American Football Wiki
1956 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 30 - December 23, 1956
East Champions New York Giants
West Champions Chicago Bears
Championship Game
Champions New York Giants
National Football League seasons
 < 1955 1957 > 

The 1956 NFL season was the 37th regular season of the National Football League. CBS became the first network to televise some regular season games across the nation. Meanwhile, the league started to use a natural leather ball with white end stripes, instead of the white ball with black stripes, for night games.

The season ended when the New York Giants crushed the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship Game, 47–7.

Major rule changes

  • It is now illegal to grab an opponent's facemask (other than the ball carrier).
  • When an offensive interior lineman takes a three point stance prior to the snap, he may not move until the snap.
  • The ball is dead immediately when the ball carrier is contacted by a defensive player and then touches the ground with any part of his body except his hands or feet.
  • Using radio receivers to communicate with players on the field is prohibited.
  • Players are prohibited from using any artificial medium to assist in the execution of a field goal or an extra point attempt. This change is sometimes referred to as the "Lou Groza Rule" after the Cleveland Browns' Hall of Fame offensive tackle and placekicker. Groza would always carry a 72 in rolled piece of adhesive tape in his helmet. Before each kick attempt, he would use it as a directional aid by unrolling the tape on the ground from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball would be spotted for the kick.

Conference races

The Lions and the Cardinals had both finished 1955 poorly, 3–9 and 4–7–1, but both got off to fast starts in 1956. Both ended up finishing second in the Conference races.

The Chicago Cardinals got off to their best start ever, going 4–0, until the Redskins beat them 17–14 on October 28. At the midway point, they and the Giants had 5–1 records. In the Western Conference, the Detroit Lions roared to a 6–0 start. In Week Seven (November 11), the Giants pulled ahead with a 23-10 win over the Cards. In Washington, the Lions finally lost. Trapped on his own 1 yard line, Yale Lary took a safety in order to get a free kick. That, and Sam Baker's field goal, gave the Redskins an 18-10 lead to put the game out of reach, and the Lions lost 18–17. The Bears, who had dropped their opener at Baltimore, 28-21, beat Green Bay 38-14 for their sixth straight game, matching Detroit's 6–1 record.

In Week Nine, the Lions dropped their Thanksgiving Day game as Tobin Rote guided Green Bay to three last quarter touchdowns in a 24-20 win. On Sunday, the Cards 38-27 win over Pittsburgh put them a half game out. The Bears cancelled a loss, while the Giants watched a win elude them, as Harlon Hill caught a last-ditch 56 yard touchdown pass from Ed Brown in tying the Giants, 17-17. Both the Bears and the Giants continued to lead their conferences, but only by half a game [1].

The Cards lost the next two games and any chance at the Eastern title, which the Giants clinched, in part because of a 28–14 win over Washington on December 2. The Western race came down to the Bears and Lions. In Week Ten (December 2), the Lions hosted the Bears and won 42–10, to take the lead. When both teams won the following week, the trip to the championship came down to December 16, the last game of the season, which would have the 9–2 Detroit Lions visiting the 8–2–1 Chicago Bears, who hadn't forgotten the earlier drubbing. The game at Wrigley Field was marked by numerous fights, including a fourth quarter melee involving players, fans, and the police [2]. The Bears exacted their revenge with a 38-21 victory.

1 3 teams: (Bal, Det, LA) 1-0-0 3 teams: (Cards, NYG, Pit) 1-0-0
2 Detroit Lions 2-0-0 Chicago Cardinals 2-0-0
3 Detroit Lions 3-0-0 Chicago Cardinals 3-0-0
4 Detroit Lions 4-0-0 Chicago Cardinals 4-0-0
5 Detroit Lions 5-0-0 Tie: (Cards, NYG) 4-1-0
6 Detroit Lions 6-0-0 Tie: (Cards, NYG) 5-1-0
7 Tie: (Bears, Lions) 6-1-0 New York Giants 6-1-0
8 Tie: (Bears, Lions) 7-1-0 New York Giants 6-2-0
9 Chicago Bears 7-1-1 New York Giants 7-1-1
10 Detroit Lions 8-2-0 New York Giants 7-2-1
11 Detroit Lions 9-2-0 New York Giants 7-3-1
12 Chicago Bears 9-2-1 New York Giants 8-3-1

Final standings

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

Note: The NFL did not officially count tie games in the standings until 1972

Eastern Conference
New York Giants 8 3 1 .727 264 197
Chicago Cardinals 7 5 0 .583 240 182
Washington Redskins 6 6 0 .500 183 225
Cleveland Browns 5 7 0 .417 167 177
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 7 0 .417 217 250
Philadelphia Eagles 3 8 1 .273 143 215
Western Conference
Chicago Bears 9 2 1 .818 363 246
Detroit Lions 9 3 0 .750 300 188
San Francisco 49ers 5 6 1 .455 233 284
Baltimore Colts 5 7 0 .417 270 322
Green Bay Packers 4 8 0 .333 264 342
Los Angeles Rams 4 8 0 .333 291 307

NFL championship game

N.Y. Giants 47, Chi. Bears 7 at Yankee Stadium, New York, December 30, 1956


  1. "Bears Tie New York, 17-17," Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 26, 1956, p12
  2. "Casares Leads Bears Past Lions For Western Title, 38–21," Albuquerque Journal (December 17, 1956), p16

Template:1956 NFL season by team

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