November 6, 2014

1949: Redskins Defeat Steelers with 3 TDs in Fourth Quarter

The Washington Redskins were struggling with a 2-3-1 record as they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 6, 1949. John Whelchel, a former admiral and coach at Navy, had been hired as head coach to bring discipline to the team. QB Sammy Baugh (pictured at right) was still a highly-effective passer at age 35 and end Hugh Taylor an outstanding receiver, but the Redskins lost badly to the Cardinals, Giants, and Eagles.

Pittsburgh, coached by John Michelosen, was 4-2 and trying to remain in contention after a loss to the Eastern Division-leading Eagles the previous week. The Steelers were utilizing the NFL’s last single-wing offense and thus remained dependent on a conservative, ground-oriented attack. While coming into the game with the better record, the team had never won in Washington and lost to the Redskins in Pittsburgh earlier in the season.

There were 26,038 fans in attendance at Griffith Stadium. The Steelers dominated play in the first quarter, not allowing a first down on defense, although they came up empty on a scoring opportunity. DE Bob Davis partially blocked a punt by Dick Poillon in his end zone to give Pittsburgh the ball on the Washington 27. Three running plays got the ball to the eight, but after another three runs, HB Jerry Nuzum was stopped at the one on fourth down.

At 6:35 into the second quarter, the Redskins got on the board when QB Harry Gilmer eluded tacklers and threw a bomb to Hugh Taylor, who pulled it down from among three defenders for a 51-yard touchdown.

The Steelers responded by driving 80 yards in 12 plays. TB Jim Finks completed a pass to end Val Jansante for 34 yards and ran five yards around end for a touchdown to finish off the series. Joe Glamp’s conversion tied the score at 7-7, which remained the tally at halftime.

In the third quarter, Pittsburgh had the initial possession and advanced 66 yards, this time in 13 plays. Nuzum (pictured at right) ran for 13 yards and Finks for 14 before FB Jerry Shipkey powered up the middle for a TD from a foot out and Glamp’s extra point put the visitors in front by 14-7.

The Redskins, with Sammy Baugh in at quarterback, drove to the Pittsburgh 30, but LB Darrell Hogan picked off a pass. The Steelers reached the Washington 16 on their series, with the big play a 23-yard carry by Nuzum, but the drive stalled and Glamp was wide to the right on a 25-yard field goal attempt.

Late in the period, DB Howard Hartley intercepted another Baugh pass at the Pittsburgh 16. The Steelers had to punt to start the fourth quarter and the Redskins took possession at their 26. Rookie FB Pete Stout ran around end, eluded several tacklers as he headed down the sideline, and went the distance for a 74-yard touchdown. Poillon converted and, less than a minute into the final period, the score was again tied at 14-14.

Hartley intercepted another pass and then Poillon missed a 41-yard field goal attempt for Washington and a deadlock appeared likely. The Steelers came out passing, however, and Finks was picked off by DB Howie Livingston at the Pittsburgh 42. Baugh passed to Taylor for eight yards and then to HB Rob Goode for a 32-yard gain. Stout followed up with another touchdown, this time from one yard out. Poillon missed the extra point, but the home team was ahead by six points with two minutes remaining to play.

Pittsburgh again went to the air, the biggest a throw from Finks to end Elbie Nickel for 30 yards, and reached the Washington 39 before DHB Dan Sandifer intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards to the Pittsburgh 16. HB Harry Dowda ran for a one-yard insurance TD. The PAT was successful and what had been a closely-fought contest for most of the way turned into a 27-14 win for the Redskins.

Thanks to the long scoring run, Pete Stout (pictured above) gained 107 yards on just seven carries that included two touchdowns. Sammy Baugh completed 8 of 15 passes for 101 yards and a TD and Harry Gilmer was four-of-12 for 107 yards and a score. For the Steelers, Jim Finks was successful on five of 15 throws for 86 yards with no touchdowns. He also ran for 68 yards on 18 carries.

Washington won only once more the rest of the way, ending up with a 4-7-1 record that placed fourth in the Eastern Division. Coach Whelchel was let go and assistant Herman Ball finished out the year in the interim. For the Steelers, the loss extinguished any faint title hopes and they went 6-5-1 for second place in the division, well behind the Eagles.

Sammy Baugh had a typically productive season, leading the NFL in passing for the sixth (and last) time while accumulating 1903 yards and 18 touchdowns. Pete Stout’s rushing total against the Steelers represented almost half of his 245 yards on 62 carries for the season in which he appeared in six games.