November 30, 2014

1941: Down by 17 at the Half, Packers Rally to Defeat Redskins

The Green Bay Packers were 9-1 and in a battle with the Chicago Bears in the NFL Western Division as they took on the Washington Redskins in their season finale on November 30, 1941. Head Coach Curly Lambeau’s team benefited from the passing of tailback Cecil Isbell and the pass receiving of superb end Don Hutson (Hutson, left, and Isbell pictured above). Isbell could run, too, and the stable of backs led by FB Clarke Hinkle was a good one.

Washington, coached by Ray Flaherty, had lost three straight games after starting the season at 5-1 and the Redskins were now 5-4 as they hosted the Packers. TB Sammy Baugh, who split time with Frank Filchock, was one of the NFL’s most productive passers and the team benefited from the addition of C/LB Ki Aldrich, who was obtained through a trade with the Cardinals.

It was a warm day at Griffith Stadium with 35,594 fans in attendance. The Redskins took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards. Tailback Frank Filchock completed passes for first downs to back Roy Zimmerman and end Joe Aguirre. The series was capped by Filchock running for a 10-yard touchdown on a fake reverse. Aguirre kicked the extra point.

Green Bay managed one first down in response as Cecil Isbell threw to end Don Hutson for 15 yards, but the Packers had to punt. Washington again moved the ball on offense, with FB Bob Seymour (pictured at left) the standout, advancing 50 yards before Bob Masterson kicked a 28-yard field goal.

Heading into the second quarter, the Redskins expanded their lead. Sammy Baugh entered the game for Washington and made a big play on defense as he intercepted an Isbell pass and returned it to near midfield. Following a nine-yard run by FB Andy Farkas, Baugh threw long for Seymour and it was complete for a 41-yard TD. A bad snap from center nearly thwarted the extra point attempt, but Baugh grabbed the ball and Ki Aldrich was able to make the kick. The home team was up by a 17-0 score.

The Packers got two first downs before Isbell was twice tossed for losses and then Aldrich intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards to the Green Bay 41. The Packers got the ball back when Farkas fumbled, gave it back up on another interception, and regained it once more on a fumble by Seymour. TB Hal Van Every threw to HB Andy Uram for a 30-yard gain with less than a minute remaining in the first half, but after TB Tony Canadeo picked up a first down, the clock ran out with the score unchanged.

Green Bay had been unable to sustain drives in the first half, but the result was very different in the third quarter. First, LB George Svendsen recovered a Farkas fumble at the Green Bay 28 and Isbell proceeded to pass the Packers down the field. Reaching the Washington 15, he then ran seven yards for a first down and the series concluded with his throw to Hutson for a touchdown from eight yards out. Hutson’s try for the extra point missed, but the visitors were on the board.

The Redskins responded by once again moving the ball effectively, but Filchock’s pass from his own 45 was intercepted by Svendsen, who returned it 45 yards to the Washington three. FB Clarke Hinkle hit the line twice without success before Isbell, facing third-and-goal, again connected with Hutson for a three-yard TD. This time Hutson successfully converted and the Packers were down by just 17-13 heading into the final period.

Following a short possession by the Redskins, Green Bay started the next series at its own 33. Isbell ran for five yards and then hit on short passes to Hutson and HB Herm Rohrig. He then went long for Hutson and the result was a 40-yard touchdown. Hutson again added the PAT and the visitors were up by 20-17.

On the ensuing kickoff, back Ray Hare fumbled at his three, recovered, and retreated into his end zone for a safety that increased the Green Bay lead to five points. Washington was unable to come back despite Baugh’s best efforts. In a series that started from the Washington 14, “Slingin’ Sammy” passed the team down the field with completions to end Al Krueger and McChesney. But after getting to the Green Bay 16, the Packers held and the Redskins turned the ball over on downs. Getting one last shot in the final minute, Baugh threw a desperation pass that Uram picked off to seal the 22-17 win for the Packers.

Green Bay led in total yards (388 to 331) while the Redskins had more first downs (18 to 14). Washington turned the ball over five times, to four suffered by the Packers, who gave up three interceptions in the first half, but none during the second half comeback. Don Hutson caught 9 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns, all on throws from Cecil Isbell.

The Packers ended up tied with the Bears on top of the Western Division with a 10-1 record. They had split with Chicago during the regular season, but it was the Bears handily coming out on top in the playoff for the division title. Washington ended up at 6-5, placing third in the Eastern Division.

Don Hutson led the NFL in pass receiving (58), pass receiving yards (738), and TD receptions (10), as well as touchdowns overall (12, tied with George McAfee of the Bears) and scoring (95 points, a new NFL record). He was recipient of the Joe F. Carr Trophy as league MVP. Cecil Isbell topped the circuit in pass attempts (206), completions (117), yards (1479), and TD passes (15), among other categories. Both were consensus first-team All-NFL selections.