Championships Missed: The Lost Years, Part 2 - The 1942 Season by Jonathan Henderson 05/06/2011 (Picture from the 1942 NFL Championship Game between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins. The Redskins would win by a score of 14-6 in what was, for the most part, a defensive donnybrook. Picture courtesy of The Bleacher Report)
By 1942, NFL league co-founder and Chicago Bears team owner, general manager, former player, and head coach George S. Halas had built the NFL's most successful franchise. He won championships in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, and 1941, while missing out on an undefeated NFL Championship in 1934 against the New York Giants as well as an opportunity to win a title in 1937 against the Washington Redskins. The Bears would gain a huge measure of revenge against the 'Skins in 1940 in a record breaking 73-0 thrashing while using their revolutionary T-Formation that had been made famous by the Stanford University football team during the 1930s.
In 1942, Halas had another juggernaut on his hands, but he joined the United States Navy in order to serve his country during World War II, and thus entrusted the team to Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos. The boys from Chicago would have made their "Papa Bear" proud had he been around; they finished the regular season 11-0 and looked to be unstoppable. They needed only to win one more game to become the first franchise in the 23 year history of the NFL to finish with a perfect record, and only the 10-1-0 Redskins, opponents of the Bears in the 1937 and '40 Championship Games, stood in the way. Washington was coached by future Hall of Fame coach Ray Flaherty and was quarterbacked by the legendary Sammy Baugh. The Bears were heavy favorites to win the game, and it looked as if nothing would stand in their way.
The game, which was hosted by the Redskins at old Griffith Stadium, started out slowly. There was no scoring in the 1st Quarter as the two teams spent the period feeling each other out. That would all end in the 2nd Quarter when Bears T Lee Artoe recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, giving Chicago a 6-0 lead. (The extra point was no good.) However, that would be the one and only score of the game for the Bears, who were absolutely swamped by the aggressive Washington defense. Later in the 2nd, Sammy Baugh lived up to his reputation as a gunslinger and "slung" a 39 yard pass to RB Wilbur Moore for a TD, giving the Redskins a 7-6 lead that it would not relinquish. (Bob Masterson was credited with PAT.) The death knell was added when FB Andy Farkas rammed his way into the end zone from one yard out. Final score: Redskins 14, Bears 6, in what was mostly a dirge rather than a game.
It is important to note just how colossally poor the Bears normally-potent offense performed on this day. To give you a sense, consider how Hall of Fame QB Sid Luckman turned in a truly awful performance that would make even the notoriously bad Rex Grossman cringe: he went 5 for 12 for two yards and two interceptions. Washington's defense utterly decimated Chicago's stellar offense on that bitter December day in 1942. The Bears' offense scored 376 points on the season and averaged 34.2 points per game, thus giving a pretty good indication of how excellent the Redskins' defense really was. Chicago defensively shut out four opponents, including the Detroit Lions on two occasions, and only gave up more than a single touchdown in a game three times in the regular season, in which only the Packers managed to torch the Bears' stingy defense for more than two touchdowns. (Green Bay scored 28 points.) The Bears' "D" lived up to its billing as the best in the NFL. The offense, however, was downright offensive.
Despite the disappointment attributed with the loss, there would be a day of reckoning for Chicago. On December 26, 1943, Sid Luckman would have one of his finest days in what was his greatest season as a professional quarterback, in what was the single greatest year ever in terms of quarterback rating. On the day, Luckman would finish 15-26 for 286 yards and a then-record five touchdown passes in leading the Bears to a 41-21 route of the defending champion Redskins. Once again, all was well in Chicago.
Tune in next time when I provide in-depth analysis on the Bears loss to the New York Giants in what turned out to be a sequel to the 1934 "Sneaker Game" in "Championships Missed : The Lost Years, Pt. 3."
; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NFL_Championship_Game,_1942 ; http://bleacherreport.com/articles/357519-one-for-the-ages-sid-luckmans-1943-nfl-championship-game ; http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/ ; http://bleacherreport.com/articles/628431-braves-on-the-warpath-the-25-greatest-games-in-washington-redskins-history#/articles/628431-braves-on-the-warpath-the-25-greatest-games-in-washington-redskins-history/page/13 )