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Blocked Field Goal Seals Giants Win

The surging second-place Giants came to Detroit in Week 11 of the 1958 season to face the struggling defending champion Lions. New York needed a victory to keep alive their hopes of overtaking the Browns for the Eastern crown. On a gray, 15-degree Michigan day that featured several unlikely plays, the Giants toughed out a win.

New York scored twice in the opening period. First, defensive end Jim Katcavage dumped Lions runner Gene Gedman in the end zone for a safety, and then Pat Summerall added a field goal for a 5-0 lead. Safety Jimmy Patton set up the Giants’ third score by recovering a Lions fumble at the 19-yard line in the second quarter. Charley Conerly hit Alex Webster for a six-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 12-0, but Detroit’s Jim Martin booted a field goal before the half to narrow the lead.

In the third quarter, Detroit gained control of the game. Quarterback Tobin Rote cousin to the Giants’ Kyle Rote led the Lions to the Giants’ 2 and then hit Ken Webb with a touchdown pass. Soon after, Conerly fumbled in trying a handoff to Mel Triplett at his own 34; linebacker Wayne Walker scooped up the ball and ran it in for another touchdown and the lead, 17-12.

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Lions head coach George Wilson derailed his team’s momentum early in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-21 from his own 44, Wilson ordered a fake for punter Yale Lary. Lary took off running but was collared by Cliff Livingston on a diving tackle after gaining just a yard, drawing

Nothing doing. I’ll block the kick. You have a better blocking angle than I will. You drive him inside.

This play call appeared so fishy that afterward NFL commissioner Bert Bell was called on to defend it and deny it was influenced by gambling interests.

On the next play, Conerly hit Bob Schnelker for a 34-yard gain to the Lions’ 11. On fourth-and-one from the 2, the Giants went for it. Conerly handed off to Frank Gifford, and he punched in the lead-changing score over right tackle.

Down 19-17, Tobin Rote drove the Lions down the field in a two-minute drill that stalled at the Giants’ 18. On fourth down, Jim Martin and the field-goal unit came onto the field with 1:21 to play. With the season in the balance, Giants veterans Andy Robustelli and Harland Svare discussed the situation and decided the best approach was for Robustelli to drive Lions lineman Gerald Perry inside, giving Svare an angle to shoot in and get his arms up. When the ball was snapped, Robustelli took Perry out and Svare shot through the gap. Svare didn’t even have to dive as he blocked Martin’s kick with his left wrist, and the game and season were saved. On this great play, the steadfast Giants defense had risen to the occasion once again.

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