By Zane Miller
New York Giants quarterback YA Tittle picked up an outstanding season in 1961, passing for 17 touchdowns and 2,272 yards to lead the Giants to a 10-3-1 record, with Tittle being responsible for eight of those wins in his first NFL season outside of San Francisco. However, the Giants would be blown out in the Championship Game by the Green Bay Packers.
Tittle and the Giants finished off their 1962 comeback on a high note, winning nine consecutive games to complete the regular season with an impressive 12-2 record. After 10 seasons with the 49ers and one with the Giants, Tittle scored his first double-digit win season to find his way into the Championship Game for the second year in a row.
Tittle’s finest game of the season as well as the best performance of his career took place on October 28th against the Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders), as he passed for a staggering seven touchdowns and 505 yards, with the 505 yard-marker standing as the last time a QB would pass for over 500 yards until Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo did so in 1982. As for the 7-TD domination, Tittle would become only the third NFL quarterback to pass for that total, which remains tied for the record as of this writing.
Breaking it down further, the first three of Tittle’s touchdowns were scored in the first half, enabling the Giants to take a 21-13 halftime lead. While giving up the opening touchdown of the third quarter allowed the Redskins to come within striking distance, this would no longer be the case as Tittle scored the next four straight touchdowns for the Giants, pulling away to a 49-20 advantage in the fourth quarter, eventually holding on to win 49-34, cementing the historic performance.
Not only did Tittle pull off one of the greatest quarterbacking demonstrations which still holds its place in the history books today, he would have another performance nearly as impressive during the same season with a six-touchdown and 341 passing yard game in the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. This wrapped up a season which saw him have six games with at least three touchdown passes and four with at least 300 passing yards.
However, Tittle would have his worst game of the season on November 18th as the Giants took on the Philadelphia Eagles, with the Eagles defense holding him to just 92 yards passing and no touchdowns, while at the same time forcing three interceptions. Despite this, the Giants would actually go on to win the contest 19-14 courtesy of four field goals from kicker Don Chandler.
Tittle finished the 1962 campaign with 33 passing touchdowns and 3,224 yards, easily leading the league in TD passes while just barely coming in second in passing yardage to make first-team All-Pro for the second time in his career. The next closest quarterback in touchdowns, Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, finished 10 shy of Tittle’s mark with 23 on the year, as passing yardage leader and eventual Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen edged out Tittle by just 57 yards, as he claimed 3,261 on the season. Neither quarterback would be able to take a winning record, as Unitas and the Colts both went 7-7 to miss the playoffs, while Jurgensen struggled to a 3-9-1 showing with the Eagles finishing at 3-10-1 to also miss the postseason.
Meanwhile, as Tittle led the Giants to the best record in the Eastern Conference, the team would once again have a chance at the NFL title, facing the Packers in the Championship Game. While the Giants’ defense would prevent the game from being a laugher like their previous title game matchup, their offense would again struggle to get much of anything going as the Packers held a 10-0 halftime lead. Although the Giants would claw back into the game with a second half-opening touchdown via fumble recovery, the Green Bay defense would hold Tittle to just 197 passing yards and no touchdowns, while also contributing an interception as they took back-to-back championships with the 16-7 win.
Tittle would get double-digit wins one more time during his illustrious NFL career, as he continued to play at a peak level late into his time in the NFL.
With all of the statistics in mind, I grade Tittle’s 1962 season at an A+, as despite coming up short in the Championship Game, he was the most dominant quarterback in the league by large margin during the 1962 season, made even more impressive by the fact he was in his 12th season in the league and 15th in pro football overall.
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