OLD SCHOOL:  A look back at prior Giants v. Packers title games

Street Talk OLD SCHOOL: A look back at prior Giants v. Packers title games

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This Sunday marks the sixth time that the Giants and Packers will meet in an NFL-NFC Championship game. Eli Manning and Brett Favre will add their names to the likes of YA Tittle and Bart Starr as quarterbacks who have represented their respective teams in a Giants v. and Packers title game.
The Packers have been in the NFL since 1921 while Giants joined in 1925. The Packers have won thirteen championships, the Giants 7.
Three of the Packer championships, 1929-1931 came before there was a NFL championship game. The Giants won a title in the pre championship game era as well, 1927. Between them they have won 20 league championships, and sixteen NFL-NFC championship games.
The Packers are 10-3 lifetime in the title game, the Giants 6-11. They have met in 5 of the contests to decide the league champion, all of them classic games in which Hall of Famers went toe-to-toe in each contest.
The same can be said for this week’s match up. Brett Favre is a virtual lock to make the Hall of Fame and a case can certainly be made for a Michael Strahan bust in Canton. Will this game go in the books as another classic?
The Packers have beaten the Giants in four these epic battles, each summarized below:
December 11, 1938, Polo Grounds, New York
The Packers won the West division with an 8-3 record while the Giants took the East posting an 8-2-1 record. A championship game record crowd of 48,120 watched as the Packers out gained the Giants 378 yards to 212 but lost where it counted – on the scoreboard where the Giants posted 23 points to the Packers 17.
Two blocked punts gave the Giants an early lead, one by Jim Lee Howell led to a Ward Cuff field goal. The second set up Hall of Famer Tuffy Leemans six yard touchdown run.  After missing the extra point the Giants led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Packers came back in the second half, Hall of Fame quarterback Arnie Herber found Moose Mulleneaux for a forty yard touchdown pass. Mulleneaux was playing for the injured great Packer end Don Hutson. The teams traded scores right before halftime as Giant quarterback Ed Danowski found rookie Hap Bernard for a twenty one yard touchdown pass. When the Packers got the ball back they drove the length of the field and scored on a one yard run by another Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle. The Giants led 16-14 at the half.
In the third quarter, Paul Engebretson put the Pack back out in front with a fifteen yard field goal. The Giants answered as halfback Hank Soar carried the ball 5 times and then made a leaping grab at the goal line to snare a 23 yard scoring strike from Danowski while dragging Hinkle over goal line. The Giants led 23-17.  The score held through a scoreless fourth quarter as the Giants won their third league championship.
December 10, 1939, State Fair Grounds Park, Milwaukee
The 9-2 Packers sought to avenge their 1938 championship game loss and got it against the 9-1-1 Giants.
Packers’ fans 32,278 strong withstood frigid temperatures and 35 mile per hour winds. The Packers seemed fine with the weather, the Giants on the other hand threw six interceptions and missed three field goals as the Packers won easily 27-0.
Thanks to double coverage rolled towards Don Hutson, Arnie Heber found a wide open Milt Gattenbein for a 7 yard scoring pass in the first quarter. The half ended with the Packers up 7-0.
Green Bay dominated the second half as Paul Engebretsen kicked a 29 yard field goal then Gattenbein intercepted Giant quarterback Ed Danowski setting up Cecil Isbell’s (a then future head coach of the Baltimore Colts) 31 yard touchdown pass to Joe Laws making the score 17-0 as the fourth quarter began.
The Giants could not get any offense going, held to just 173 yards. The Packers finished the day’s scoring with a forty two yard Ernie Smith field goal and Ed Jankowski’s one yard touchdown run to cap a 27-0 victory.  It would be Packers coach Curly Lambeau’s fifth NFL championship.   
December 17, 1944, Polo Grounds, New York
The turnstile registered 46,016 fans as the 8-1-1 Giants hosted Curly Lambeau’s 8-2 Packers for the championship. Many of the NFL’s top players were away serving in World War II but the league kept going utilizing older players in their stead. 
Packer Hall of Fame great Arnie Herber came out of retirement to quarterback the Giants. The Packers still had Don Hutson while the Giants were missing familiar names such as Ed Danowski and Jim Lee Howell who were in the service. The Packers had stars Clarke Hinkle, Ed Jankowski, and Moose Mullennaux all serving their country in 1944.
Both teams would lose players at the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, with the Giants Jack Lummus and the Packers Smiley Johnson falling in the line of combat.
