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1963 NFL season

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1963 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 15, 1963 – December 29, 1963
National Football League seasons
 < 1962 1964 > 

The 1963 NFL season was the 44th regular season of the National Football League. On April 17, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle indefinitely suspended Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras for gambling on their own teams, as well as other NFL games; Hornung and Karras would miss the entire season. In addition, five other Detroit players were fined $2,000 each for placing bets on one game in which they did not participate.

The season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.

JFK assassination

On November 24, just two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said about playing the games: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition."[1] Attendance at games went unaffected despite the assassination.[2][3] Although the choice to play the games was protested, and Rozelle had also eventually regretted the decision,[4] he stated that Kennedy's secretary, Pierre Salinger, had urged him to allow the games to be played.[5]

However, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins had sought postponement of the games.[6][7] Eventually, the game between the two teams in Philadelphia saw acts of kindness from both sides. Before the game, each of the Eagles players contributed $50 to the family of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed by the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.[8] After the game ended, players on the Redskins asked Coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend,[8] saying that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory."[9]

No NFL games were telecast, since on the afternoon of the 22nd, just after the president had been pronounced dead, CBS President Frank Stanton ordered that all regular programming be pre-empted until after Mr. Kennedy was buried. Normal programming, including the NFL, was replaced by non-stop news coverage, broadcast without commercials.

Conference races

The Eastern and Western Conference races were undecided until the final day of the regular season. In the Eastern, the Browns were 7–1–0 after eight games, but on November 10, the Browns lost 9–7 at Pittsburgh, while the Giants beat the Eagles 42–14, to tie New York and Cleveland at 7–2–0. When the Giants won again and the Browns lost, the former had the lead.

The Western Division race was close as well. The Bears were 5–0 and the Packers 4–1 as of October 13. In Week Six, Green Bay won at St. Louis, 30–7, while Chicago lost at San Francisco, 20–14, tying the Bears and Packers for the lead at 6–1. Both teams continued to win, and then met in Chicago on November 17, where Green Bay lost, 26–7.

The games scheduled for Week Eleven took place on the weekend after the Kennedy assassination. Unlike the American Football League, which cancelled its schedule, the NFL chose to play the games, although they were not televised due to round-the-clock network TV coverage of the assassination aftermath. The Giants lost at home to St. Louis, 24–17, while Cleveland beat visiting Dallas 27–17, to give the three teams identical 8–3–0 records. The Bears were losing at Pittsburgh until Roger Leclerc kicked a field goal to get a 17–17 tie, and to stay half a game ahead of Green Bay.

In Week Twelve, Green Bay's chance to win was cancelled when Detroit tied the game 10–10, while Chicago averted another loss by tying Minnesota 17–17. The three way tie in the Eastern was pared down when Cleveland beat St. Louis 24–10, and New York won (34–27 over Dallas).

Week Thirteen saw both the Bears and Packers winning, while Cleveland lost to Detroit, 38–10. New York won 44–14 over Washington, but at 10–3–0, New York was trailed by Pittsburgh, which had an unusual 7–3–3 record, and the final game of the season would match the Steelers and Giants at Yankee Stadium.

Under the rules of the day, a Steelers win over the Giants would have given New York a 10–4–0 (.714) finish, while the Steelers' 8–3–3 finish would have been a .727 record and the trip to the championship game. It didn't happen that way. In a game that decided the conference title, New York beat Pittsburgh 33–17. In the Western race, Green Bay needed to win and for Chicago to lose. The Bears' 24–14 win over Detroit was announced while the Packers were in San Francisco, making the 21–17 win on the coast a moot point.

1 3 teams (Chi, Det, Min) 1–0–0 3 teams (Cle, NYG, StL) 1–0–0
2 CHICAGO BEARS 2–0–0 Tie (Cle, StL) 2–0–0
6 Tie (Chi, GB) 5–1–0 CLEVELAND BROWNS 6–0–0
7 Tie (Chi, GB) 6–1–0 CLEVELAND BROWNS 6–1–0
8 Tie (Chi, GB) 7–1–0 CLEVELAND BROWNS 7–1–0
9 Tie (Chi, GB) 8–1–0 Tie (Cle, NYG) 7–2–0
11 CHICAGO BEARS 9–1–1 Tie (Cle, NYG, StL) 8–3–0
12 CHICAGO BEARS 9–1–2 Tie (Cle, NYG) 9–3–0

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

Eastern Conference
New York Giants 11 3 0 .786 448 280
Cleveland Browns 10 4 0 .714 343 262
St. Louis Cardinals 9 5 0 .643 341 283
Pittsburgh Steelers 7 4 3 .636 321 295
Dallas Cowboys 4 10 0 .286 305 378
Washington Redskins 3 11 0 .214 279 398
Philadelphia Eagles 2 10 2 .167 242 381
Western Conference
Chicago Bears 11 1 2 .917 301 144
Green Bay Packers 11 2 1 .846 369 206
Baltimore Colts 8 6 0 .571 316 285
Detroit Lions 5 8 1 .385 326 265
Minnesota Vikings 5 8 1 .385 309 390
Los Angeles Rams 5 9 0 .357 210 350
San Francisco 49ers 2 12 0 .143 198 391

NFL Championship Game

Chicago 14, New York 10 at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois, December 29, 1963

Playoff Bowl

The Playoff Bowl was between the conference runners-up, for third place in the league. This was its fourth year and it was played a week after the title game.


Most Valuable Player Y. A. Tittle, Quarterback, N.Y. Giants
Coach of the Year George Halas, Chicago

See also


  1. ^ Brady, Dave (November 24, 1963). "It's Tradition To Carry on, Rozelle Says". The Washington Post. p. C2. 
  2. ^ Koppett, Leonard (November 25, 1963). "Pro Football Attendance Unaffected". The New York Times. p. 35. 
  3. ^ Associated Press (November 25, 1963). "Despite Many Protests, NFL Crowds Large". The Los Angeles Times. p. D1. 
  4. ^ Mayer, Larry (November 22, 2013). "With nation mourning JFK, NFL games were played". Chicago Bears. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ Mayer, Larry (November 22, 2013). "1963 season: Bears tie Steelers 17–17". Chicago Bears. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ Walsh, Jack (November 24, 1963). "Redskins, Eagles Sought Postponement". The Washington Post. p. C1. 
  7. ^ Sheehan, Joseph M. (November 24, 1963). "Vocal Critics Upset That NFL Will Play a Full Slate". The New York Times. p. 97. 
  8. ^ a b Walsh, Jack (November 25, 1963). "Game Ball Going to White House". The Washington Post. p. A16. 
  9. ^ Associated Press (November 25, 1963). "Redskins Send Game Ball to White House". The Chicago Tribune. p. C4.