NFL Championship Games

1935: New York Giants @ Detroit Lions
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the continuity of the article.
Detroit sports fans enjoyed the fall of 1935 enormously.
  • First, the Tigers defeated the Cubs in six games to cop their first World Series after having been denied by the Cardinals in the seventh game in '34.
  • At that point, the Lions, in only their second year as a franchise, were mired in mediocrity with a 1-1-1 record after a loss to the lowly Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • But seemingly inspired by their baseball counterparts, George "Potsy" Clark's boys went 6-2-1 the rest of the way to win the West Division and host the New York Giants, champions of the East for the third straight year.
  • The Lions actually compiled a better record, 10-3, in 1934 compared to 7-3-2 in '35. But the Bears were literally unbeatable in '34, going 13-0 in the regular season before being upset by the Giants for the championship.
  • The '34 Lions also deployed an incredible defense that held opponents scoreless for the first seven games of the season. Furthermore, in none of those games did the enemy penetrate the Detroit 20. Unfortunately, after winning their first ten games, the Lions lost to the Packers 3-0 and then back-to-back games to Chicago to end the season: 19-16 and 10-7.

But the bad luck of the "Sneaker Game" carried over to the next season for George Halas's Windy City crew. After losing only two games out of 26 in '33 and '34, Chi­cago slumped to 6-4-2 in '35.

  • Injuries to backfield stars Bronko Nagurski and Beattie Feathers played a large role in the demise.
  • The Bronk started only three games because of a sciatic condition and a bone growth on his hip.
  • Feathers underwent an operation on his injured shoulder in February but never regained the wizardry of his one unstoppable campaign in '34. The HB from Tennessee gained but 281y on the ground in eight games in '35 after amassing a league record 1,004 the year before in 11 outings.
  • Two retirements after the '34 campaign also hurt. Red Grange's absence weakened the secondary, and the line missed Link Lyman on both sides of the ball.
Meanwhile, the Lions received great leadership from another Clark, Earl "Dutch" Clark who would become a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
  • Clark Shaugnessey, one of the originators of the T formation, said of Dutch: If Clark stepped on the field with Grange, Thorpe, and Gipp, Dutch would be the general.
  • Dutch made All-Pro six times during his seven-year NFL career, and most of the players of the era picked him on their All-Opponent team.
  • During his five most productive seasons (1932 and 1934-7), the product of Colorado College averaged 549y on the ground and 291 more through the air.
  • Giants C Mel Hein, whom Dutch would face in the '35 Championship Game, called Clark the last of the great dropkickers. If Dutch had played with a New York team he might have been better known. But he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963 and no one deserved it more. He was a fine runner, a superb de­fensive back, and also a great dropkicker.
  • The problem for opponents was that Dutch wasn't the only threat in the Lions' backfield. Glenn Presnell, the pride of Nebraska, lined up at RHB alongside Clark in the single-wing formation.
  • Despite the simplicity of Potsy Clark's offense, which employed only nine running and nine passing plays, Detroit finished second to the Bears in points scored.
  • As was typical in those days, the Lions ran the ball 532 times but threw only 142 passes. The term "balanced offense," if used at all in 1935, meant "throw a pass every now and then to keep the defense off-balance."
  • His players called Potsy Clark the "Little Colonel." Presnell recalled: He was a tough taskmaster, one who believed in perfect conditioning, and that was the secret to our success ... We maybe didn't have as many big-name stars a some of the other teams in the league but we were always in superb condition, top form. Potsy had a way of instilling confidence in you and he created a good esprit de corps among the players and an intense desire to win.
Essentially the same team as the '34 champions, the '35 Giants won the East with ease, their 9-3 record besting the Dodgers by 3.5 games.
  • The main addition to Coach Steve Owen's club was rookie E Tod Goodwin from West Virginia, who lead the NFL with 26 receptions and a 16.6y per reception average.
  • The backfield still featured the threesome from '34.
    TB Ed Danowski completed 57-of-113 for 794y and 10 TDs.
    Harry Newman served as a capable back up to Danowksi.
    FB Ken Strong had started only seven games because of injuries.
  • Elvin "Kink" Richards actually led the team in rushing with 449y.
  • Veteran WB Dale Burnett was questionable for the title fray because of an infected hand.