Green Bay had replaced Herber and Cecil Isbell at quarterback with Irv Comp. Comp led the Packers on a long second period drive that ended when fullback Ted Fritsch scored from a yard out on fourth down. Later in the quarter Comp found Hutson for a twenty four yard gain to the Giant thirty yard line. Two plays later, with Hutson running a crossing pattern and again getting all of Giant’s attention, Comp threw a swing pass to a wide open Fritsch who scored from 28 yards out. The Packers led at the half 14-0.
The Giants who had lost the league’s leading rusher Bill Paschal to an injury the week before had to rely on passing to come back. Herber did complete a 41 yard pass to Frank Leibel to set up a one yard touchdown run by Ward Cuff, but that was all the Giants could muster as Herber threw 4 interceptions and the Packers held on and won another championship 14-7.  
December 31, 1961, City Stadium, Green Bay
Although the Packers had played in five championship games before this, this was the first title game played in Green Bay witnessed by 39, 029 fans who jammed into City Stadium (later renamed Lambeau Field in 1965) on a typical cold Wisconsin winter day.
Third year Packer head coach Vince Lombardi had his Packers back in the championship game for the second straight year. In 1960 they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 17-13 in the NFL title game.
This game was no contest. The Giants had a chance to score first but Kyle Rote dropped YA Tittle’s sure touchdown pass. Then early in the second quarter on a half back option pass, Bob Gaiters over threw a wide open Rote at the goal line. After that it was all Packers. Hall of Famer Paul Hornung who was on leave from the Army scored on a six yard run after an 80 yard drive. Then after 2 Tittle interceptions, Packer quarterback Bart Starr threw touchdowns to Boyd Dowler and Ron Kramer. Hornung added a field goal and the Packers led 24-0 at the half.
The Giants who rushed for just 31 yards on the day could do nothing offensively in the second half. Joe Morrison fumbled a Green Bay punt, Hornung kicked another field goal then Kramer scored his second touchdown of the day on another pass from Starr. Hornung kicked his third field goal of the day to finish the scoring. Lombardi won his first of five NFL championships 37-0. Hornung ran for 89 yards, scored a touchdown, caught three passes, kicked three field goals and 4 extra points. He tied a NFL playoff record by scoring 19 points (since broken by Ricky Watters in 1993), adding a punctuation mark to his MVP 1961 season.
December 30, 1962, Yankee Stadium, New York
Vince Lombardi brought his 13-1 Packers to New York to face the Giants for the championship for the second year in a row. Most NFL historians consider this Packer team not only Lombardi’s best team but one of if not the best NFL team to ever take the field.
64,890 fans braved 20 degree temperatures and 35 mile per hour winds. The Packers behind Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor moved the ball early and scored on a 26 yard Jerry Kramer field goal.
In the second quarter, Green Bay linebacker Dan Currie’s hard tackle on Giant running back Phil King forced a fumble and Ray Nitschke recovered. Paul Hornung on the next play threw a halfback pass good for twenty one yards to Boyd Dowler. This set up Taylor’s 7 yard touchdown run.  Taylor would go on to set a playoff record with 31 carries. The Packers led 10-0 at halftime.
YA Tittle was able to move the ball in the second half while completing eighteen passes on the day.  Del Shofner and Joe Walton would combine for ten receptions, but they could not find pay dirt despite outgaining the Packers 291 yards to 244 yards.
The Giants did score in the third quarter when Erich Barnes blocked Max McGee’s punt which Jim Collier recovered for a touchdown to bring the Giants within three at 10-7.  They would get no closer.  The Packers controlled the clock and the game adding 2 more Kramer field goals to give the Packers a 16-7 championship game victory.
This Sunday should add another chapter to the Packers-Giants storied championship game rivalry.   

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Kurt Backert

About Kurt Backert

Kurt’s passion for the game began in the 60’s watching the Colts on TV and at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. He began following the statistics of not only his beloved Colts but also those of the Colts opponents, with a keen eye on Vince Lombardi’s Packers. His thirst for and attention to statistical detail would eventually lead Kurt on a journey to the world of fantasy football in the late 1980’s where he’s captured more titles than John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins
Kurt carries a distinction that no other fan of the NFL can boast about.  He is the reigning NFL National Trivia Champion and he credits his Dad for passing on such passion for the game, something Kurt also hopes to pass along to his 9-year-old son.

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