1960 NFL Championship Game
|Date||December 26, 1960|
|Favorite||Green Bay (–2 to 3)|
|Future Hall of Famers|
|Packers: Vince Lombardi (coach), Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Willie Wood
Eagles: Chuck Bednarik, Norm Van Brocklin
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Lindsey Nelson, Ray Scott|
|Radio in the United States|
|Announcers||Jack Whitaker, Blaine Walsh|
In addition to the landmark 1958 championship game, in which the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants in sudden death overtime, the 1960 game has also been called a key event in football history. The game marked the lone playoff defeat for Packers coach Vince Lombardi before his Packers team established a dynasty that won five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls, in a span of seven seasons. The victory was the third NFL title for the Philadelphia Eagles, and their final championship until the team won Super Bowl LII in 2018, ending a 57-season championship drought.
The American Football League was in its first season and held its inaugural title game less than a week later. First-year NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle convinced owners to move the league's headquarters from Philadelphia to New York City, and with Congressional passage of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 received an antitrust exemption that allowed the league to negotiate a common broadcasting network representing all of its teams, helping cement football's ascendancy as a national sport.
This was the second and last NFL championship game played in Philadelphia, and the only one at Franklin Field. A dozen years earlier, the 1948 title game was held in the snow at Shibe Park and was also an Eagles' victory.
The game matched the leagues's conference champions, Philadelphia Eagles (10–2) of the East and Green Bay Packers (8–4) of the West. The Eagles were making their first appearance in a championship game since 1949, and the Packers their first since 1944. Two years earlier, both teams had finished last in their respective conferences.
Due to the lack of lights at Franklin Field, the kickoff time was moved up to 12 p.m. (noon) EST. The league was concerned about the possibility of sudden death overtime, as had occurred in 1958. The game was played on a Monday, similar to 1955, as the NFL did not want to play on Christmas.
Led by future hall of fame head coach Vince Lombardi, Green Bay won the Western Conference, a game ahead of the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers. The two-time defending champion Baltimore Colts, led by quarterback Johnny Unitas, were 6–2 on November 13, but lost their last four and stumbled into fourth place with a .500 record. (Baltimore did not win another division/conference title until 1964.) Green Bay had won six league championships before, most recently in 1944, but the intervening years had been lean.
At the time, Lombardi was better known as an assistant coach (offense) for the New York Giants. Hired by the Packers in January 1959, he led them to a 7–5 record in his first season as a head coach, a vast improvement over the 1958 season (1–10–1), their worst ever. On the field, the Packers were led by quarterback Bart Starr, another future hall of famer, who was then lightly regarded, having thrown eight interceptions to go with his four touchdown passes in the 1960 season. Starr had shared playing time with Lamar McHan, who won all four games he started, while Starr was an even 4–4. In his four previous seasons in the league, Starr had more interceptions than touchdowns in each season and he finished the 1960 season with 1,358 passing yards, completing 98 of 172 passes for a completion percentage of 57.0. Other names that would shine during the dynasty the Packers built during the 1960s, such as halfback / placekicker Paul Hornung, linebacker Ray Nitschke, and fullback Jim Taylor; all early in their careers and future hall of famers.
The 1960 game represented a chance for Philadelphia to add to the two titles they had won in 1948 and 1949, but the team had declined to only two wins in 1958. Head coach Buck Shaw was in his third season with the Eagles, and in what turned out to be his final year as a head coach, and had turned around the team from a 2–9–1 record in 1958 to seven wins in 1959 to a conference championship and the league's best record in 1960. The Eagles were led on the field by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, age 34, who was ranked second in the NFL with 2,471 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns, behind Johnny Unitas of the Colts in both statistics, and was playing in his final game before he retired. Less than a month after the title game, he was named the head coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings. Philadelphia had clinched the Eastern title early on December 4 at 9–1, and there was concern by Shaw that it could have an adverse effect on his team.
