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Tex Maule
December 22, 1958
The latter belonged to Pat Summerall, and with it he wrought the miracle which put New York into a playoff
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December 22, 1958

49 Yards And One Foot

The latter belonged to Pat Summerall, and with it he wrought the miracle which put New York into a playoff

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Rote and Gifford worked out the mechanics of Rote's strategy during the half-time intermission. Rote had noticed that the Brown secondary had overshifted to the right, toward Gifford's run on the first half pass. In the final quarter, after Andy Robustelli recovered a Brown fumble on the Cleveland 45, Conerly called the play. Gifford swung wide to his right again, threatening a run, and the Brown defensive backs moved with him. Rote, feinting a block at the Brown tackle on the other side of the line, suddenly swung away and down the sideline, and Gifford stopped and lofted a high, long pass through the snow diagonally across the field. Rote caught it and was down on the Cleveland six. Two plays later, Conerly called the same pass, and this time Gifford threw to Bob Schnelker in the end zone for the tying touchdown. ("I told Schnelker just to get loose and wave his arms at me," Gifford said later. "He did.")

The Browns made the mistake, then, of trying to protect the tie, which, to them, would have been as good as a victory, since the Giants had to win to force the playoff for the division title. "We knew what they had to do," Giant Defensive Coach Tom Landry explained. "We jammed up the middle and charged hard, and Grier broke through a couple of times and that helped." The Cleveland team, walloping away into that impregnable middle, could not control the game in the closing minutes and twice had to punt to the Giants. A bad punt which sliced out of bounds set up Summerall's first field goal try.

Jim Lee Howell, the Giant coach, debated with himself momentarily before sending Summerall in for the 49-yard game-winning field goal. "I started to call for a pass to try to get a little closer," he said. Conerly, the graying 37-year-old Giant quarterback who was the architect of this victory, had missed on three passes just prior to the field goal. One of them, which traveled some 55 yards in the air, had slipped through Webster's arms on the goal line, but Conerly blamed himself for not moving the ball closer. And then came Pat Summerall and the fateful fourth down.

"I looked up when Pat hit the ball," Conerly said in the dressing room later. "It looked real good and it made me feel good, too. There was a lot of guilt riding on that one."

"I didn't think about anything much when I went in," Summerall said. "I could have cried when I missed the one just before, but all I thought about was that I would have to hit it good since it was a long kick. Then when I was waiting for the snap, I kept reminding myself to lock my ankle. Sometimes I forget and let it waggle, but I remembered this time."

Earlier in the second half, Harland Svare, who saved the game against Detroit the week before by blocking a late field goal, figured in another game-saving play. Leading 10-3, Coach Paul Brown called for a fake field-goal attempt from the Giant 20, a debatable decision at best. Svare, who had benefited from Andy Robustelli's help in Detroit, this time swung wide to pull a blocker out and clear a path for Robustelli. When the Browns' Bobby Freeman, who was the holder for the field goal, suddenly leaped up to try a pass, Svare was directly in his path and dumped him for a loss.

The victory, of course, did not give the Giants the Eastern title. Already twice victors over Cleveland, New York must beat the Browns yet again in the playoff game in Yankee Stadium, December 21.

Since their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 16 in Pittsburgh, the Giants have had to win each Sunday to keep their hopes alive. This continuous strain lent Coach Jim Lee Howell a spurious calm in the Giant dressing room after the game. "How can a guy get excited the way we've been playing 'em the last few weeks?" he asked. "Next week? I don't know. This is a great team, emotionally. But how many times emotionally can you do this?"

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