October 28, 2009

1962: Y.A. Tittle Passes for 505 Yards and 7 Touchdowns

The trade of Y.A. Tittle from the 49ers to the New York Giants prior to the 1961 season revived the quarterback’s career and paid dividends for his new team. With a new lease on his football life, Tittle led the Giants to the Eastern Conference title and a loss to Green Bay in the championship game.

By the time the Giants faced the Washington Redskins at Yankee Stadium on October 28, 1962, they had compiled a solid 4-2 record. However, the Redskins, who had been a lowly 1-12-1 in ’61 were the talk of the NFL at 4-0-2, largely due to the addition of halfback-turned-flanker Bobby Mitchell, who had come to Washington in an offseason trade. In combination with the strong-armed second year QB Norm Snead, Mitchell had become a major offensive force.

It was Snead to Mitchell to start off the scoring in the first quarter on a 44-yard pass play that put Washington on top, 7-0. However, Y.A. Tittle led the Giants to a score with his first TD pass of the day, 22 yards to HB Joe Morrison, and followed up with a 5-yard touchdown strike to TE Joe Walton.

The Redskins closed to within 21-13, but Tittle threw his third TD pass, a short one-yarder to Morrison, to close out the first half scoring. Snead hit Mitchell for an 80-yard TD in the third quarter that closed the Giants lead to 21-20, but from that point it was all Tittle and the Giants. Tittle threw three more scoring passes in the third quarter – 53 yards to split end Del Shofner, 26 yards to TE Walton, and 63 yards to flanker Frank Gifford – and his record-tying seventh of the day in the fourth quarter, a 6-yard strike to Walton.

At this point the Giants had the game well in hand by a 49-20 score; Washington scored two fourth quarter TDs to make the final tally 49-34, but the Giants and their QB had sent a clear message as to which team was the one to beat in the Eastern Conference. For the day, Tittle completed 27 of 39 passes for 505 yards, as well as the 7 TDs, with no interceptions. Del Shofner wreaked havoc on Washington’s defensive backs, catching 11 of Tittle’s passes for 269 yards and a TD. Gifford added 127 yards on 4 catches and Walton, who caught the most scoring passes, snagged a total of 6 for 63 yards. Lost in the shuffle was Bobby Mitchell’s 158 yards on 5 catches for the Redskins.

The Giants went on to repeat as Eastern Conference champions with a 12-2 record, again losing to the Packers in the title game. Y.A. Tittle set a new NFL record for TD passes in a season with 33 (he would break his own record in 1963, tying George Blanda, who had already thrown 36 with Houston in the AFL in ’61) while throwing for a career-high 3224 yards. Washington faded badly in the second half of the season, ending up with a 5-7-2 record – the defensive backfield had been exposed by the Giants, and in combination with an injury to Mitchell, the Redskins were unable to keep up the pace.