On defense, coordinator Tom Landry revolutionized play with his 4-3 alignment, which put the onus on middle linebacker Huff to be smart, swift and strong enough to check every move of an offensive master such as Unitas. At end, the Giants had their own version of Marchetti in Andy Robustelli, whose quickness and thoughtful study of offenses made him a match for hosses such as Parker. Inside at tackle, Rosey Grier, who played hurt against Baltimore, could plug any hole.
On offense, Gifford was New York's version of Moore, a threat to create points with his legs, his hands and his arm. "He was an alien," Marchetti said in remembering Gifford's versatility.
Tackle Roosevelt Brown, a Morgan State alumnus, was the locomotive clearing the way for Gifford, who called his favorite blocker the best all-around athlete on the team.
"Roosevelt Brown and Jim Parker are still the greatest left tackles I've ever seen," said Accorsi, who used the pair as his standard for excellence when he scouted the position as a team executive.
The Giants didn't throw as much as the Colts, but when they did, old warhorse Charlie Conerly was among the league's most efficient passers.
Designing plays for New York was a stout, bespectacled fellow who felt certain that no one knew more about football execution than him. His name was Vince Lombardi.
A head for winningYes, anyone who flipped on the game that day learned as much about where football was going as where it had been. So many of the combatants had hands in shaping how their positions would be played and in determining how the patterns of football would be designed.
Amid the glittering constellations on the field, Unitas and Berry were the unquestioned supernovas. "I think that's what made the game so great," Nelson said. "The exhibition between Berry and Unitas."
Unitas threw some beautiful passes, but far beyond that, he directed the game.
"What is a marvel to me is the decision-making process that went on in John Unitas' head," Berry said. "Why did he call the plays he called? I think he had a huge amount of instinct, and Weeb Ewbank had the good sense to tap into his great natural play-calling ability."
Huff fancied himself a pretty smart defensive captain, but Unitas spooked him, convincing the great No.70 that he could read minds.
"I couldn't tell what he was going to do," said Huff, still sounding frustrated by the experience. "Eventually, I went in the huddle and said: 'Everything I've called, he's beaten. Anybody else want to call it?'"
One of Unitas' greatest plays involved little physical effort on his part. Berry had caught so many balls by the overtime that Huff had begun shading back to help cover him. Unitas spotted this and called a trap run up the middle by Alan Ameche. Had Huff been in his normal spot, he could have disrupted the play. But he wasn't, and Ameche burst free for 24yards, the backbreaking play in the Colts' winning drive.
Playing for the momentOf course, the Colts never would have been in such a position without the preternatural connection between Unitas and Berry.
Even in an age when the average player wasn't built like a cyborg, Berry lacked the physical traits expected of a football star. Without exceptional size or speed, he fashioned a Hall of Fame career out of doggedness and remarkable powers of analysis. He wanted Unitas to throw to him after every practice so they could perfect timing on every route imaginable. Once Unitas had enough, Berry moved to other teammates. If they weren't available, he turned to his wife, Sally. He didn't want perfect spirals thrown to his chest. He wanted wobblers thrown at his feet and scorchers above his head. Off the field, he filled dozens of notebooks with scouting reports and schemes for countermeasures.
Fellow players might have considered Berry a nut, but now, they speak of how far ahead of his time he really was.
"No question about it," Giants kicker and longtime announcer Pat Summerall said.
No sequence of moves was too obscure for Berry to master. If the game afforded him but one chance to use a trick, well, that chance might be the moment that turned around a championship.
So it went in the 1958 game, as Berry's preparedness paid off when the Colts needed him most. Early in the tying drive, Landry shifted linebacker Harland Svare to play face up on Berry, a brand-new alignment. Relying on a near-telepathic link, Berry and Unitas, without speaking, remembered a counter they had devised for the situation years earlier. Boom! Unitas hit Berry slanting hard across the middle for a 25-yard gain.
Berry had also worked on a move in which he would catch the ball with his back to the defense, fake a step to the middle to draw the cornerback on an inside angle and then pivot to the outside. In three years, he had not had a chance to use it. But two plays after the 25-yard gain, he ran a 10-yard hook in front of Carl Karilivacz, faked inside and twirled past the helpless cornerback for another 10yards. The gain set up Steve Myhra's tying field goal.
"You didn't always know when your work would be significant," Berry said from his home in Tennessee. "You may never see a payoff for 99percent of it. But that 1percent may be the difference in a world championship."
Nelson called the last two drives simply the "best example of pitch and catch I've ever seen."
The refrain of Unitas to Berry, which boomed over the loudspeaker 12times that day, lives on in Huff's nightmares.
"I sleep with them," he said. "That's right."
Next Sunday: The impact of the game on John Unitas' career.