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A DEFENSIVE WALL OF ICE ON AN ICY FIELD
In the gelid confines of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Bears beat the New York Giants and won the championship of the National Football League with an absolute minimum of offensive effort. As they have done so many times this year—11 before this icy afternoon—the Bears defeated a good team purely on defensive brio. They gained only 93 yards through the Giant line, and Bill Wade, a tall, cranelike quarterback who has been criticized all year for the ultra conservatism of his attack, completed only 10 of 28 passes for a mere 129 yards.
But the few yards the Bears gained were accumulated at the proper times—after interceptions had set up scoring opportunities—and they provided the Chicago team with a 14-10 victory. Fittingly enough, after the game the Bear squad presented the game ball to George Allen, its young and brilliant defensive coach. The remarkably alert and often devastating Bear defense completely stifled the passes of Yelberton Abraham Tittle: more than that, the Bear defense was the team's best offense. Five times Bear defenders picked off Tittle passes, and the two interceptions that set up the Chicago touchdowns came on the play for which Tittle is known best and the pass he throws most deftly—the screen pass.
The Bears scored their first touchdown after Chicago Linebacker Larry Morris intercepted a screen pass intended for Phil King and returned it down the sideline 61 yards to the New York five-yard line. This interception was not truly Tittle's fault: King had flattened out his pass route too much, giving the corner linebacker the opportunity to play him closer than usual.
The second Bear touchdown followed an interception of another screen pass by Ed O'Bradovich. The Bears, who spent the two weeks of preparation for this game in an intensive study of Giant movies, had been well prepared to negate the screen. They varied the responsibility for the screen pass: when a linebacker rushed, an end or a tackle would drop off into the area of the screen pass with a primary assignment of looking for the little, looping pass that Tittle throws so well.
"We were taught to read screen when Tittle set up, then dropped back another two or three yards," O'Bradovich said. "On the pass I intercepted I was coming in hard, and Jack Stroud was blocking me. Stroud released much more quickly than he normally does, and I looked for Tittle to see if he had backed off from where he usually throws and he had, so I left Stroud and went out looking for the screen pass. He threw it, and I lifted my right arm and hit the ball, and it came down where I could catch it. Tittle acted real well, but he acted just the way we know he acts when he's going to throw the screen."
The real key to the Bear victory was this kind of meticulous preparation against the Giant offense. Allen used a five-man line often—almost 90% of the time, in fact. The Bears have used this defense off and on all season, but their use of it in almost all situations on this afternoon came as something of a surprise to the Giants and destroyed the precision of the blocking. More important, the five-man line gave the Bears a very strong rush on Tittle.
The Bear line seldom threw Tittle for a loss, but they got to him hard as he threw the ball, and the battering he took finally told. He was hurt in the first quarter when he threw a 14-yard pass to Gifford for a touchdown a split second before he was hit by Larry Morris, who had blitzed from his corner linebacker spot. As Tittle left the field after that play, he felt a slight twinge in his left knee, and when he reached the sideline he told Coach Allie Sherman that he had hurt the knee.
"I'll walk around on it for a while and see how it feels," he said. "I think it will be all right."
It was all right until late in the second quarter. With a little more than six minutes to play in the half and the Giants driving, Tittle dropped back to pass, stumbled on the hard turf and fell just as he released the ball. Morris, coming in hard, fell on the Giant quarterback and hit his bad knee again, and Tittle felt a snap. He was barely able to get off the field this time.