It is not all that uncommon for one team to go an entire game without the official dropping the yellow flag. In fact, it’s happened many times and most recently by the Pittsburgh Steelers who weren’t penalized by referee Clete Blakeman and his crew during the a 27-24 overtime road loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 16, 2012. For the record, Dallas was flagged eight times for 61 yards.
But, only four times in history an NFL game has had no penalties called on either club. A penalty-free game last took place more than 70 years ago. The Steelers, originally nicknamed the Pirates, hold the distinction of being a part of the first and last time that has occurred.
No penalties were assessed in these four NFL games. Interesting two of them included the same referee.
Oct. 28, 1934 – Brooklyn Dodgers 21, Pittsburgh Pirates 3 (at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn). Perhaps the wintry-like conditions played a role in why referee Tom Thorp never dropped a flag. The Dodgers cruised through the afternoon and snapped a three-game losing streak thanks in part to Jack Grossman’s 75-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
Sept. 27, 1936 – Boston Redskins 14, Brooklyn Dodgers 3 (at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn). The Redskins used a dynamic passing game and also got help from Hall of Famer Cliff Battles who scored the contest’s first points on a 68-yard touchdown run to earn a road victory. On record as the referee for the game was William Halloran who headed the four-man officiating crew.
Oct. 9, 1938 – Cleveland Rams 14, Chicago Bears 7 (at Cleveland Stadium). The Rams upset the Bears and handed Chicago its first loss of season. Chicago was the last of the unbeaten teams in the NFL that season. The deciding touchdown came on a fumble recovery on a punt and returned 23 yards by Carl Littlefield for the score. Ed Cochrane was the referee of this crew that also included umpire Bobbie Karch, Linesman George Brown and field judge J.J. Ritter.
Nov. 10, 1940 – Pittsburgh 7 vs. Philadelphia 3 (at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh) Perhaps referee William Halloran was sparing the sparse crowd at Forbes Field by not calling any penalties during this day. The Steelers and Eagles entered the game with a combined one win among them and the Steelers crowd included 3,000 children admitted for free. The two teams trudged back-and-forth in rainy conditions and the only touchdown of the day came courtesy of third-string halfback Coley McDonough.