SI Vault
Tex Maule
December 05, 1960
Philadelphia, responding to a wave of good fortune, is closing in on its first championship in 11 years. For the story of how the breaks were made
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December 05, 1960

Then The Eagle Swooped

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Twice it accounted for Philadelphia touchdowns. A third was scored on a similar play, with Van Brocklin throwing to Halfback Billy Barnes. The fourth, actually, pointed up the difference in these two teams. It was scored after a Barnes fumble on the Giant three, the ball popping crazily out of his arms when he was hit hard by Huff, then bouncing oddly in the end zone with three Giants and one Eagle in pursuit. The Eagle was J. D Smith, a large, somewhat ungainly tackle who overcame his few shortcomings and recovered the ball for the score.

It may be that this unlikely touchdown typifies this Eagle team, which, if it can win one more ball game, will play for the professional championship. It is not as sound a team as most of the other champions of the past. It reflects very strongly the personality of Van Brocklin—stubborn, ingenious, opportunistic, unruffled. The team does not have a truly strong running attack, and it is a tribute to Van Brocklin's audacity that his minuscule running threat suffices for the fakes which set up the passing game.

The passing is superb. McDonald and Pete Retzlaff and Walston are accomplished, determined and talented receivers, and Van Brocklin gets excellent protection for his throwing from the Eagle offensive line. This same line, however, does not distinguish itself blocking for the runners. The defense, flawed here and there by rookies, acquits itself nobly when it remembers the words of wisdom proffered by Jerry Williams, a very good defensive coach. That is most of the time, but it can fail grievously now and then. All in all, the Eagles are an exciting team, stabilized by Van Brocklin on offense and by old, bold and cold Chuck Bednarik on defense.

A titillating sidelight to this game was the possibility that Bednarik, the Eagle linebacker and offensive center, might be left for dead by one or another of the Giant team in revenge for Bednarik's chilling tackle of Frank Gifford two weeks ago. Bednarik, hitting Gifford with a blind side tackle late in the game, left the Giant halfback cold as snow. The Philadelphian danced a happy, heathen victory jig after Gifford's fumble had been recovered by the Eagles, thus insuring their victory. His histrionics were misconstrued in some quarters as unseemly joy over the mayhem he had committed on the prostrate Gifford.

"I got lots of letters," Bednarik said before last Sunday's game. "All good except for one from a lady in Texas. Then I got lots of telephone calls including one at 2:30 in the morning from some woman hollering at me. I disconnected the phone. I sent Gifford some fruit in the hospital, and I wrote him a three-page letter. It was a good tackle."

No revenge

The Giants did not try to avenge their fallen teammate. "They were rough and mean," Bednarik said after the game. "Like always. But not dirty." Once, on a punt, Sam Huff unjointed Bednarik with a whistling blind side block.

"It musta hurt," Huff said. "But he didn't holler. He got up and said, 'Careful, Sam. You keep blocking me like that, and they'll think you're picking on me.' "

Bednarik is a very youthful 35-year-old who is to the Eagle defense what Van Brocklin is to the offense. He has a nose which strays haphazardly over a face handsome in spite of that, and he is the very model of a modern major general when defending. In this game, as in the previous one, he played on offense as well as defense—an almost impossible task even for a young man—and thus pointed up the thin resources of the Eagle team. He left the game at last in the fourth period, walking slowly and with fatigue showing in every line of his slumped, strong body. The big, noisy crowd gave him its noisiest accolade of the day.

The Eagles can, very likely, beat any one of the teams in the West which still have a chance to win the Western Division title. First of these, of course, is Baltimore. The Colts found a double-wing offense installed for last week's occasion by the San Francisco 49ers a problem that could not be solved readily. The double wing stationed John Brodie, the San Francisco quarterback, in a tailback spot where he took a direct snap from center, thus gaining 1) some two or three seconds' additional time against the fearsome charge of the Colt line and 2) reasonable peace of mind in which to pass.

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