A capacity crowd of 67,325 gathered at Franklin Field, then (as now) the home field of the University of Pennsylvania, with 7,000 temporary seats having been added. The Eagles were a 2 to 3-point home underdog, and the game-time temperature was 48 °F (9 °C), creating difficult inconsistent field conditions for both teams, as the frozen playing surface thawed in spots leaving scattered puddles. It had snowed several days earlier in Philadelphia, followed by cold temperatures, and the field had been covered by a tarpaulin.
On the first play from scrimmage, a lateral from Van Brocklin deflected off the hands of receiver Billy Ray Barnes and was intercepted by Bill Quinlan of the Packers, giving Green Bay possession at the Philadelphia 14-yard line. After Jim Taylor gained five yards on first down, the Packers were unable to score, turning the ball over to Philadelphia at the six-yard line. A fumble on the Eagles' third play after gaining possession by Bill Barnes was recovered by Bill Forester of Green Bay at the 22-yard line of Philadelphia. Two Paul Hornung rushes gave the Packers a first down at the 12-yard line, but two incomplete passes and another Hornung rush came up short. Lombardi elected to kick on fourth down, with Hornung connecting from 20 yards out and giving the Packers a 3–0 lead.
Hornung kicked a second field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter from 23 yards out, after a Packers drive stalled on the 17-yard line, putting Green Bay up by six points. On a pair of passes from Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald of 22 yards and 35 yards respectively, the Eagles scored a touchdown and the extra point by kicker Bobby Walston gave them their first lead of the game. After getting the ball back from Green Bay, Van Brocklin connected on a pass of 41 yards to Pete Retzlaff that was followed three plays later by a 22-yard pass play to Ted Dean that put the Eagles on the Packers' eight-yard line. After three incomplete passes, a field goal gave the Eagles a 10–6 lead. On the following drive in the waning minutes of the first half, Green Bay took the ball to the Philadelphia seven-yard line. The threat fizzled after Bart Starr was sacked for a loss and the field goal attempt by Paul Hornung was wide left from 12 yards out.
A drive by the Packers in the third quarter advanced to the Philadelphia 34-yard line, but Green Bay failed to convert on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Eagles and losing Hornung to a shoulder injury. The Eagles promptly marched down deep into Green Bay territory but a Van Brocklin pass was intercepted in the end zone by John Symank. The touchback gave the Packers the ball on their own 20-yard line. In punt formation on fourth down, Max McGee ran for 35 yards to give Green Bay a first down in Philadelphia territory. Despite the successful run on the fake punt, Lombardi was not pleased, saying "We punt the ball; we don't run the ball" when the team sets up for a punt.
In the final quarter, continuing that same drive, the Packers advanced deep into Philadelphia territory on runs by backs Tom Moore and Jim Taylor and retook the lead with a seven-yard pass from Bart Starr to McGee with 13:07 left in the game. Hornung came off the bench to kick the extra point, giving Green Bay a 13–10 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Ted Dean received the ball on his own three-yard line and returned the ball 58 yards, giving Philadelphia excellent field position at the Green Bay 39-yard line. Dean provided what turned out to be the margin of victory for the Eagles with a five-yard touchdown run on a sweep led by a key block from guard Gerry Huth with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter, capping off a drive in which Van Brocklin passed the ball only one time. Green Bay got the ball for the last time on their 35-yard line with 1:05 left, and drove deep into Philadelphia territory. At the Philadelphia 22 with seconds to play and no time-outs left, Starr threw a short pass to Taylor; Chuck Bednarik, the last Eagle between Taylor and the end zone, tackled him at the Eagles' 10-yard line and remained atop Taylor as the final seconds ticked off the clock, ensuring that Taylor could not get up off the ground and that the Packers could not run another play. Bednarik had played both defense and offense, and was in for every play of the game; he growled "You can get up now, Taylor. This damn game's over."
The Eagles won despite being outgained in the game 401 yards to 296, with only 13 first downs as compared to 22 for the Packers. It would prove to be the only career playoff loss for Packer head coach Lombardi (9–1), and would be the last Eagles championship until Super Bowl LII 57 seasons later. Lombardi would later rue his decision to go on fourth down on several occasions deep in Philadelphia territory rather than attempt field goals on such plays, saying "When you get down there, come out with something. I lost the game, not my players."
