1940 NFL Championship Game
|Date||December 8, 1940|
|Stadium||Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.|
|Radio in the United States|
The 1940 NFL Championship Game, sometimes referred to simply as 73–0, was the eighth title game of the National Football League (NFL). It was played at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. on December 8, with a sellout capacity attendance of 36,034.
The Chicago Bears (8–3) of the Western Division met the Washington Redskins (9–2), champions of the Eastern Division. Neither team had played in the title game since 1937, when the Redskins won a close game at Chicago's Wrigley Field. For this game in Washington, the Bears entered as slight favorites.
The Bears scored eleven touchdowns and won 73–0, the most one-sided victory in NFL history. The game was broadcast on radio by Mutual Broadcasting System, the first NFL title game broadcast nationwide.
Washington had defeated Chicago 7–3 in a regular season game three weeks earlier in Washington. After the contest, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall told reporters that the Bears were crybabies and quitters when the going got tough. As the Bears prepared for the rematch, Chicago head coach George Halas fired up his team by showing them newspaper articles containing Marshall's comments, then said, "Gentlemen, this is what George Preston Marshall thinks of you. Well, I think you're a GREAT football team! Now, go out there and prove it!"
Before the game, Halas's friend Clark Shaughnessy, who was concurrently coaching the undefeated Stanford Indians, helped the Bears' gameplan. Shaughnessy devised several counters for linebacker shifts that he had noted the Redskins using.
The Bears controlled the game right from the start, using the T formation as their primary offensive strategy. On their second play from scrimmage, running back Bill Osmanski ran 68 yards for a touchdown. Washington then marched to the Chicago 26-yard line on their ensuing drive, but wide receiver Charlie Malone dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone that would have tied the game. The field goal attempt on 4th down was missed as well.
Later in the first quarter, Bears quarterback Sid Luckman scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to increase the lead 14–0. On their third drive, Joe Maniaci ran 42 yards for the Bears' third touchdown of the game.
The Bears held a 28–0 halftime lead and then continued to crush the Redskins, scoring 45 points during the second half. After Halas took the team's starters out, the backup players continued to pile on the points. The Bears ended up recording 501 total yards on offense, 382 total rushing yards, and 8 interceptions—returning 3 for touchdowns, all in the third quarter.
Reportedly, after the final gun went off, a sports writer jokingly yelled, "Marshall just shot himself!" Marshall's only statement to the press was, "We needed a 50 man line against their power."
Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh was interviewed after the game, and a sportswriter asked him whether the game would have been different had Malone not dropped the tying touchdown pass. Baugh reportedly quipped, "Sure. The final score would have been 73–7."
As of 2021, Chicago's 73 points is the most scored by one team in any NFL game, regular season or postseason. The margin of victory is not only the largest ever in the NFL, but also stood as the biggest blowout in all major American professional team sports for more than eight decades. On December 2, 2021, the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies matched this feat with a 73-point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Memphis led by as many as 78 points in that contest.)
Chicago's seven rushing touchdowns is the second-most touchdowns (by both teams in one game) in league history and the most ever in a postseason game.
The First Fifty Years, a 1969 book that chronicles the first half century of the NFL, listed the game as one of "Ten [Games] That Mattered" to the growth of pro football in the United States. "On a Sunday in the 1940 December," the book states, "the Chicago Bears played perfect football for a greater percentage of the official hour than any team before or since. In the championship game, as an underdog to the team which had just beaten them, the Bears made an eleven-touchdown pile and used it as a pedestal to raise the NFL to view in all corners of the country.... Pro football, the T-formation and the Chicago Bears were the sudden sports news of the year."
Sunday, December 8, 1940
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. EST
- First Quarter
- Second Quarter
- CHI TD – Ken Kavanaugh 30-yard pass from Luckman (Snyder kick), CHI 28–0
- Third Quarter
- Fourth Quarter
- Referee: William "Red" Friesall
- Umpire: Harry Robb
- Head Linesman: Irv Kupcinet
- Field Judge: Fred Young
|Chicago Bears||Washington Redskins|
|First downs rushing||13||4|
|First downs passing||3||10|
|First downs penalty||1||3|
|Passing – Completions-attempts||7–10||20–51|
|Passing – Yards per attempt||11.9||4.4|
|Yards per rush||6.7||1.6|
*Completions/Attempts aCarries bLong play cReceptions
- Feder, Sid (December 9, 1940). "Chicago Bears crush Redskins, 73-0". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. p. 15.
- "Bears overwhelm Washington, 73 to 0; game draws record gate of $102,000". Milwaukee Journal. December 9, 1940. p. 6, section 2.
- Strickler, George (December 8, 1940). "Bears meet Redskins today for pro football title". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
- "Pro league title game Sunday to draw record $100,000 gate". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 7, 1940. p. 8.
- Kirksey, George (December 8, 1940). "Grid 'World Series' stirs Capitol fans". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 15, section 3.
- Strickler, George (December 9, 1940). "Bears win world football title, 73 to 0". Chicago Tribune. p. 21.
- Kirksey, George (November 18, 1940). "'Skins, Bears move toward pro finale". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 18.
- Douglas A. Noverr, The Games They Played: Sports in American History, 1865–1980, p. 143, Rowman & Littlefield, 1983, ISBN 0-88229-819-4.
- "Hall of Famers » SAMMY BAUGH". Profootballhof.com. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
- Pro-Football-Reference.com: In a single game, from 1940 to 2021, in the regular season and playoffs, sorted by descending Points For.
- Grizzlies defeat Thunder by NBA-record 73 points
- Pro-Football-Reference.com: In a single game, from 1940 to 2011, in the regular season and playoffs, sorted by descending Rushing TD.
- The First Fifty Years: A Celebration of the National Football League in its Fiftieth Season, Simon and Schuster, Inc., Copyright 1969, ASIN: B0018NJUO0
- Nash, Bruce, and Allen Zullo (1986). The Football Hall of Shame, 80–82, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-74551-4.
- The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995, 391, The Sporting News Publishing Co. ISBN 0-89204-523-X.
- 1Peterson, Robert. "Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football" (1997) p. 132 Oxford University Press ISBN 0195076079
- 2Taylor, Roy. "1940's Chicago Bears, Another Dynasty" (2004) http://www.bearshistory.com/seasons/1940schicagobears.aspx
- 3The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional Football, (1973), p. 105, Macmillan Publishing Co. New York, NY, LCCN No. 73-3862