Confusion abroad


The Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers will play their Week 8 game in London’s Wembley Stadium. While NFL fans these days are pretty much used to games being played outside the U.S., most may be surprised that the league’s first venture onto foreign soil occurred 60 years ago.

While it wasn’t played overseas, the game marked the first of many games that were played in the 1950s and ‘60s in Canada. The New York Giants traveled to Canada’s capital to face the Ottawa Roughriders in an exhibition game.

Unlike Sunday’s 49ers-Broncos game, the players in 1950 had a bit of trouble adjusting to the game played on Aug. 12, 1950 in Ottawa’s Landsdowne Park. That’s because the first half was played using Canadian rules before switching to NFL rules in the second half.

The difference in rules stymied the Giants a bit in the game but they used their superior size and speed to defeat their northern counterparts, 27-6.  Perhaps the biggest adjustment for the Giants was the Canadian rule of no interference past ten yards. That stripped away a strength of the Giants' defense that excelled in the days before bump-and-run. Add to the fact, the New York Football Giants only had three downs to move the ball on offense and they escaped the first half with a narrow 13-6 lead.

At halftime, the field was narrowed to NFL standards with makeshift lines and the game switched to being played under NFL rules.

But, before the switch, there were some interesting scoring plays including a pair of rouges, one for each team. A rouge is a one-point score as the result of punting the football into or out of the end zone. The Giants punter Tom Landry (yes that Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys) picked up what has to be the lone rouge of his pro football career! The only other scoring for the Rough Riders was a touchdown scored early in the contest. The TD was worth five points but their conversion failed (thank goodness they picked up a rouge shortly thereafter).

The game could have been far more lopsided had a penalty not voided a nice 60-yard TD run by the Giants that was called back because New York’s end Al Schmid forgot the Canadian rules and threw a block downfield. Speaking of penalties, the Giants also were flagged 15 yards for “high tackling” which was in violation of the Canadian rules.

I'm sure that Mike Singletary and Josh McDaniels will be pleased that their players won’t have to remember two sets of playing rules on Sunday in London.

Here’s the four-page lineup leaflet from that historic game that sold for a $.10 Canadian.


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