December 13, 2011

1942: Redskins Upset Undefeated Bears for NFL Championship

Coming into the NFL Championship game on December 13, 1942, it appeared that the contest would be a mismatch. Even though the Eastern Division-champion Washington Redskins were 10-1, they were 22-point underdogs facing the Western Division’s Chicago Bears. The team known as “The Monsters of the Midway” had won the last two NFL Championships, was 11-0 during the regular season, and was the winner in 39 of its last 40 games. Not lost on anyone in attendance was the 73-0 thrashing Chicago had put on the Redskins in the title game two years earlier.

The Bears kept winning even as World War II military duty pulled several key players off of the roster. Stars such as HB George McAfee, fullbacks Norm Standlee and Bill Osmanski, ends Ken Kavanaugh and Dick Plasman, and tackle Joe Stydahar missed all or part of the season (Osmanski and Stydahar received furloughs that allowed them to participate in the title game). Even the owner and head coach, George Halas, had departed for the navy on November 1. While the “Papa Bear” was on leave and present for the game, assistants Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos co-coached the club in his absence.

Washington, coached by Ray Flaherty, still had the league’s best passer to direct its double-wing attack in tailback Sammy Baugh. The receiving corps was strong and FB Andy Farkas was the top ground-gainer. The defense, anchored by tackle “Wee Willie” Wilkin, had played well all year and was particularly impressive down the stretch. The Redskins allowed just one touchdown in their final four games.(Pictured at top, left to right, are #44 Farkas, #33 Baugh, & #41 Dick Todd)

There were 36,006 fans in attendance at Washington’s Griffith Stadium, site of the 73-0 contest of 1940. It was very different this time as they witnessed a scoreless first quarter, with the Bears twice getting inside the Washington 30 but coming up empty. In the first instance, Lee Artoe missed on a 46-yard field goal attempt and the second time they fumbled the ball away.

In the second quarter, the Redskins had possession at midfield following a nine-yard run by blocking back Cecil Hare and a Baugh pass to wingback Dick Todd. However, an apparent mixup between Todd and Farkas on which was to receive the direct snap caused a fumble - Artoe picked the ball up on the bounce and the 230-pound tackle rumbled 50 yards for a touchdown. However, he missed the extra point attempt and the score remained 6-0.

The Redskins responded some two minutes later as Baugh passed to wingback Wilbur Moore for a 38-yard touchdown. Bob Masterson’s extra point attempt was successful and the Redskins took a 7-6 lead into halftime.

Washington put together a long scoring drive in the third quarter that proved to be decisive. Farkas returned a punt 30 yards to give the Redskins good field position at their 44 yard line and he then keyed the drive with his running and capped it with a one-yard TD against the massed Bears defense. Meanwhile, Baugh made a key defensive play after Chicago drove to the Washington 12 yard line as he intercepted a pass in the end zone.

In the fourth quarter, the Bears came close to scoring thanks to a 79-yard drive that took them to the Redskins’ one. An apparent touchdown by HB Hugh Gallarneau was nullified by a backfield-in-motion penalty. Chicago proceeded to turn the ball over on downs and in the end it was Washington running out the clock and coming away with the NFL Championship by a score of 14-6.

In a game dominated by defense, the Bears had more total yards (188 to 170) and first downs (10 to 9). Chicago was only able to gain 69 of that total on the ground, on 41 carries, and also turned the ball over four times, to two by Washington. The line play, both offensive and defensive, was outstanding throughout the game for the Redskins.

Washington’s passing game was largely kept in check as Sammy Baugh completed 5 of 13 passes for 66 yards, but one was good for a touchdown while two were intercepted. He also contributed the one big interception and was effective with his punting. Wilbur Moore (pictured at right), who caught the scoring pass, was the team’s leading receiver with two receptions for 41 yards. Andy Farkas ran for 46 yards on 13 carries that included a TD while FB Bob Seymour contributed 34 yards on 14 attempts.

Sid Luckman had a poor day throwing against the Redskins defense as he went to the air 11 times and completed 5 for just nine yards and had two picked off. QB Charlie O’Rourke, who relieved in the fourth quarter, was good on 4 of 6 throws for 110 yards. HB Ray “Scooter” McLean caught 3 passes for 26 yards while HB Frank Maznicki had one catch for 39 yards to go along with his 14 yards on 5 rushing attempts. Bill Osmanski was the team’s top ground gainer with 36 yards on 13 carries.

The loss put an end to Chicago’s hopes of posting an undefeated season all the way to the championship as well as three consecutive titles. The win not only brought the Redskins their second NFL title but provided some measure of payback for the big defeat of two years earlier. As Sammy Baugh said afterward in his Texas drawl, “I guess this kinda makes up for that thing in 1940, don’t it?”

The two teams met again for the title in 1943, with the Redskins tying the Giants atop the Eastern Division at 6-3-1 and winning the resulting playoff and Chicago going 8-1-1 to beat the Packers out in the Western Division by a game. The Bears won easily this time by a 41-21 score for their third NFL Championship in four years.