Monday, December 26, 1960
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. EST
- First quarter
- GB – Paul Hornung 20 yard FG, 3–0 GB
- Second quarter
- Third quarter
- No scoring
- Fourth quarter
The gross receipts for the game, including radio and television rights, were just under $748,000, the highest to date. Each player on the winning Eagles team received $5,116, while Packers players made $3,105 each.
- 1960 NFL season
- History of the National Football League championship
- 1960 American Football League Championship Game
- You Tube - 1960 NFL Championship - Eagles vs Packers
- "Packers 6-5 choice in title game but sentiment swinging to Eagles". Chicago Daily Tribune. December 24, 1960. p. 1, part 3.
- "Green Bay is favorite by 2½ over Eagles". Chicago Sunday Tribune. December 25, 1960. p. 1, part 2.
- Strickler, George (December 26, 1960). "Packers, Eagles meet for title today". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 6.
- "Passing Eagles battle running Packers". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 26, 1960. p. 18.
- Maule, Tex (January 9, 1961). "A big run wins for a big defense". Sports Illustrated. p. 40.
- Lea, Bud (December 27, 1960). "Eagles win NFL title". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 1.
- "Eagles rally once again". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. December 27, 1960. p. 13.
- Kuechle, Oliver E. (December 27, 1960). "Eagles beat Packers for title, 17-13". Milwaukee Journal. p. 14, paft 2.
- "Eagles win NFL title with 17 to 13 victory". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. UPI. December 27, 1960. p. 2.
- Longman, Jere. "Eagles’ 1960 Victory Was an N.F.L. Turning Point", The New York Times, January 6, 2011. Accessed January 6, 2011.
- "New Zealand's longest sporting droughts", New Zealand Herald, February 6, 2018. Accessed February 5, 2018. "The Philadelphia Eagles ended a 58-year title drought yesterday by claiming their debut Super Bowl crown with a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots. It was the fourth title for the Eagles franchise but first under the NFL merger with their last title coming in 1960 (Super Bowl I was seven years later)."
- Rollow, Cooper (December 18, 1960). "Packers win, 35-21; division champs!". Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
- via Associated Press. "Packers, Eagles At Peak For Game; Contrasting Attacks to Mark Title Contest Tomorrow Before 67,000 Fans Packers and Eagles at Peak For Title Contest Tomorrow", The New York Times, December 25, 1960. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- Strickler, George (November 14, 1960). "Colts beat Bears in last 17 seconds". p. 1, part 4.
- 1960 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2011.
- "Green Bay names Lombardi head coach". Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. January 29, 1959. p. 1, part6.
- 1960 NFL Passing, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2011.
- Bart Starr, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 7, 2010.
- Buck Shaw, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- Maule, Tex (December 19, 1960). "Dutch is the difference". Sports Illustrated. p. 24.
- Sheehan, Joseph M. "Eagles Win, 17–13, To Take Pro Title; 58-Yard Return of Kick-Off Helps Defeat Packers 5-Yard End Sweep Decides, 17 TO 13 67,325 See Dean's 58-Yard Return of Kick-Off Start Eagles' Winning Drive", The New York Times, December 27, 1960. Accessed January 8, 2011.
- "Viking pick Van Brocklin". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 19, 1961. p. 4, part 2.
- Prell, Edward (December 5, 1960). "Eagles defeat Cards, 20-6; win Eastern title". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 4.
- Strickler, George (December 25, 1960). "Shaw fears Eagles won crown too soon". Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
- Green, Russ (December 26, 1960). "Eagles relying on Norm's arm in 'The Game'". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). UPI. p. 30.
- Strickler, George (December 27, 1960). "Eagles champs! beat Packers, 17-13". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 4.
- "Greatest Moments in Philadelphia History", Accessed January 15, 2013.
- Gruver, 2002 pg. 100