The oddsmakers established the Lions as 9-to-5 favorites.

  • Coach Clark scrimmaged his Lions all week with one thought in mind: Stop the Giants passing.
  • Utilize the superior speed of the line against their larger, slower front wall.
1935 Detroit Lions
# Player Pos. College Exp.
1 Ernie Caddel WB Stanford 3
2 Frank Christensen FB Utah 2
3 Glenn Presnell TB Nebraska 5
4 Buddy Parker FB Centenary 1
5 Ace Gutowsky FB Oklahoma City 4
6 Tony Kaska FB Illinois Wesleyan 1
7 Dutch Clark TB Colorado College 4
8 Pug Vaughn TB Tennessee 1
9 Bill Shepherd FB Western Michigan 1
10 Ed Klewicki E Michigan State 1
11 Harry Ebding E St. Mary's (CA) 5
12 John Schneller E Wisconsin 3
14 George Christensen T Oregon 5
16 Jack Johnson T Utah 2
17 Clare Randolph C Indiana 6
18 Elmer Ward C Utah State 1
19 Regis Monahan G Ohio State 1
20 Ox Emerson G Texas 7
21 Sam Knox G New Hampshire 2
22 Tom Hupke G Alabama 2
23 Jim Steen T Syracuse 1
25 Red Stacy T Oklahoma 1
27 Butch Morse E Oregon 1
1935 New York Giants
# Player Pos. College Exp.
  Red Corzine FB Davis & Elkins 3
  Bernie Kaplan G Western Maryland 1
  Walt Singer E Syracuse 1
1 Ray Flaherty E Wash.St., Gonzaga 8
2 John Dell Isola C Fordham 2
3 Len Grant T NYU 6
4 Stuart Clancy HB Holy Cross 6
7 Mel Hein C Washington State 5
8 Bob Bellinger G Gonzaga 2
10 Tom Jones G Bucknell 6
12 Harry Newman QB Michigan 3
13 Elvin Richards HB Simpson 3
17 Red Badgro E USC 8
18 Dale Burnett HB Emporia State 6
20 Leland Shaffer BB Kansas State 1
21 Ike Frankian E St. Mary's (CA) 3
22 Ed Danowski HB Fordham 2
23 Bo Molenda FB Michigan 9
24 Tod Goodwin E West Virginia 1
25 Max Krause FB Gonzaga 3
27 Bill Morgan T Oregon 3
29 Tex Irvin T Davis & Elkins 5
36 Bill Owen T Phillips 10
50 Ken Strong HB NYU 7

 

For the second year in a row, the weather refused to cooperate.

