November 16, 2013

1947: Cards Score 2 TDs in Fourth Quarter to Defeat Packers

The Chicago Cardinals were at 6-1 and leading the NFL Western Division as they hosted the Green Bay Packers on November 16, 1947. Coached by Jimmy Conzelman, the Cards boasted a fine backfield that included QB Paul Christman, halfbacks Elmer Angsman and Charley Trippi, and FB Pat Harder, plus two good receivers in ends Mal Kutner (pictured at right) and Bill Dewell.

The Packers came into the game at 4-3 and were desperate for a win that would keep them in contention. Head Coach Curly Lambeau had installed the T-formation with QB Jack Jacobs directing it, but they lacked the kind of big-play ability that had fueled past success.

There were 40,086 fans in attendance at Comiskey Park. On their first series, the Cardinals drove 61 yards in 10 plays as Pat Harder and HB Marshall Goldberg combined for 24 yards on the ground and Paul Christman completed a pass to Bill Dewell for 15 yards. Another throw, to Mal Kutner, was good for a 20-yard touchdown as the receiver split the two defensive backs and caught the ball in full stride. Harder added the extra point and Chicago had a 7-0 lead.

The Packers moved the ball well on their next series, starting off at their 30 and taking advantage of passes from Jack Jacobs to ends Clyde Goodnight and Nolan Luhn to reach the Chicago 31, garnering three first downs along the way. The drive stalled and Ted Fritsch kicked a 35-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 7-3.

Fritsch made a big play on defense as he intercepted a Christman pass at the Chicago 28 and, following a Jacobs to Luhn completion to the one, it was Fritsch carrying off tackle for the last yard and a touchdown. Ward Cuff kicked the extra point and the visitors were ahead by 10-7.

The Packers punted on their next series and, following a 68-yard boot by Jacobs, the Cards again turned the ball over, this time on a fumble by HB Bill deCorrevont that G Dick Wildung recovered at the Chicago 36. The Packers were unable to move the ball in three plays, but Fritsch booted a 44-yard field goal to extend the lead.

Green Bay continued to dominate, but Fritsch missed field goal attempts from 35 and 42 yards. The score remained 13-7 at the half.

Early in the third quarter, DB Ken Keuper intercepted a pass and returned it 28 yards to give Green Bay good starting field position at the Chicago 45. Goodnight pulled in a pass for 13 yards and running plays advanced the ball to the 19. After a three-yard loss, Jacobs threw to HB Bob Forte for a 22-yard TD. The Packers carried a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter and appeared to be in command.

The Cardinals, quiet on offense for most of the game and having penetrated Green Bay territory just three times thus far, put together a 57-yard drive following a Green Bay punt. Harder and HB Elmer Angsman ran effectively and Christman, who had completed only 6 of 20 passes, had key completions. Harder capped the series by running for the last four yards and a touchdown – for good measure, he also added the extra point that made it a six-point game.

After a short possession by the Packers that resulted in a punt, Chicago again had another impressive series, going 66 yards. Harder and Angsman combined for 21 yards on the ground and Christman threw to Kutner for 22 yards to the Green Bay 23. Another Christman completion to Kutner was good for a 23-yard TD, with Harder adding the all-important extra point to put the home team up by one.

There were just over five minutes remaining, and Green Bay still had a chance to pull out a win. The Packers moved 57 yards in the last minute-and-a-half, primarily on three passes to Luhn (pictured below), including a spectacular reception that gained 29 yards to the Chicago 15. The Packers chose to go with the usually reliable Cuff for the field goal rather than risk another pass, but Cuff missed a 23-yard field goal that sailed wide to the left with 21 seconds left on the clock. The Cardinals came away with a 21-20 win.

Chicago had the edge in total yards (269 to 249) and first downs (16 to 15). The fourth quarter heroics obscured the fact that they turned the ball over four times, to one suffered by Green Bay. Jack Jacobs threw one interception while Paul Christman was picked off three times. Mal Kutner was the standout on offense as he caught 5 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

For the Cardinals, the win over Green Bay made it four straight, and while they lost their next two contests, they ended up winning the Western Division with a 9-3 record. Chicago defeated the Eagles for the NFL Championship. Meanwhile, the second one-point defeat for the Packers essentially dropped them out of contention and they ended up in third place at 6-5-1.

Mal Kutner led the NFL with 944 yards on his 70 pass receptions, averaging 22.0 yards per catch and scoring eight touchdowns. Pat Harder led the league in scoring with 102 points and field goals with seven – tied with Bob Waterfield and also Ward Cuff, whose miss at the end of the game was so costly to the Packers.