October 5, 2013

1947: Baugh Passes Redskins Past Steelers in Back-and-Forth Game

The Washington Redskins were 0-1, having shown off plenty of offense in a wild loss to the Eagles, as they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 5, 1947. A 5-5-1 team in 1946, their first year under Head Coach Turk Edwards, the Redskins had the NFL’s best passer in 33-year-old QB Sammy Baugh (pictured above) but they were already showing an inability to stop good offenses when they shifted to defense.

Pittsburgh, under Head Coach Jock Sutherland, was also 5-5-1 the previous year. They had already played two games and split them, defeating the Lions in the opener but losing badly to the Rams in the next contest. They traded star multi-purpose back Bill Dudley during the offseason and had Johnny Clement take his place at tailback in their single-wing offense.

It was a sunny afternoon with a record crowd of 36,565 in attendance at Griffith Stadium. The Steelers took the opening kickoff and, keeping the ball on the ground, advanced to the Washington eight yard line. The big play along the way was a 43-yard carry by Clement. The drive stalled and Joe Glamp kicked a 15-yard field goal.

The 3-0 lead held up until the first play of the second quarter. With a first down at his own 46, Baugh fired a pass to HB Bob Nussbaumer, who caught it at the 31 and outran the secondary to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. Dick Poillon’s extra point made it 7-3

Late in the period, DB Walt Slater recovered a fumble by Washington FB Jack Jenkins at the Pittsburgh 40 and the Steelers went 60 yards in seven plays. Clement completed a pass to end Val Jansante for 19 yards to the Washington 15 and from there he connected with FB Steve Lach, who took the short throw and powered over several tacklers for a touchdown. Glamp’s extra point was successful to make it a three-point margin. With one minute left, the Redskins had another opportunity and Baugh passed them down to the Pittsburgh 14 where time ran out.

Washington HB Dick Todd returned the second half kickoff 50 yards to the Pittsburgh 43 and from there the home team drove to a score. Baugh threw to Poillon for a six-yard TD, and while Poillon missed the extra point attempt (breaking a streak of 30 straight), the Redskins were back in front by 13-10.

However, five minutes later DB Tony Compagno intercepted a Baugh pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown to put the visitors back on top. Washington responded with a series that ended with Baugh throwing to end Hugh Taylor for a 36-yard TD. Poillon’s kick made it 20-17 in the back-and-forth contest.

The Steelers came back with a big pass play of their own as Clement threw to HB Bob Sullivan for a 50-yard touchdown. Glamp was successful on the conversion and Pittsburgh was again in front by 24-20.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers advanced to the Washington two but came up empty. The Redskins, backed deep in a hole, were forced to punt and Baugh faded back to pass out of punt formation but stepped out of bounds in his end zone for a safety that extended the Pittsburgh lead to 26-20.

The Steelers again drove into Washington territory but a 40-yard field goal try by Glamp sailed wide to the left. The Redskins went 80 yards on their next series with Baugh passing effectively. On a fourth-and-nine play Slingin’ Sammy hit FB Sal Rosato for a first down at the one. HB Tom Farmer scored from there with 5:32 remaining on the clock and Poillon added the crucial extra point. The lead had changed for the seventh time.

The Steelers put together a 73-yard drive in the waning minutes of the game. With 25 seconds left, Glamp attempted a 29-yard field goal but the wobbly kick hit the left upright and bounced away. The Redskins came away with a 27-26 win.

The statistics reflected the closeness of the score. Washington barely outgained the Steelers (384 yards to 373) while Pittsburgh had the edge in first downs (16 to 15). The Redskins also turned the ball over three times, to one suffered by the Steelers.

Sammy Baugh completed 13 of 28 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns along with two interceptions while Johnny Clement (pictured at left) was successful on 9 of 17 throws for 157 yards and two TDs.

Washington continued to be an exciting offensive team that all-too-often gave up more points that it scored. The Redskins finished with a disappointing 4-8 record to place fourth in the Eastern Division. Pittsburgh, however, overcame the tough loss against the Redskins to win six straight games and tie for first in the division with the Eagles. But dissension among the players plus the loss of Johnny Clement to injury doomed the Steelers to a loss in the playoff game against Philadelphia.

Sammy Baugh had one of his greatest statistical seasons, setting NFL records with 354 pass attempts, 210 completions, and 2938 yards. He also led the league in touchdown passes (25) and completion percentage (59.3).

Johnny Clement had an outstanding year as well, ranking second in rushing (670 yards) while passing for 1004 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.