  • The night before the game, a violent rainstorm hit the Motor City, pouring rivers of water over Titan Stadium on the campus of the University of De­troit. The rain stopped just before a snowstorm hit before noon.
  • The conditions limited the crowd to 15,000, 9,000 short of capacity.
  • Presnell: It was an awful day, I remember. The field was muddy, and it was bitingly cold and windy. Then there was a snowstorm. They had the field covered before the game but by the tmie it was half over the mud was frozen and there were about three inches of snow on top of it.
  • A wet track would seem to favor the Giants, who outweighed the Lions 10 lb per man. However, the outcome really hinged on which team could execute its aerial attack better in trying conditions.
 Detroit University Stadium
Titan Stadium, University of Detroit
The Lions came out of the shoot throwing the ball.
  • Quarter 1
    Strong kicked off and Ernie Caddel returned it 15y before being flattened in the mud at the 39. To the surprise of the invaders, the Detroiters tried a pass on the first play but Presnell's toss fell incomplete. Undaunted, Glenn connected with Frank Christensen for a gain of 25y. Scarcely had the Giants recovered from this shock than FB Ace Gutowski fired a long pass intended for E Ed Klewicki, but the ball hit Danowski and squirted high in the air. Klewicki reached out and gathered it in to make it first-and-goal on the 8. Presnell gained 3 off tackle. Then, on a full spinner play, Gutowsky moved with ease through a gaping hole in the center of the line while the befuddled Giants sought in vain to find out who had the ball. Presnell booted the point to make it 7-0.
    The Giants fought right back. Richards returned the kickoff 25y. Then he tore off 11 more. When Danowski hit Goodwin for 13, the visitors were down on the Detroit 23. But the Lions dug in and forced a 34y FG try by Strong that sailed wide.
    But the Giants were back in business almost immediately when Bill Morgan recovered a fumble on the 21. But the visitors could gain only 8y on four tries to turn ovre the ball.
    After New York got the pigskin back on a punt at their 31, Strong reeled off 13 off LT. But Christensen picked off Danowski's pass and dashed 30y to the enemy 46.
    After two line thrusts by Clark and Caddel yielded 6y, Dutch broke through the center of the line, then, when the secondary converged on him, cut back sharply to his right, and, behind smooth interference, completed a 40y jaunt around and through the puddles to the end zone. Clark missed the PAT to keep the score at 13-0. This was not a good day to fall two TDs behind.
  • Quarter 2
    The Lions plastered Goodwin after he caught a pass, sending him to the sidelines with two broken ribs. That made the Giants' challenge even greater. The Lions appeared to have a third TD tucked away after Harry Ebding recovered a blocked NY punt and raced 35y. But 3y short of the goal line, he fumbled, and the ball bounded out of the EZ for a touchback.
    Toward the close of the period, the Giants launched a march that started with a 17y pass from Danowski to Walter Singer. With Richards doing the bulk of the line smashing, the New Yorkers carried the ball to the 4. But once again the blue-shirted defenders rose up and took possession on downs.
  • Quarter 3
    Grimly, the Giants fought back and threatened to make a real battle of it when one of their few properly executed passes hit its mark. Danowski flipped a 12y toss across the field to Strong, who made a spectacular one-handed catch on the 30 and outran the defenders down the sideline to pay dirt. Ken split the uprights to make it 13-7.
  • Quarter 4
    The East champions desperately strove to score again, but twice their efforts were thwarted. Finally, with the game hanging in the balance, the Giants de­cided to punt from their own 10. Under a heavy rush, Danowski kicked the ball into one of his own men, George Christensen falling on the ball at the 26. Five line thrusts, one on a spinner by Buddy Parker (future Detroit coach) good for 12y, brought the ball to the 1. The Giants, braced for a frontal assault, swarmed Gutowsky as he lowered his shoulders into the center of the line. But Ace didn't have the ball; Caddel carried it around LE to score untouched. Clark's kick moved the score to 20-7.
    To all intents and purposes, the game was over, but the Lions removed all doubt shortly afterwards. With the Giants in possession at their 32, Danow­ski had no choice but to put the ball in the air. But Parker snared it at the 45 and sloshed to the 10. Following Caddel's 4y gain through the line, Parker made 2, then the final 4 OT. Parker missed the PAT try, and the game ended shortly afterwards.

The statistics reflected the final score of 26-7.

  • Detroit registered 13 first downs to 8 for New York.
  • The Lions outgained the Giants on the ground, 235-106.
  • The visitors completed only 4 of 13 passes while Detroit completed 2 passes, both on the initial possession, in just 5 attempts.
1935 NFL Champion Detroit Lions
NFL president Joe Carr announced that the receipts from the game amounted to $33,477.
  • After $9,452 in expenses were deducted, the league would take 10% of the net.
  • Another 10% went to the Brooklyn and Green Bay teams, the second place finishers in the two divisions.
  • The Detroit and New York clubs earned 15% of $3,603.
  • Of the player money, the Lions received 60%, which was $7,207 or $313 for each of the 23 players. The Giants took in $4,804 or $200 for each of the 24 squadmen.
  • Both those shares were over $200 short of the $621 and $414 each Giant and Bear took home in '34.
 1935 Detroit Lions at a reunion
Players from the 1935 Detroit Lions at a 25 year reunion

 

 

Lions Coach "Potsy" Clark
George "Posty" Clark

Earl "Dutch" Clark, Detroit Lions
Earl "Dutch" Clark

Glenn Presnell, Detroit Lions
Glenn Presnell

Giants QB Ed Danowski
Ed Danowski

Giants B Harry Newman
Harry Newman

1935 Lions-Giants Program

Ernie Caddel, Detroit Lions
Ernie Caddel

"Ace" Gutowski, Detroit Lions
Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky

Lions E Ed Klewicki
Ed Klewicki

Detroit RB Buddy Parker