season following a devastating hit by Chuck Bednarik in 1960. The Giants also used a plethora of players at running back, with the main two being Phil King and Joe Morrison. Although neither one had significant individual statistics, they combined for 1,181 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns.
The Giants defense allowed 280 points, ranking 5th overall in the NFL. This group was led by future Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff. Other contributing players on defense were defensive linemen, Jim Katcavage, and John LoVetere; linebacker Tom Scott; and defensive backs Erich Barnes and Dick Lynch.
Meanwhile, the Bears were known for their defense, nicknamed the Monsters of the Midway. Led by defensive coordinator George Allen, this unit yielded 144 points in 14 games. The defensive line consisted of Ed O'Bradovich, Fred Williams, Stan Jones, and future hall of famer Doug Atkins. The linebacking corps was led by Joe Fortunato, Bill George, and Larry Morris, while the defensive backs were led by Richie Petitbon and Rosey Taylor. Accomplishments by the Bears defense during the regular season included making 36 pass interceptions, surrendering only 1 touchdown in two games versus the Green Bay Packers, and not allowing any passing touchdowns in its two games against quarterback Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. Writers in New York were especially fearful of the trio at linebacker, stating that Tittle had yet to see a group like them all year.
Chicago's offense did not come close to the Giants offense in terms of points scored or yards gained. The group only scored 301 points, ranking 10th out of the league's then-14 teams. The offense was led by quarterback Bill Wade, the number 1 overall pick in the 1952 NFL Draft. Wade ran a simplified game plan, nicknamed "three yards and a cloud of dust", in which they would play it safe by running the ball or tossing short passes to the ends or backs instead of risking giving up an interception. Wade threw almost as many passes as Tittle in 1963 - 356 vs. 367 - but Y.A. favored longer throws, as evidenced by 8.6 yards-per-attempt vs. Wade's 6.5. Wade's favorite targets were tight end Mike Ditka and wide receiver, Johnny Morris.
The Giants opened the scoring in the first quarter when Y.A. Tittle led New York on a 41-yard drive that was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Frank Gifford. The drive was set up by Billy Wade's fumble on the Bears' 41-yard line, which was recovered by former Bear Erich Barnes. However, later in the first period, Larry Morris hit Tittle’s left knee with his helmet as the quarterback threw. The injured Tittle was much less effective for the rest of the game. After Del Shofner failed to hang onto a Tittle pass in the end zone, Morris then intercepted Tittle's screen pass and returned the ball 61 yards to the Giants 6-yard line. Two plays later, Wade scored a touchdown on a two-yard quarterback sneak to tie the game at 7.
In the second quarter, the Giants retook the lead, 10–7, on a 13-yard field goal. But on New York's next drive, Tittle reinjured his left knee on another hit by Morris. With Tittle out for two possessions, the Giants struggled, only able to advance 2 yards in 7 plays. Allie Sherman even punted on third down, showing no confidence in backup Glynn Griffing. However, the score remained 10–7 at halftime.
Tittle would come back in the third period, but he needed Cortisone, Novocaine, and heavy taping and bandaging just to continue. For the rest of the game, Tittle was forced to throw off his back foot (poor mechanics for a quarterback). An interception on another screen pass by the Bears' Ed O'Bradovich was brought deep into Giant territory, setting up Wade's 1-yard touchdown to give Chicago a 14–10 lead. The score would hold up, and the Bears iced the game on Richie Petitbon's interception in the end zone with 10 seconds left. It was Tittle's 5th interception. At the end of the game defensive coordinator George Allen was given the game ball due to his defense's spectacular play. Tittle was held to only 11 completions in 29 attempts, and the Bears superior scouting was shown by their success defending against the Giants' screen passes.
Although the young American Football League was completing its fourth season, the NFL still regarded itself as the premiere professional league of American football, as reflected in WGN radio broadcaster Jack Quinlan's comment as the clock ticked to 0 on the final play: "The Chicago Bears are world's champions of professional football!" It would be another twenty-two years before the Bears would win another championship.
- First Quarter
- Second Quarter
- NYG – FG Chandler 13, 5:11 10–7 NYG
- Third Quarter
- Fourth Quarter
- Referee: (56) Norm Schachter
- Umpire: (15) Ralph Morcroft
- Head Linesman: (?) Dan Tehan
- Back Judge: (47) Ralph Vandenberg
- Field Judge: (21) Fred Swearingen
- Coppock, Chet (December 27, 2013). "Bears defeat Giants 14–10 for 1963 championship". Chicago Bears. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
- The Chicago Bears Wins the 1963 NFL championship, Chicago Tribune, Larry Kart, retrieved May 24, 2013: “Grit, savvy and sheer brutality—those are classic Chicago traits, no matter the endeavor, and they brought the National Football League championship to Chicago on this date...”
Riger, Robert. Best Plays of the Year: 1963. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 1964.