The New York Giants and Chicago Bears have a long, illustrious history going back to 1925, when the Giants joined the NFL. Over the years, the two teams met in the NFL Championship Game six times: 1933, 1934, 1941, 1946, 1956 and 1963.
The Bears won in ’33, ’41, ’46 and ’63 while the Giants won in ’34 (the ‘Sneakers’ game) and in 1956. The two clubs would go on to meet twice more in the NFC Playoffs. In 1985, the Bears shut the Giants out, 21-0, en route to their only Super Bowl championship. In 1990, the Giants dominated Chicago on their way to their second Lombardi Trophy.
One game that stands out is the 1956 Championship Game played December 30 at Yankee Stadium. The Giants had not been to the postseason since 1950, when they were coached by Steve Owen. Jim Lee Howell took over the reins in 1954 and got the Giants back on the winning track.
In 1956, the Giants finished 8-3-1 and in first place in the NFL’s Eastern Conference. The Bears, under new head coach Paddy Driscoll (George Halas stepped down after the ’55 season but would return in ’58), finished 9-2-1 and in first place in the Western Conference.
There was no playoff structure in the NFL at that time, just a title game. So, the Bears and Giants would play for the championship. It was the Giants’ first year at Yankee Stadium and their first appearance in the NFL title game since 1946. In fact, neither team had been to the championship game since they faced each other in ’46.
The Giants that year had the look of a team of destiny. They proved it in the title game but had a little help. The temperature during the game was around 20 degrees and the field was icy. Just like they did in their 1934 victory over Chicago in the championship game, they chose to wear sneakers. The Bears stuck to their traditional cleats.
The Bears were slight favorites in the game. The teams tied, 17-17, five weeks earlier in The Bronx and a close game was expected. The Giants came charging out of the gate, took 34-7 lead into the tunnel at halftime and never looked back.
Legendary sportswriter Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated wrote the following after the game:
“We were overtrained,” Bears quarterback Ed Brown said. “We only had one day off — Christmas Day — preparing for this. What the hell — the Giants got five days off. We were just too tied up.”
Another reason for the size of the defeat might have been the Bears’ shoes. The Giants wore fiat-soled basketball shoes throughout the game and had very little trouble getting traction on the icy field. The Bears tried rubber-soled shoes with short cleats during the first half, changing to flat soles in the second. They had trouble with the cleats, slipping and sliding, and the Giant line moved the Bears as if they were on roller skates.
But the first cause of the Giant victory was the superb team effort of all 33 Giants. This team would have beaten the Bears on any kind of field in any type of shoe.
The Giants got touchdowns from all four their star running backs — Frank Gifford, Alex Webster, Kyle Rote and Mel Triplett — with Webster actually scoring twice. Quarterback Charley Conerly threw just 10 passes but seven were completed. Two went for scores, one to Gifford and the other to Rote.
The Bears could not shake the Giants’ suffocating defense, which was led by their linebackers, primarily rookie Sam Huff. Chicago star wideout Harlan Hill commented on just how well the Giants played that day.
“Those linebackers were terrific,” said Hill. “No matter which way I turned, there was a linebacker on me. They were better than us. That’s all.”
The Giants and Bears would face one another once more in the 1963 championship game with the Bears prevailing. Neither team would appear in another championship game until the mid-1980s.