The rivals played for the division lead before a record crowd of 46,484. The Packers unveiled a new defense that helped to keep the Bears scoreless for three quarters. Offensively, Green Bay nearly doubled Chicago's total yardage 276 to 159, but could only manage 16 points due in part to three missed field goals by Hinkle. Trailing 16-0 in the final period of play Chicago rallied back with two touchdowns and looked poised win the game on a field goal attempt with five seconds remaining. However, the referee let the clock run out and did not grant the Bears a timeout. Rules at the time required that only team captains could signal for a timeout. The Bears' captain did in fact call for the time out but the Emil Heintz, the referee, ignored his request apparently not aware that Musso was the captain.
Musso explained after the game, "several of the Bears joined me in the group and insisted to Heintz (the referee) that I was the team's captain, but he refused to stop the clock." Despite the officiating crew getting an earful from Halas at game's end, the Bears never got the chance to attempt what would have been a long 40-plus yard game-winning field goal.
|1941 Chicago Bears
|1941 Green Bay Packers
The 16-14 loss snapped the Bears' four-game winning streak over the Packers and forced both teams to try and win the remaining games on their schedule to have a chance at a division title and an opportunity to play the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game.
On Dec. 1, 1941, six days before the Bears played their regular season finale against the cross-town rival Chicago Cardinals, the NFL held a special coin flip to determine the site of a playoff game that would be scheduled if the Bears beat the Cardinals as both the Bears and Packers would finish with 10-1-0 records and in a tie for first place in the Western Division.
Attending the coin flip for the potential "rubber match" was NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden, Halas, and the Packers' Curly Lambeau. Halas won the toss and the Bears would host the playoff game. The trio also came to agreement that a sudden-death format would be used for the playoff game in the event it ended in a regulation tie.
The teams were greeted by 16-degree temperatures for the playoff game. The game didn't start in an ideal fashion for the defending NFL champion Bears when rookie halfback Hugh Gallarneau showed some nerves early as he fumbled the opening kickoff of the game. This set up Green Bay's first score of the day, a 1-yard touchdown run by Clarke Hinkle. On the very next kickoff Gallarneau fumbled once again, but this time he recovered the ball and was knocked out of bounds. After a few possessions by each team Green Bay set up for a punt. Gallarneau fielded the punt, secured the ball, and swung wide to his left and he was off to the races as he streaked 81 yards for a touchdown. Snyder missed the extra point so the first quarter ended with Chicago still trailing 7-6 but the momentum had shifted. The Bears were ready to roll.
In the second period the Bears took the lead 9-7 on a Snyder field goal on their way to a 24-point outburst that quarter. After the Bears scored 30 unanswered points the rout was on and they went into the half with a 30-7 lead. Chicago only added a field goal to their score in the second half, but the "Monsters of the Midway" defense held and only allowed a meaningless third quarter score by the Packers' Harold Van Every.
After a season-long battle, the Bears ultimately triumphed with this 33-14 win over the Packers in the first-ever non-championship game playoff game in NFL history. Chicago was crowned Western Division champions and went on to successfully defend their NFL championship with a convincing 37-9 win over the New York Giants in the '41 NFL Championship.
Now, on Sunday, 70 years after their first and only playoff meeting, Chicago and Green Bay are still playing the same brand of hard nose football, in a "black and blue" division. And, like in 1941, the winner of this weekend's playoff game earns a spot in the NFL's title game.
Kendle is a researcher at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joined the Hall of Fame's staff in 2006.
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