The Philadelphia Eagles lost one of its true pillars on Saturday when former linebacker Chuck Bednarik passed away at the age of 89 in Bucks County, PA yesterday.
Bednarik, who played his entire career in Philly from 1949 to 1962 and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Eagles in franchise history, served as a key cog in Philadelphia’s last NFL title victory in 1960.
Known as a 60-minute man for playing both sides of the ball during games as a center along the Eagles offensive line and linebacker for the Birds defense, Bednarik’s star shined brightest during the 1960 season.
The championship win over the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers was the only time in Lombardi’s coaching tenure that he lost a postseason game.
Of course, the ending of that game proved to be a symbolic snapshot of what Bednarik meant to the 1960 Eagles and the franchise. In the game’s waning moments, Packers quarterback Bart Starr completed a pass to Jim Taylor but the star runner was stopped in his tracks by Bednarik at the Philly 10.
As the game’s closing seconds winded down after the play, the ever-wise Bednarik sat on Taylor to prevent Green Bay from getting off another play.
The Eagles became NFL champions by defeating Green Bay 17-13.
While Bednarik is remembered for helping to secure an NFL championship for the Eagles, the true signature play of his career came over a month early against the rival New York Giants. After hauling in a short pass, New York’s Frank Gifford got blown up by Bednarik…and then didn’t get up. It took Gifford over a year to return to game action after getting knocked out cold by Bednarik’s hit.
The signature image of the play shows Bednarik standing proudly and defiantly over Gifford’s prone body as he exclaimed over what just happened – a Philly guy squashing the glitz and glamour of New York, which was embodied by Gifford, New York’s then-golden boy.
Besides his run-ins with Taylor and Gifford in 1960, Bednarik will be remembered for being one of the most-hard nosed legends in Philadelphia (and NFL) history.
Despite his passing, Bednarik’s legacy of toughness and grit will stand the test of time.