Pivotal Pro Football Plays
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1949: Blocked Punt Seals Muddy Victory
NFL Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
The forecast of good weather and a fast field for the Sunday afternoon NFL Championship Game at the Los Angeles Coliseum couldn't have been more wrong. All-night rain continued through the third period of the game - 1.05" by 4 pm. The Coliseum turf turned into a quagmire. Early Sunday morning, owners Dan Reeves of the Rams and Jim Clark of the Eagles, with the support of their coaches, called Commissioner Bert Bell in Philadelphia. With the rain discouraging the public from attending, the owners wanted to postpone the game a week. As he did the previous year during a snowstorm in Philadelphia, Bell ordered the game played, citing commitment to the radio network.
22,245 fans braved the pelting rain to watch a game that scarcely reflected the state of the pro football art in 1949. The fans huddled under blankets, canvas, umbrellas, oilcloth, or anything they could find in their closets.
Clark Shaughnessy's Rams boasted the second best passing attack in the league (2,674y) behind only the Bears, whose aerial offense was designed by Clark when he was an assistant there. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards (2,607). The conditions favored the stronger running team.

L-R: Clark Shaugnessy, Tommy Thompson, Jack Ferrante, Pete Pihos
After neither team came close to scoring in the first period, the Eagles struck quickly. QB Tommy Thompson suddenly abandoned the ground and went to the air. Before the Rams could put out the fire, Philadelphia had swept 63y for the first score. After an incom­plete pass, Tommy hit E Jack Ferrante for 11. Following a 2y run, Thompson whipped another pass that went off E Pete Pihos's outstretched hands forward to Ferrante, who made a diving catch on the 34. After HB Steve Van Buren gained three, Thompson rifled the slippery ball down the middle to Pihos, who made a leaping catch on the 14 between two converging defenders and dashed over the goal with nary a hand laid on him. Eagles 7 Rams 0
That score held up into the third quarter. As the field got worse and worse, another Philly touchdown would come close to clinching the game. The Eagles, in clean white jerseys for the second half, moved into LA territory before bogging down. The punt went into the end zone to give the Rams the ball on their 20.

Steve Van Buren in the open field on one of his record 31 carries.
Thanks to a penalty, LA faced fourth-and-15 at the 15. So QB Bob Waterfield dropped back to punt from the four. But the pass from C Don Paul's wet hands was high, and Bob had to leap off balance to field it. By the time he righted himself to punt, LE Leo Skladany was on top of him and blocked the punt. Leo gathered in the loose ball on the LA two and careened over the goal. Just like that, the Eagles had doubled their lead.
When Philly got the ball back, they featured their workhorse Van Buren. With the rain coming down in sheets and puddles on the field turning into small lakes, Steve set champ­ionship game records with 31 carries for 196y. Altogether, Philly ran the ball 61 times and controlled the clock with 70 snaps to just 51 for the Rams. Philadelphia finished the second half without throwing a single pass.
Van Buren said afterward, "Early in the game, I got knocked out of bounds near their bench. One of their guys said, 'We're gonna kill you, Steve.' It made me mad. I told Thompson, 'Give me the ball.' So he did. He just kept giving it to me."