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The New York Giants, in particularly robust good health last Sunday, came within a game of battening down the division championship, their first in 10 years, by manhandling the Washington Redskins 28-14. This was virtually the same Redskin team which had thundered over New York 33-7 two weeks before, but it was not—by a generous measure of healthy players—the same Giant team. Bill Svoboda, who missed the first Redskin game with severe cuts on his face, patrolled his linebacker post again, and Jack Stroud, a great blocking guard, was rid of a bad knee. Assorted aches and pains which had slowed some other Giants were mended, too. The Giants' good health was immediately apparent to the Redskins. New York's magnificent runners—Frank Gifford, Mel Triplett and Alex Webster—sliced through the line behind crisp blocks that time and again buckled the first wave of defenders. Chuck Conerly, operating the Giant offense from the middle of the second quarter on, won a running battle of wits with the Redskin defense. The Giants felt they could take advantage of the Redskins' veteran Linebacker La Vern Torgeson on two counts: first, his propensity to "red dog," or come across the line hell-for-leather in pursuit of the passer, and, second, his lack of speed. When Torgeson crossed the line, the end on his side had perforce to cover a Giant end or halfback, in this case, Kyle Rote or Frank Gifford. Conerly threw to Gifford for a touchdown once as Torgeson lumbered in, and he hit Gifford and Rote for numerous good gains at other times. The not-very-fast Torgeson only once put enough pressure on Conerly to disturb his aim. Gifford, a most versatile back, ran for 108 yards, caught six passes for 53 more yards, scored three touchdowns and passed for the other score. Now the Giants need only to beat or tie either Cleveland or Philadelphia in their final two games to win the Eastern division title.
The Chicago Cardinals dropped another game off the pace by losing to the Green Bay Packers 24-21. The Packers' Tobin Rote flicked deft passes through the Card defense to set up three second-half touchdowns, which he scored on quarterback sneaks.
The Cleveland Browns, settling comfortably into harness under the surprisingly steady hands of Tommy O'Connell, their rookie quarterback, relied on an old but effective weapon to edge the Philadelphia Eagles 17-14. Lou Groza kicked a 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds to play to win the game.
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The Detroit Lions, fresh from a 10-day rest after their Thanksgiving loss to the Green Bay Packers, overwhelmed the somewhat battered Chicago Bears 42-10, to take the lead in the West. The Lions brought the powerful Bear offense to a grinding halt, cutting them off with only 10 points—the first time this year the Bears have been held to less than two touchdowns. Chicago, coming from the brutal, bruising 17-17 tie with New York last week, could never gain their momentum against a defense which has allowed fewer points (143) than any in the league. Bobby Layne, the volatile veteran from Texas who plots and executes the Lion offense, passed for two touchdowns, ran for another and pin pointed the flaws in the Bear defense expertly. The victory probably means that the Western division title will be decided December 16 in Chicago, when the two teams meet again.
The San Francisco 49ers used the magnetic hands of End Billy Wilson to fashion an unexpected 20-17 victory over the Baltimore Colts. Wilson, a tall, skinny and agile receiver with good speed, collaborated on a 77-yard scoring pass with Quarterback Y. A. Tittle in the fourth period to bring San Francisco the game. Taking a 17-yard pass from Tittle, the 49er end found Colt defenders Don Shula and Bert Rechichar moving in on him as he neared the 50. As they dived in for the tackle, Wilson hurdled them cleanly without breaking stride.
The Los Angeles Rams, whose leaky defense and fumbleitis has cost them numerous games despite their strong offense, simply could not get rolling against the Pittsburgh steelers, losing 30-13. The offense accounted for only seven first downs, 100 yards by rushing and 63 passing. Jack Scarbath, making his first start at quarterback, and Elbie Nickel, in his 118th game at end, were the Steeler stars.