Povich Rewind: The Redskins’ Longest Day

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Povich Rewind: The Redskins’ Longest Day
Dec 13, 2018

Washington’s football fans can’t feel much lower after Sunday’s 40-16 loss to the New York Giants. But that one-sided affair pales in comparison to the Redskins’ 73-0 loss in the 1940 NFL championship game to the Chicago Bears at Griffith Stadium, covered by Shirley Povich:

The famous 73-0 rout of the Redskins in 1940 underscored Povich’s compassion as a sportswriter. Never piling on in defeat nor gloating over victory, he was always generous to the players.

If you’re wanting to know what happened to the Redskins yesterday, maybe this will explain it: The Bears happened to ‘em.

The Redskins’ 73-0 defeat by a team that they had licked a month ago doesn’t add up. But there it was. It reminds us of our first breathless visit to the Grand Canyon. All we could say is: “There she is, and ain’t she a beaut.” When they hung up that final score at Griffith Stadium yesterday, all we could utter was: “There it is and wasn’t it awful.”

We’re going to win one title right here – the championship for understatement – by saying that the Redskins didn’t play good football yesterday. But somehow, we can’t get mad at the Redskins. It was an agonizing experience for those poor fellows who probably are more angry at themselves than you or us could ever be toward them.

We saw Redskins in tears after the ball game. Some of these elder players weren’t sorry for themselves. They were ashamed of the way they let their Washington fans down. They were the fellows who lived through those lean days at Boston where they were playing under sufferance and who couldn’t quite get over the friendliness and the warmth of Washington fans who tried to make big heroes of them.

We can’t put in with the folks who say that the Redskins loafed and took it on the lam. They played a lot of bad football, and they were a picture of complete demoralization, but they were trying to play football, if blindly. The Bears, incidentally, are no gentle playmates.

That 73-0 score, of course, is no true comparison of the two teams. The Bears on their great day caught the Redskins on a horrible one. The Redskins, forced to gamble after they were two touchdowns behind in the first five minutes, profaned their game, and the avalanche of Bear touchdown that followed came easy. The Bears were pouring it on a team that didn’t need one or two touchdowns. They Redskins needed four by the end of the first half.

We’re paying no attention to the latest telephone query from some gagster who remembers those eight passes the Bears intercepted and wants to know how far behind the line a Redskins back must stand this year before he can throw a pass to a Bear. The is no time for cracks, men, those poor fellows were suffering.

We’ll never think that the Redskins could have won that ball game in light of what happened, because the Bears – well, no team living, or deceased for that matter, could have beaten ‘em yesterday. But the Redskins might have made a battle of it if the receiver had held onto that pass on the Bears’ 4-yard line. When the Redskins muffed that touchdown, the Bears were relieved of the pressure and went town-ward.

Those Bears were wonderful, weren’t they? That “T” formation is really dread stuff and Coach George Halas comes pretty close to being the No. 1 offensive genius in the land. The Bears’ ball carriers were under way at full speed before they had their hands on the ball and at the rate they were galloping when they hit something, it didn’t make a difference whether there was a hole in the Redskins’ line or not.

Halas’ man-in-motion play was shaking his ball carriers loose through the middle, at the tackles and around the ends. The Redskins scarcely knew where the Bears would strike; and if they did know it didn’t make much of a difference. The Bears’ power plays were ghastly concentrations of blockers in front of ball carriers. The Redskins were first confused then so weakened physically by the ponding they were taking that they were helpless.

Halas turned back the clock to beat the Redskins. The Bears were getting their wondrous effects with the old “T” formation that was popular early in the century when boys were playing the game in turtle-necks. Halas embellished it with some variations, but its form was basically the same with the quarterback taking the ball from center and handing it gently to a big back who was already in motion. The Redskins could never get set for that kind of an attack.

All of which brings up that game of a month ago when the Bears with the same sort of system couldn’t score a touchdown against the Redskins. The Redskins knew how to meet the Bears’ running game that day, obviously. How come, then, they were such foils for the same attack yesterday? Pardon us, please, if we sidestep that one, beyond noting that the Redskins yesterday simply played bad football.

The first 55 seconds of play were a shock to folks who knew the Redskins. We mean when Bill Osmanski score that 68-yard touchdown on the Bears’ second play from scrimmage. On Osmanski’s heels were Ed Justice and Jimmy Johnston, who finished noses apart in a race earlier in the season to decide the fastest Redskin. When neither Justice or Johnston could match Osmanski, the Redskins were obviously in for a sorry afternoon.

- Dec. 9, 1940

Homepage image: 1940, Washington, D.C. –  The faces of owner/coach George Halas and quarterback Sid Luckman reflect the happy occasion as the Chicago Bears were beating the Washington Redskins, 73-0. Luckman was personally selected by Halas to introduce the modern “T” formation to the football world. (Photo Credit: © Bettmann/CORBIS)

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