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Sports fans debate this issue in bars, living rooms, chat rooms, and message boards around the world. Everyone always wants to know just what is considered the greatest game in every sport. Baseball, basketball, soccer, boxing, hockey and every other sport all have great candidates, but when it comes to professional football, the debate can be quite strong.
Depending on if you are a purist, a historian or someone that only has seen the recent history of the game can determine which game you think is the greatest, but for many football fans, the greatest game ever played in the NFL is clearly one that took place on December 28,1958.
A Clash of the Titans
The NFL Championship game that took place that year between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants is one that helped to launch the NFL into the spotlight and make it the popular sport that it is today. The game was nationally televised and seen by over forty million people, a number that is amazing considering the time was 1958, and not everyone had a television in their homes like they do today. The Colts and the Giants were both clearly the best teams of the time, and a combined twelve players between the two teams would go on to become members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Game Itself
What makes this game considered as the greatest of all time by many is what took place on the field that day. The two teams were evenly matched from the start, with turnovers occurring for both sides within minutes
of each other as the defenses shone on each side. The Colts capitalized on early turnovers by the Giants, turning two fumbles into touchdowns so that they took a 14-3 lead at halftime. It appeared the Colts defense was going to stymie the vaunted Giant offense this day, but the tide slowly turned.
A Second Half to Remember
In the third quarter, the Colts were held out of the Giant end zone, with the Giants turning the Colts back on the one-yard-line. The Giants proceeded to drive down the field, using an incredible 86-yard pass completion from Charlie Conerly to Kyle Rote. Even though Rote fumbled on his way down the field, the ball was miraculously picked up by running back Alex Webster, who took the ball to the one-yard-line. The Giants scored to cut the lead to 14-10, and they then scored again in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass to Frank Gifford to go ahead 17-14.
The Colts, then down at their own fourteen with under two minutes to play, engineered what many think is one of the greatest drives in football history, led by Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry. The Colts kicked a field goal with seven seconds left to tie the game up at seventeen.
Overtime Decides It
The Championship would be decided in overtime, the first time overtime was used in regular season and to decide a championship. The Giants got the ball first but were unable to move downfield. The Colts, taking advantage of an exhausted and spent Giants team, drove down the field eighty yards, with Alan Ameche taking the ball in from the one to give the Colts the win, 23-17.
Setting the Bar High
There are several reasons why people call this the greatest game ever played in the NFL. It was the first decided in overtime, and the only NFL championship decided in overtime until Super Bowl LI, almost sixty years later. The game featured non-stop action, a bevy of all-time great players and coaches, and laid the groundwork for the explosion of professional football. No matter how you slice it, this game will always rank as the best and most memorable in history.