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1961 NFL season

1961 National Football League season
Regular season
East Champions New York Giants
West Champions Green Bay Packers
Championship Game
Champions Green Bay Packers

The 1961 NFL season was the 42nd regular season of the National Football League. The league expanded to 14 teams with the addition of the Minnesota Vikings, after the team's owners declined to be charter members of the new American Football League. The schedule was also expanded from 12 games per team to 14 games per team. The Vikings were placed in the Western Conference, and the Dallas Cowboys were switched from the Western Conference to the Eastern. Addition of the Vikings returned the NFL to an even number of teams.

The season ended when the Green Bay Packers shutout the New York Giants 37–0 in the NFL Championship Game to win the 1961 league title.


  • Conference races 1
  • Final standings 2
  • NFL Championship Game 3
    • Playoff Bowl 3.1
  • Awards 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Conference races

The new Minnesota Vikings won their first game when they upset the Chicago Bears team, 37–13, on September 17, 1961. Mike Mercer made the Vikings' first points on a 12-yard field goal, and Fran Tarkenton guided the team to five touchdowns. The Vikings finished at 3–11 after that good start. With 14 teams in two conferences, each NFL team now played a 14-game schedule: a home-and-away series with the other six teams in their division, and two interconference games.

In Week Five, the Giants and Eagles led the Eastern, and the Packers and 49ers led the Western, all with records of 4–1. The following week, the 49ers lost to the Bears, 31–0, while Green Bay beat Minnesota 33–7. The Giants and Eagles, both winners, remained tied in the Eastern standings at 5–1. In Week Seven, Dallas edged the Giants 17–16, while the Eagles beat the Redskins 27–24 on Sonny Jurgensen's last-quarter touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald. In Week Nine (November 12), the Giants beat the Eagles, 38–21, to give both teams 7–2 records, while Green Bay survived a game at Chicago, 31–28, that would otherwise have tied both teams at 6–3; Green Bay led the Western race the rest of the way. In Week Ten, New York's 42–21 win over Pittsburgh put it at 8–2, while Cleveland's 45–24 win over Philadelphia put both those teams at 7–3. In Week 11 (December 3), New York lost 20–17 to Green Bay, while the Eagles won 35–24 at Pittsburgh, tying the race again.

The Giants and Eagles, both at 9–3, met the following week in Philadelphia (December 10). After New York trailed 10–7, Coach Allie Sherman replaced Y.A. Tittle with Charlie Conerly, who at 40 was the NFL's oldest player. Conerly threw for three touchdowns for the 28–24 win. The winning score came after the Eagles were penalized for roughing the kicker on the Giants' fourth down, giving the Giants first down on the 24.[1] At season's end (December 17), the Eagles rallied to beat Detroit 27–24, and hoped for a Giants' loss to force a playoff. At that moment, New York and Cleveland were tied 7–7 with two minutes left. A long punt by the Giants' Don Chandler pinned the Browns on their own 7-yard line, and ended any threat of a loss.[2]

Week Western Eastern
1 4 teams (Bal, Det, Min, SF) 1–0–0 3 teams (Dal, Phi, St.L) 1–0–0
2 Detroit Lions 2–0–0 Tie (Dal, Phi) 2–0–0
3 4 teams (Bal, Det, GB, SF) 2–1–0 5 teams (Cle, Dal, NYG, Phi, StL) 2–1–0
4 Tie (GB, SF) 3–1–0 4 teams (Cle, Dal, NYG, Phi) 3–1–0
5 Tie (GB, SF) 4–1–0 Tie (NYG, Phi) 4–1–0
6 Green Bay Packers 5–1–0 Tie (NYG, Phi) 5–1–0
7 Green Bay Packers 6–1–0 Philadelphia Eagles 6–1–0
8 Green Bay Packers 6–2–0 Philadelphia Eagles 7–1–0
9 Green Bay Packers 7–2–0 Tie (NYG, Phi) 7–2–0
10 Green Bay Packers 8–2–0 New York Giants 8–2–0
11 Green Bay Packers 9–2–0 New York Giants 9–2–0
12 Green Bay Packers 10–2–0 Tie (NYG, Phi) 9–3–0
13 Green Bay Packers 10–3–0 New York Giants 10–3–0
14 Green Bay Packers 11–3–0 New York Giants 10–3–1

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

Eastern Conference
New York Giants 10 3 1 .769 368 220
Philadelphia Eagles 10 4 0 .714 361 297
Cleveland Browns 8 5 1 .615 319 270
St. Louis Cardinals 7 7 0 .500 279 267
Pittsburgh Steelers 6 8 0 .429 295 287
Dallas Cowboys 4 9 1 .308 236 380
Washington Redskins 1 12 1 .077 174 392
Western Conference
Green Bay Packers 11 3 0 .786 391 223
Detroit Lions 8 5 1 .615 270 258
Baltimore Colts 8 6 0 .571 302 307
Chicago Bears 8 6 0 .571 326 302
San Francisco 49ers 7 6 1 .538 346 272
Los Angeles Rams 4 10 0 .286 263 333
Minnesota Vikings 3 11 0 .214 285 407

NFL Championship Game

Green Bay 37, New York 0 at City Stadium, Green Bay, Wisconsin, December 31, 1961

Playoff Bowl

The Playoff Bowl was between the conference runners-up, for third place in the league. This was its second year and it was played a week after the title game.


Most Valuable Player Paul Hornung, Running Back, Green Bay
Coach of the Year Allie Sherman, N.Y. Giants

See also


  1. ^ "'Penalties Killed Us' Moans Eagles' Coach," Delaware County Times, Dec 11, 1961, p20
  2. ^ "Giants Settle for Tie, Earn Division Title,", The Independent (Long Beach), Dec 18, 1961, pD-1
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1961–1970 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
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