"When you ran out of that dugout and the announcer was calling your name, I'll tell you, there was nothing else like it," Giants linebacker Sam Huff said. "It was really something special."

Marchetti remains certain that if the game had been played in Baltimore, accounts would have been read one day and tossed in the trash the next. "In New York, that's a different story," he said. "Then, it's a big game."

Through 3 1/2 quarters, no one would have called the game the greatest anything. The Colts took advantage of Giants turnovers to go up 14-3 but squandered a goal-line chance to go up 21-3. The Giants then scored two unanswered touchdowns, aided by another sloppy play in which Kyle Rote fumbled, only for Alex Webster to pick up the ball and advance it for an 86-yard gain. But Unitas' masterful drive - 71 yards in 2minutes, 5seconds to set up a tying field goal - moved the game into iconic territory.

As the clock ran out with the score tied, confusion reigned.

"What happens now?" Summerall remembered asking Rote, as they crouched on the sideline.

The players had never participated in a sudden-death overtime, but that, too, added to the wonder of the occasion. As Unitas and Berry began their masterpiece, the television audience grew and grew.

None of this registered with the players on the field. After Alan Ameche crashed through for the decisive score, few thought they had participated in an event that would be discussed for decades.

"I was concerned about getting off the field," Summerall said. "That was it. I don't remember that anybody in the locker room thought anything about the magnitude of it.

"I thought we had played better games. I thought they had played better games."

But things were forever altered for the NFL.

"You could see right away the following season that the crowds were building from game to game," Marchetti said. "We felt like kings. At the taphouses, people introduced you to friends like they were proud to know you."

Television interviews multiplied.

Huff appeared on the cover of Time in 1959, and in 1960 CBS aired a special, hosted by Walter Cronkite, called The Violent World of Sam Huff.

Unitas, meanwhile, became an emblem of the crew-cut, stoic men who defined the 1950s and early 1960s. By beating the glamorous Giants, the Colts had become a sensation in Baltimore and a symbol of how the NFL could bring life to new markets.

"I think it was really a coming-out party for the city of Baltimore," said Goodell, who was born in New York less than two months after the game but grew up a Colts fan.

With the AFL expansion, more sophisticated passing offenses came into vogue. Training methods improved, and players grew larger. Coaching, following in the footsteps of Landry and Lombardi, became more specialized. The game as we know it bloomed.

Historians tie much of that back to the 1958 game. "They were really on the vanguard," Bowden said, "inventing the modern game of football."

Berry offered a simple take on that legacy, celebrated this year by four books and a feature-length ESPN documentary.

"I think it's just a hoot," he said, "to think that 50 years later, anybody gives a flip."


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