Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIMay 22, 2009

They are my favorite team in NFL history and I never even saw them play.

The Eagles entered their third season under head coach Buck Shaw. The 1958 season had marked disaster, as the club won just 2 of 12 games.

The 1959 campaign produced five more wins than the previous campaign, and sparked excitement for the 1960 season.

Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin had already announced that the 1960 season would be his last. Aging center and linebacker Chuck Bednarik, the last of the NFL's two-way players, had reached the age of 35.

The Eagles were under immense pressure to contend for the league crown. However, many experts viewed the Eagles as nothing more than a slightly above average football team.

The season began with a disappointing blowout loss against Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns.

The Eagles then turned in a team-record nine game winning streak.

They squeaked out two-point road wins against the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns game ended with an improbable walk-off field goal by kicker Bobby Walston, and is described by Hall of Fame analyst Ray Didinger as the game that launched the Eagles toward their championship crown.

They won back-to-back games against the New York Giants, both times coming from behind in the fourth quarter.

The first of the two Giants' victories is remembered for the massive hit that Bednarik laid on running back Frank Gifford, now called one of the most incredible hits in NFL history.

Bednarik described the hit as a "Volkswagen going down a one-street, with a Mack truck coming the opposite way." The Mack truck won.

The image of Chuck Bednarik, right fist clenched, standing over Gifford's unconscious body, is arguably the most memorable image in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Giants' kicker Pat Summerall remembers the incident: "They carried Frank off the field on a stretcher, and unknown to us, some fan that day had had a heart attack in the stands. The man had unfortunately died in our locker room.

"They were taking him out with a sheet over his face, just as we started to walk in, and we all thought that Bednarik had killed Gifford."

In all, the never-say-die Eagles turned six potential losses into six fourth quarter victories.

"We would bite, scratch, kick, gouge, anything we could do to win a game. It just seemed like we had a guardian angel over us or something.," said wide receiver Tommy McDonald.

The team's Most Valuable Player (in fact, the league's MVP) was Norm Van Brocklin. "If ever a single player lifted a team that was average into winning a championship, it was him, and he did it by the sheer force of his personality, his will, and his skill," said Philadelphia sports columnist Larry Merchant.

Despite ranking 10th out of 12 teams in defense, Bednarik's men forced an incredible 45 turnovers in 12 games, including six each versus the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Buck Shaw's powerful Eagles' squad won 10 of 12 games on the season and captured the NFL East championship.

They earned the right to host the Green Bay Packers in the NFL championship. The Packers featured an absolutely awesome lineup, including 10 future Hall of Famers. They were coached by Vince Lombardi, who many consider to be the greatest coach in the history of the National Football League.

The Eagles were underdogs for the championship game, despite winning two more games in the regular season than the Packers, and playing at home.

The Packers outplayed the Eagles for virtually the entire game, until Ted Dean's five-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 17-13 lead with five minutes to play.

With eight seconds left, the Packers had the ball on the 25-yard line. Running back Jim Taylor caught a short pass and quickly broke two tackles.

He was promptly leveled by Bednarik, who held Taylor down on the ground as the last few seconds ticked off the clock.

When the clock reached zero, Bednarik stood over Taylor and exclaimed, "You can get up! This f------ game is over!"

The Philadelphia Eagles were the champions of the National Football League.

The 1960 Eagles have been called "a team with nothing but a title."

"The 1960 football season was like a genie that came out of a bottle in City Hall courtyard, and for one year, it granted Philadelphia's football fans their every wish," said Didinger.

"It was just a strange, unique group of guys that suddenly decided that the most important thing in the world to them was to win a championship," says tight end Pete Retzlaff.

No Eagles team in history has ever taken its fans on such a thrill ride as the 1960 team.

Not the 1991 squad playing without a quarterback. Not the 1980 team that reached the franchise's first Super Bowl. Not even the 2004 team that dismantled all but one of its opponents before resting its starters and reaching a second Super Bowl.

In Philadelphia, winning is everything. It's not optional. It's not a bonus.

It's a necessity.

Before 2008, people would ask me my favorite Phillies team and I would tell them that I didn't have one. Sometimes I would choose the '80 team. Now I have seen a world championship from our baseball team.

I have never seen a winner from our football team.

I've seen a team that I will argue was the best team in the NFL (2004). I've seen a true-life Rocky team (2006). I've seen extreme roller-coaster rides (2008). I've seen overachievers (2003) and underachievers (2007). I've seen one-man teams (2000).

I have never, in my 19 years, seen a champion. I can't even remember 1960. My dad doesn't even remember 1960.

I would give anything to have lived through the times of Van Brocklin and Bednarik.

The 1960 season produced the most memorable, wild, roller coaster ride in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, culminating in dramatic fashion, with the arrival of the team's third NFL championship.

And their last, to date.


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