They came bundled in parkas and greatcoats and blankets and most of the 64,892 of them yelled "Beat Green Bay!" through the gelid afternoon. But in the end, making their way through the early dark and the swirling wind to the subway, they accepted a sad truth: this was still not the year.
For the truth, to New Yorkers, was just as bitter as the weather and just as evident: the Green Bay Packers are a better football team than the New York Giants. They won the NFL championship on a field better suited to ice hockey than to football. The atrocious conditions, however, had nothing much to do with the 16-7 score. In balmier weather the Packers might have won by a far healthier margin.
This is not to take anything away from the Giants. Shortly after the game had ended, Kyle Rote, the Giant offensive backfield coach who last year was New York's flanker back, said sadly, "I never before saw a team that tried so hard and lost."
He was right. This Giant team played superb football, but it made three mistakes. The first, an intercepted pass, almost resulted in a field goal. The next, a fumble in the second quarter, eventually led to the Packers' only touchdown of the ball game, a beautiful run by Fullback Jim Taylor, who stepped over and through a clutter of Giants to score from the seven standing up. Another fumble in the third quarter was converted by the Packers into a field goal. Green Bay, of course, played superb football, too, and it was guilty of only one egregious error—a blocked kick that gave the Giants their lone score of the day.
The two teams entered the game with oddly different attitudes. The Giants, still sensitive to the humiliation of their 37-0 defeat in Green Bay last year, played with fiery determination. The Packers, who went through the last three weeks of the season a tired, sleepwalking team, only began to come alive in the last four workouts before the championship game. But by the time they took the bus from the Hotel Manhattan to Yankee Stadium for the showdown, they were imbued with a furious professional determination to prove that the licking they had given the Giants a year ago was no fluke.
"We're a better ball club," said Hank Gremminger, one of the Packer safety men. "Look. It's cold as hell here right now. But my hands are sweating. I guess I'm like the rest of the guys. We're better. We'll show them. We're tired of reading about how they had an off day against us. I hope they have a real good day today."
The Giants did have a good day. Both teams were meticulously scouted. Long before the kickoff, Phil Bengtson, the defensive coach of the Packers, had a clear picture of the pattern of Quarterback Y. A. Tittle's play-calling. So, for that matter, did the Giant defensive coaches have a good idea of the plays Bart Starr likes to use under all conceivable circumstances.
The night before the game Bengtson, a tall, slim, dark man who is the genius of the Packer defense and who calls all the Packer defensive alignments from the sidelines, went over Tittle's preferences. The scene was Head Coach Vince Lombardi's "Five Thirty Club," which is not so much a club as an informal gathering of Packer friends, assistant coaches and wives for a convivial hour before dinner in Lombardi's hotel suite when the team is traveling. Quietly, under the hum of conversation, Bengtson said, "Tittle likes to throw on first down on the first series he calls. If the game is even, on the series after the first one, he is more apt to run. If he calls a running play and it gains, say, six or seven yards, he likes to come back with exactly the same play. If the first running play doesn't gain, you figure the first call a run, the next two passes.
"If he's got third and long yardage for a first down, he's more likely to throw to Frank Gifford or Joe Walton than he is to Del Shofner. He likes Shofner for the bomb—the long pass for a touchdown."
He stopped for a moment to collect his thoughts.