1963 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 15, 1963 - December 29, 1963
East Champions New York Giants
West Champions Chicago Bears
Championship Game
Champions Chicago Bears
National Football League seasons
 < 1962 1964 > 

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 season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.

JFK AssassinationEdit

On November 24, just two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. NFL Commissioner Pete 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."[1] Attendance at games went unaffected despite the assassination.[2][3]

However, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins had sought postponement of the games.[4][5] 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.[6] After the game ended, the Redskins sent the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend.[6] Coach Bill McPeak said that the players on the Redskins, who won the game, asked him to send the ball to the White House because they said that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory."[7][6]

Conference racesEdit

The Eastern and Western Conference races were undecided until the final day 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 Division race was close as well. The Bears were 5–0 and the Packers 4–1 as of October 13. In Week Six, Green Bay won at St. Louis, 30–7, while Chicago lost at San Francisco, 20–14, tying the Bears and Packers for the lead at 6–1. Both teams continued to win, and then met in Chicago on November 17, where Green Bay lost, 26–7.

The games scheduled for Week Eleven took place on the weekend after the Kennedy assassination. Unlike the American Football League, which postponed its schedule, the NFL chose to play the games, although they 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 Twelve, Green Bay's chance to win was cancelled when Detroit tied the game 10-10, while Chicago averted another loss by tying Minnesota 17-17. The three way tie in the Eastern was pared down when Cleveland beat St. Louis 24-10, and New York won (34-27 over Dallas).

Week Thirteen 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, a Steelers win over the Giants would have given New York a 10-4-0 (.714) finish, while the Steelers' 8-3-3 finish would have been a .727 record and the trip to the championship game. It didn't happen that way. In a game that decided the conference title, New York beat Pittsburgh 33-17. In the Western race, Green Bay needed to win and for Chicago to lose. The Bears' 24-14 win over Detroit was announced while the Packers were in San Francisco, making the 21-17 win on the coast a moot point.

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 3 teams: (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

Final standingsEdit

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

Eastern Conference
New York Giants 1130.786448280
Cleveland Browns 1040.714343262
St. Louis Cardinals 950.643341283
Pittsburgh Steelers 743.636321295
Dallas Cowboys 4100.286305378
Washington Redskins 3110.214279398
Philadelphia Eagles 2102.167242381
Western Conference
Chicago Bears 1112.917301144
Green Bay Packers 1121.846369206
Baltimore Colts 860.571316285
Detroit Lions 581.385326265
Minnesota Vikings 581.385309390
Los Angeles Rams 590.357210350
San Francisco 49ers 2120.143198391

NFL Championship GameEdit

Chicago 14, New York 10 at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois, December 29


Most Valuable PlayerY.A. Tittle, Quarterback, N.Y. Giants
Coach of the YearGeorge Halas, Chicago

See alsoEdit


  1. Brady, Dave. "It's Tradition To Carry on, Rozelle Says", The Washington Post, November 24, 1963, p. C2. 
  2. Koppett, Leonard. "Pro Football Attendance Unaffected", November 25, 1963, p. 35. 
  3. Associated Press. "Despite Many Protests, NFL Crowds Large", November 25, 1963, p. D1. 
  4. Walsh, Jack. "Redskins, Eagles Sought Postponement", November 24, 1963, p. C1. 
  5. Sheehan, Joseph M.. "Vocal Critics Upset That NFL Will Play a Full Slate", November 24, 1963, p. 97. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Walsh, Jack. "Game Ball Going to White House", November 25, 1963, p. A16. 
  7. Associated Press. "Redskins Send Game Ball to White House", November 25, 1963, p. C4. 

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