Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
You Can't Keep Sammy Down!
1937 NFL Championship Game: Washington Redskins @ Chicago Bears
The high temperature in Chicago for the title game was 24°, and the field was just icy enough to give the receivers a half step on their defenders. Decades later, Washington QB Sammy Baugh remembered "the worst field I've ever played on in my life. ... A week or so before that they had a playoff game .... and it had rained and got real muddy. Hell, they just chewed up the field. Well, when we got on it, ... the ground had froze up. There were all these little frozen balls of mud, hard and sharp as rocks, all over that damn field. They cut the living hell out of you when you hit the ground. A lot of people got chewed up pretty bad that day."
Taking their cue from the 1934 Giants, both teams wore rubber-soled bas­ketball shoes.
In only his second year in the league, Slingin' Sam was "opening up" the game of foot­ball. An example of that came on the Red­skins' open­ing play from scrimmage after a Bear punt. Baugh lined up in what appeared to be punt formation in the end zone. But taking the snap, he ran to his right and lofted a pass to HB Cliff Battles in Coach Ray Flaherty's version of today's screen pass, a tactic designed to thwart the Bear rush. Aided by some fantastic downfield blocking, Cliff ran all the way to the Chicago 49. But Washington couldn't move much further and had to punt
The play indirectly led to the Skins' first touchdown. Their next possession started on their 48 and two completions quickly put the ball on the 20. The visitors stayed on the ground from there into the end zone. Redskins 7 Bears 0
Cliff Battles scores the 1st touchdown.
Cliff Battles scores the first touchdown of the game.
The Bears scored the next two touchdowns to lead at halftime 14-7. They were aided by the fact that Baugh, who had the heel of his right hand skinned raw in the opening period, left the game after a savage tackle severely bruised his right hip. With the Slinger out of action, the Redskins never made it past midfield the whole period.
Limping perceptibly on his right leg and plainly suffering from the cold weather, Flaher­ty's prize cripple started the third period and immediately tied the score. The Redskins traveled 70y in only four plays. The topper came when Sammy fired a flat-footed pass from his 45 to E Wayne Millner sprinting across to the right. DB Bernie Masterson horse-collared Wayne inside the five but succeeded only in slinging him down at the goal line. Bears 14 Redskins 14
Bears sack Baugh.
Baugh crashed to the frozen turf.
But the Bears were still hot even if the day was cold. Staying on the ground, they moved to a first down on the four. It took them four more plays but they moved back ahead again. Bears 21 Redskins 14
Undaunted, Baugh needed only one play to re-tie the game this time. Falling back­ward with a rusher in his face, he tossed 15y to E Wayne Millner, and the man who would become known as "The Money Player" outraced the defenders the remaining 63y to pay dirt. Bears 21 Redskins 21
When Washington got the ball back early in the final period, they faced 4th-and-one on the Chicago 42. Sammy decided to go for it. FB Don Irwin bucked for just enough to move the chains. Sam followed with a throw to Irwin to the 35. Then came what would turn out to be the winning play. Baugh took the snap, threw his right arm straight up in that distinctive style of his to fake a short one to E Charlie Malone, dropped back a few more strides, and rifled the ball to HB Ed Justice 15y beyond the line of scrimmage. "Chug" ran the remaining 20 to put the visitors ahead for good. Redskins 28 Bears 21
1937 Championship Game Action - 1
Cliff Battles follows Riley Smith (33) as Turk Edwards (17) blocks Frank Bausch (24) and
helmetless Edgar "Eggs" Manske of the Bears falls to the turf.
The home team mounted one last drive starting from their 22. Along the way, the Bears got a bad break that they would ever after blame for costing them a chance to tie. QB Masterson passed to E Les McDonald in the clear at the Washington 32, but as Les turned to run on the most slippery part of the field, he almost bumped into umpire Ed Cochrane, a Chicago sports writer limping with a lame knee. By the time Les switched gears and got going, Battles and Baugh closed in and dragged him down on the 12. Three plays later, Masterson was thrown for a 7y loss, then threw incomplete on fourth down.
When Baugh limped off the field bruised and battered in the last two min­utes, the crowd rose to cheer him. FINAL SCORE: REDSKINS 28 BEARS 21