1961 NFL Championship Game: New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers
The 1961 National Football League Championship Game was the 29th title game. It was played at "New" City Stadium, later known as Lambeau Field, in Green Bay, Wisconsin on December 31, with an attendance of 39,029.
The game was a match-up of the Eastern Conference champion New York Giants (10–3–1) and the Western Conference champion Green Bay Packers (11–3). The home team Packers were a 3⅓-point favorite.
Packers Ray Nitschke, Boyd Dowler, and Paul Hornung, were on leave from the U.S. Army. Hornung scored 19 points (a touchdown, three field goals, and four extra points) for the Packers and was named the MVP of the game, and awarded a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette from Sport magazine.
The victory was the first of five NFL titles won in a seven-season span by the Packers and their head coach, Vince Lombardi. It was the Packers' seventh league title and their first in 17 years.
This was the first NFL championship game held in Green Bay. The Packers' only other championship home game until then was 22 years earlier in 1939, played at the State Fair Park in West Allis outside Milwaukee. Both teams were eager to shed the "runner-up" label. The Giants were in their third championship game in four years, falling in 1958 and 1959 to the Baltimore Colts, and the Packers had lost the title game in 1960 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants' last league title was in 1956 and the Packers in 1944.
Temperature at game time hovered at 20 °F (−7 °C) and for several days the field had been covered with a tarp, topped by a foot (30 cm) of hay. The covering was particularly significant as just two days before, the temperature dipped to −15 °F (−26 °C). Field conditions were of paramount concern if the teams were to make effective use of the running game. All the Packers players used cleats and about half of the Giants players, led by head coach Allie Sherman, chose sneakers, believing they would grip better on a frozen field. At 6 a.m. on game day, workers began the arduous process of snow and hay removal by hand using baskets, as heavy equipment could have potentially damaged the field.
Green Bay had defeated the Giants 20–17 four weeks earlier at County Stadium in Milwaukee to clinch the Western title before a record crowd of 47,012.
With 40,000 tickets sold at $10 each and $615,000 in TV revenue, this game was the first NFL Championship to generate $1 million in revenue. Each player on the winning Packers team received $5,195, while Giants players made $3,340 each.
This was the fifth shutout in NFL Championship game history and coach Lombardi's first of five championships in seven years. Lombardi used a strategy in this game that was common in all the Packers championships. A strategy of fundamentally sound football (the Packers had no turnovers and only 16 yards in penalties) and to beat the opposition at their strength, in this case running the ball at the Giants linemen Andy Robustelli and Rosey Grier. This strategy allowed the Packers to control the game, running 63 offensive plays to only 43 for the Giants. In 1959. Lombardi had taken over a Green Bay franchise that was the worst team in the league in 1958, and in three years turn them into NFL Champions.
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