|Duration||September 14 -|
December 29, 1963
|East Champions||New York Giants|
|West Champions||Chicago Bears|
The 1963 NFL season was the 44th regular season of the National Football League. On April 17, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle indefinitely suspended Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras for gambling on their own teams, as well as other NFL games; Hornung and Karras would miss the entire season. In addition, five other Detroit players were fined $2,000 each for placing bets on one game in which they did not participate.
The 1963 NFL Draft was held December 3, 1962, at Chicago's Sheraton Hotel & Towers. With the first pick, the Los Angeles Rams selected quarterback Terry Baker from Oregon State, the Heisman Trophy winner.
In Week 11 on November 24, just two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. League commissioner Rozelle said about playing the games: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition." Attendance at games went unaffected despite the assassination. Although the choice to play the games was protested, and Rozelle had also eventually regretted the decision, he stated that Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, had urged him to allow the games to be played.
However, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins had sought postponement of the games. Eventually, the game between the two teams in Philadelphia saw acts of kindness from both sides. Before the game, each of the Eagles players contributed $50 to the family of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed by the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. After the game ended, players on the Redskins asked Coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend, saying that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory."
No NFL games were telecast, since on the afternoon of the 22nd, just after the president had been pronounced dead, CBS President Frank Stanton ordered that all regular programming be pre-empted until after Mr. Kennedy was buried. Normal programming, including the NFL, was replaced by non-stop news coverage, broadcast without commercials.
Both conference races were undecided until the final games of the regular season. In the Eastern, the Browns were 7-1-0 after eight games, but on November 10, the Browns lost 9-7 at Pittsburgh, while the Giants beat the Eagles 42-14, to tie New York and Cleveland at 7-2-0. When the Giants won again and the Browns lost, the former had the lead.
The Western race was close as well. The Bears were 5-0 and the Packers 4-1 entering Week 6; Green Bay won at St. Louis, 30-7, while Chicago lost 20-14 at San Francisco, tying the Bears and Packers for the lead at 5-1. Both teams continued to win, and then met in Chicago in Week 10 on November 17, where the Bears prevailed decisively, 26-7.
The Week 11 games took place two days after the Kennedy assassination. Although the fourth-year American Football League (AFL) postponed its schedule, the NFL chose to play, although the games were not televised due to round-the-clock network TV coverage of the assassination aftermath. The Giants lost at home to St. Louis, 24-17, while Cleveland beat visiting Dallas 27-17, to give the three teams identical 8-3-0 records. The Bears were losing at Pittsburgh, until Roger Leclerc kicked a field goal to get a 17-17 tie, and to stay half a game ahead of Green Bay.
In Week 12, Green Bay's win was denied when the Lions tied the game 13-13 with a last-minute touchdown in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, while Chicago averted another loss by tying Minnesota 17-17 on Sunday. The three-way tie in the East was pared down when Cleveland beat St. Louis 24-10, and New York won 34-27 over Dallas.
Week 13 saw both the Bears and Packers winning, while Cleveland lost to Detroit, 38-10. New York won 44-14 over Washington, but at 10-3-0, New York was trailed by Pittsburgh, which had an unusual 7-3-3 record, and the final game of the season would match the Steelers and Giants at Yankee Stadium.
Under the rules of the day (ties discarded), a Pittsburgh win over the Giants would have resulted with New York at 10-4-0 (.714) and the Steelers at 8-3-3 (.727) and the trip to the championship game. The Steelers had won the first meeting in Pittsburgh 31-0 on September 22. In a game that decided the conference title, New York beat Pittsburgh 33-17, and the Steelers fell to fourth in the East.
In the Western race, Green Bay needed to win on the road and for Chicago to lose at home. The Packers played Saturday at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco and beat the league-worst 49ers, 21-17. The Bears' 24-14 win over Detroit at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon was announced to the Packers during their flight home, ending their pursuit of a third consecutive league title.
Although the Packers' 11-2-1 record without Hornung was the second-best in the league and one of the best in their history, the two losses to Chicago kept them in second place in the West. Green Bay played in the consolation Playoff Bowl in Miami against East runner-up Cleveland on January 5.
|1||3 teams (Chi, Det, Min)||1-0-0||3 teams (Cle, NYG, StL)||1-0-0|
|2||Chicago Bears||2-0-0||Tie (Cle, StL)||2-0-0|
|3||Chicago Bears||3-0-0||Cleveland Browns||3-0-0|
|4||Chicago Bears||4-0-0||Cleveland Browns||4-0-0|
|5||Chicago Bears||5-0-0||Cleveland Browns||5-0-0|
|6||Tie (Chi, GB)||5-1-0||Cleveland Browns||6-0-0|
|7||Tie (Chi, GB)||6-1-0||Cleveland Browns||6-1-0|
|8||Tie (Chi, GB)||7-1-0||Cleveland Browns||7-1-0|
|9||Tie (Chi, GB)||8-1-0||Tie (Cle, NYG)||7-2-0|
|10||Chicago Bears||9-1-0||New York Giants||8-2-0|
|11||Chicago Bears||9-1-1||Tie (Cle, NYG, StL)||8-3-0|
|12||Chicago Bears||9-1-2||Tie (Cle, NYG)||9-3-0|
|13||Chicago Bears||10-1-2||New York Giants||10-3-0|
|14||Chicago Bears||11-1-2||New York Giants||11-3-0|
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
|New York Giants||11||3||0||.786||448||280|
|St. Louis Cardinals||9||5||0||.643||341||283|
The Playoff Bowl was between the conference runners-up, for third place in the league. This was its fourth year and it was played a week after the title game.
The championship game in Chicago drew 45,801 at Wrigley Field on December 29, the third-place Playoff Bowl in Miami had 54,921 at the Orange Bowl on January 5, and the Pro Bowl in Los Angeles drew 67,242 at the L.A. Coliseum on January 12. The attendance for the 33 preseason games was 1,108,636 (average: 33,595).