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Tex Maule
December 16, 1957
In pro football's most thrilling finish, Detroit, Baltimore and San Francisco were all tied up for the right to meet Cleveland in the playoff
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December 16, 1957

Three For The Money

In pro football's most thrilling finish, Detroit, Baltimore and San Francisco were all tied up for the right to meet Cleveland in the playoff

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"Throw it to me, John," he said. "Davis is playing me too loose. I can get away."

So Brodie threw it to McElhenny, who had raced straight down at Colt Rookie Halfback Milt Davis and suddenly cut sharply to the sideline. The pass was good, McElhenny caught it and the 49ers won.

Nomellini's contribution was not quite so spectacular, but it was as valuable. The big tackle, elected defensive captain for the first time before the game, responded with a ponderous and violent display of gratitude. Once big Leo, who is a wrestler in the off season and who is playing his eighth year of professional football, thundered through Colt blockers to bat down an extra-point try and leave the 49ers in possession of a 7-6 lead. And again he brushed aside blockers to knock down a field goal attempt, then lumbered heavily after the ball until he plopped down on it at the 49er 41-yard line to stop a Colt threat.

Johnny to Lennie

Although they lost the game, the Colts often appeared the sounder team. Johnny Unitas, their remarkable quarterback, handled the team coolly, although he was under strong pressure from the 49er defensive line most of the afternoon. He worked carefully to set up the most spectacular touchdown of the game, an 82-yard scoring pass to Halfback Lennie Moore. Moore, flanked to the left most of the afternoon, was flanked to the right, wide, at the Colt 18-yard line. This left J. D. Smith, weakest of the 49er pass defenders, to handle the speedy Moore alone. Unitas dropped back, waited briefly while Moore outsped Smith, then sailed the ball some 50 yards through the air, down to the 49er 40-yard line where Moore, now three yards behind Smith, took it in stride and hurried on for the touchdown.

All was not sweetness and light after the game. Weeb Ewbank, the Colt coach, took the defeat bitterly. Ewbank claimed that McElhenny pushed Davis in completing the touchdown pass which gave the 49ers the game. "R. C. Owens used to push the defenders to complete passes until the other clubs caught on," said Ewbank. "Now McElhenny has learned the trick."

Said McElhenny, in ambiguous rebuttal: "On the touchdown pass I didn't touch him and he didn't touch me."

The 49er team captain, Tackle Bob St. Clair, awarded the game ball to McElhenny. "Usually we like to give the ball to a defensive player," said St. Clair in his presentation speech. "But today Mac's the man."

"I'll split the ball with you," McElhenny hollered to Brodie. But Brodie declined. "I'm the luckiest son of a gun in the world, Mac," he said. "But that ball belongs to you. I'd like to put my name on it, though."

Frank Albert, the 49er coach, climbed on a bench to make another speech. "Fellows," he said, "don't forget we still have one more game." He didn't finish the speech. "Two more, Coach!" someone yelled, and the team roared.

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