'Greatest Game' another workday for Johnny U, the modest hero

"John is not one to make speeches," Ameche once said, "but he said, 'We've got 80-some yards to go and two minutes left to do it in. Now we find out what stuff we're made out of.'"

There have been many stabs at poetry to describe what happened next, to describe how Unitas marched his Colts downfield. Some of the best sportswriters have likened the display to watching Rembrandt or van Gogh wave a brush.

In truth, Unitas was a house painter, his overalls splotched, not quite sure what the clamor was all about. He diligently painted that day, unaware of the masterpiece trailing off his brush.

Here's how he described it days after the game: "There wasn't time for getting upset or worrying about things. You don't worry about anyone hitting you. You keep your eyes on the boys up front and depend on a kind of sixth sense to tell you if somebody's coming for you."

A game that had started so sloppily suddenly had grabbed every viewer by the neck. Unitas didn't let fans turn away, any more than he let the Giants have a second to catch their breath.

Unitas to Berry for 25. Unitas to Berry for 15. Unitas to Berry for 22.

"He was the coolest man on the field," says Nelson, who was watching from the sideline. "Folks were running around like crazy. For Johnny, it was just another two minutes."

Before you knew it, the field-goal unit was on the field, and Unitas and Berry were on the sideline. Steve Myhra nailed the 20-yarder to tie the score at 17.

What next?
While players and coaches were exchanging blank looks, trying to figure out what a tie score meant, the stage couldn't have been set better for Unitas. After all, this was a man who firmly believed he had never lost a game; he had simply run out of clock a few times.

But not this time, courtesy of an extra period.

As the world was introduced to overtime football, symbolically, an important thing was taking place at the 50-yard line. Marchetti was stuck on the sideline, his ankle crushed by his own teammate, "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, in the fourth quarter, so Unitas walked alone from the sideline to midfield for the coin toss. The nation's attention had focused on him, and it wouldn't turn away for decades.

Referee Ron Gibbs, according to newspaper reports at the time, said, "Gentlemen, I hope you are aware that you are about to participate in the first overtime game in the history of professional football."

Unitas was emotionless, his hands resting on his hips, as Gibbs flipped a coin into the air. "Tails," Unitas said. It was heads. That would be Unitas' last bad decision of the day.

The Giants ran three plays and then punted. The Colts took over at their own 20. Just as he had done at the end of regulation, Unitas moved his team downfield.

On third-and-14, Unitas hit Berry for a 21-yard gain, putting the Colts in New York territory. The Giants were tiring, and on the next play, Huff cheated a bit, almost daring Unitas to throw to Berry once more.

Instead, Unitas called for a trap, and Ameche scampered up the middle for 23.

"I think one of his philosophies was if you have any idea what the defense is going to do, do the opposite," Berry says.

Unitas connected with Berry a final time, putting the Colts within sniffing distance of the goal line. On second-and-goal from the 7, everyone in the stadium was anticipating the run. So Unitas passed. He hit Mutscheller with a lob pass. Mutscheller made it to the 1 but slipped on the icy ground and tumbled out of bounds. For years, Unitas would tease him: "Jim, I tried to make you a hero."

The Sun reported the next day, "Press box observers roared in disapproval at the audacity of such tactics, pointing out an interception would have ruined a sure field goal." A New York reporter named Dave Anderson would later ask Unitas about the gutsy pass near the goal line. "When you know what you're doing, you don't get intercepted," Unitas said.

On the next play, the Giants were in their goal-line defense, turning holes into thin cracks. But as Unitas handed off to Ameche, Mutscheller and Lenny Moore laid key blocks, opening a path of green-brown carpet that led Ameche into the end zone. Colts 23, Giants 17.

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Orioles in August 2014 [Pictures]

Orioles in August

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