December 29, 1963
The Chicago Bears win the 1963 NFL Championship
On a freezing winter day, the Bears win the Bears' way -- with defense.
The Chicago Bears relied on their defense to defeat the New York Giants 14-10 and win the national football championship. The heart of the 1963 Bears' league-leading defense -- and of the entire team -- was its corps of linebackers: from left, Larry Morris, Bill George and Joe Fortunato. (Tribune photo by Ray Gora / October 1, 2014)
Led by linebackers Bill George, Joe Fortunato and Larry Morris and defensive ends Doug Atkins and Ed O'Bradovich, the 1963 Bears held their opponents to a then-league record low 144 points and finished 11-1-2 to win the Western Conference, twice beating Vince Lombardi's defending champion Green Bay Packers. By contrast, the Giants' strength was their offense--in particular, the passing of veteran quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Stopping Tittle was the Bears' game plan. Some of their work was done for them--at kickoff the temperature was 9 degrees at Wrigley Field, not conducive to wide-open offense--but Tittle still put the Giants in the lead 7-0, by relying on his forte, the screen pass. Then Morris and the rest of the defense began to turn the game around. Subjected to fierce pressure throughout the day, battered even when he got the ball away, Tittle tried another screen toward the end of the first quarter. Morris anticipated the play, picked off the pass and ran 61 yards to the Giants' 5-yard line. Two plays later the game was tied.
Morris, who would be named the game's most valuable player, delivered a second, and literal, blow to the Giants a few minutes later when he broke in on Tittle and hit him in the knee with his helmet just as the quarterback threw. From that point, the gutty but limping Tittle was much less effective, the coup de grace being delivered in the third quarter when O'Bradovich, working in concert with Fortunato, picked off another screen pass deep in Giant territory. That led to the Bears' second touchdown and gave them the lead for the first time. There was no way this team was going to relinquish it.