October 31, 2015

1943: Packers Score 2 TDs in Fourth Quarter to Beat Giants

The Green Bay Packers had a 3-1-1 record and were trying to maintain pace with the Bears in the NFL Western Division as they took on the Giants in New York on October 31, 1943. Head Coach Curly Lambeau’s team was missing a couple of key players in rookie tailback Irv Comp, who was out with a leg injury, and center Charley Brock, due to a recent bout with appendicitis. But other key players, notably tailback Tony Canadeo and end Don Hutson (pictured above), were present.

The Giants, coached by Steve Owen, were 2-1. Rookie FB Bill Paschal was a key addition to the club that already had a solid runner in wingback Ward Cuff. The aging but still able QB Tuffy Leemans and C/LB Mel Hein were also on a roster depleted by wartime. Moreover, the Packers had beaten the Giants only once since 1936, a total of six meetings with two of them having NFL titles on the line.

There were 46,208 fans in attendance at the Polo Grounds. On their second possession of the game, following an exchange of punts, the Packers started off at their own 27. Tony Canadeo threw to Don Hutson for six yards and then ran the ball himself for 12. Another throw to Hutson advanced the ball to the New York 41 and, following a short run by FB Tony Falkenstein, Hutson took the handoff on an end-around and caught the Giants by surprise as he threw an option pass down the middle to end Harry Jacunski for a 38-yard touchdown. Hutson added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Following the failure of the Packers to convert a fourth-and-one play on their next series, the Giants took possession at their 43. Tuffy Leemans ran for 14 yards and Ward Cuff for another 14. Cuff caught a pass from Leemans for 12 yards to the Green Bay 17 but the drive stalled at that point as a run was held to no gain and two passes were incomplete. On fourth down, Leemans dropped back and, evading several defenders, threw to Bill Paschal who was alone in the end zone for an 18-yard TD. Cuff’s conversion tied the score at 7-7.

On the last play of the opening period, HB Lou Brock returned the kickoff to the Green Bay 28. Canadeo (pictured at right) and HB Andy Uram had good runs to get the ball into New York territory and, after Brock ran for five yards, Canadeo connected with Hutson for 14 yards and Jacunski for 13. Uram finished the series off with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Canadeo, Hutson added the point after, and the visitors were ahead by 14-7.

Green Bay scored again on its next possession. A Canadeo pass to Hutson gained 19 yards to the New York 21 and, after the tailback ran for four yards, he threw to Hutson again for a 17-yard TD. Hutson added the PAT and the Packers took a 21-7 margin into halftime.

The Giants moved well on offense to start the third quarter, but a promising drive came up empty at the Green Bay 14 when the home team was forced to give the ball up on downs. The Packers had to punt and New York advanced 58 yards and did not come away empty handed. QB Emery Nix threw to Paschal for a gain to the Green Bay 18 and Paschal then carried the ball for another 12 yards. Two plays later, it was Paschal powering through the line for a four-yard touchdown. Cuff converted to make it a seven-point game at 21-14.

On their next series, the Giants again moved effectively, putting together a 65-yard drive. With first-and-goal at the six, however, the Packers held on defense for three plays and Paschal, catching a pass on fourth down, was tackled just a foot short of the goal line. The game now headed into the fourth quarter and the Packers had to punt again, Paschal returning it 17 yards to the Green Bay 28. Nix completed a pass to back Leland Shaffer to the 19 and Paschal ran for seven yards. It was Paschal (pictured below) again finishing off the drive with a dive into the end zone from a yard out. Cuff capped the home team’s comeback with the extra point that tied the score at 21-21.

The Packers reached the New York 36 on their next series but came up empty when Chet Adams was short on a 45-yard field goal attempt. On their next possession, Canadeo connected with Brock for a 40-yard gain but followed up with a pass that was intercepted.

The Giants were now stymied on offense and punted. This time the visitors didn’t fail to score, advancing 66 yards in three plays. Uram faded back and threw long to Jacunski, who caught the ball over his shoulder for a gain of 48 yards to the New York 15. Two plays later, Canadeo fired a pass to Hutson for a 12-yard TD. Hutson added the point after and Green Bay was back in front by 28-21 with four minutes remaining to play.

The Packers got the ball back two minutes later at the New York 40 following Paschal’s punt for the Giants. Canadeo ran for five yards and then broke away on a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown run. Hutson converted and Green Bay came away with a 35-21 win.

The Packers had a big lead in total yards (429 to 288) although the Giants had the edge in first downs (16 to 15). Green Bay both out-rushed (158 to 114) and out-passed (271 to 174) New York, but they also suffered the game’s only turnover.

Tony Canadeo rushed for 122 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown in addition to throwing for two TDs. Don Hutson caught 8 passes for 103 yards and two TDs, passed for a touchdown (the only one of his Hall of Fame career), and with his placekicking added in accounted for a total of 17 points. Harry Jacunski had 5 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown.

Green Bay lost to the Bears the following week and, while they won their remaining games, it was enough to ensure that they would finish in second place in the Western Division with a 7-2-1 record. The Giants tied the Lions in their next game, were thoroughly overwhelmed by the Bears, but then won four straight to close out the schedule and salvage a tie for first place in the Eastern Division with Washington at 6-3-1. They lost the ensuing playoff with the Redskins.

Don Hutson caught 47 passes for 776 yards and 11 touchdowns, all NFL-leading totals. Already the NFL’s career scoring leader, he led the circuit with 117 points. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection along with Tony Canadeo, who passed for 875 yards and 9 TDs and rushed for 489 yards and three scores. Bill Paschal was the league’s rushing leader, by a yard over Phil/Pitt’s Jack Hinkle, with 572 yards. He scored a NFL-high 10 TDs on the ground and tied Hutson with 12 touchdowns overall.