Bears Take the Title 73-0!

January 3rd, 2012by Peter AlterFiled under: Collections, Exhibitions

As I watch another Bears season fade into the background, I long for a football Time Machine. If there were such a thing, I would set it to December 8, 1940 and our nation’s capital. Although my historian self might like to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House, my football self would win out.


NFL title game ball signed by Bears, 1940.

That day, our Chicago Bears crushed the Washington Redskins 73-0 in a packed Griffith Stadium. With that rout, the Bears took the National Football League (NFL) title—and revenge. Only three weeks before, Washington had beat Chicago 7–3 on a disputed play, and afterward called the Bears “crybabies.” The subsequent Bears win over Washington still stands as the largest margin of victory in NFL history.

Watch a clip from the game:


I would definitely join other jubilant Bears fans rushing the field to rip down the goal posts in celebration. In commemoration of their huge victory, many Bears signed the game ball, including future Hall of Famers George McAfee, George Musso, Joe Stydahar, Clyde “Bull Dog” Turner, and franchise co-founder and coach George Halas.


Papa Bear Halas at the opening of his sporting goods store, 1947.
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Bears fullback Bill Osmanski scored the first of his team’s eleven touchdowns on the second play from scrimmage, taking a lateral 68 yards for the score. Bears quarterback and future Hall of Famer Sid Luckman scored on a sneak on the next drive, which lasted 17 plays and spanned 79 yards. With the score 28-0 at half, Luckman took the second half off as three other Bears played quarterback. They directed Chicago to four more touchdowns.

If you have ever belted out the fight song Bear Down, Chicago Bears (1941) at Soldier Field you might remember a line that goes: “We’ll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation.” That offense helped the Bears pound Washington into submission and popularized the offense among other NFL teams. With many of the same players, the Bears also won the 1946 NFL title, their fifth in fourteen seasons.


Future Hall of Famer Jumbo Joe Stydahar (#13) and Russ Thompson, Wrigley Field, 1937.
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Ray Nolting, Wrigley Field, 1937. Nolting scored a touchdown in the 1940 title game.
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The Bears also performed on defense that day. In an era when many footballers played both offense and defense, the defense handed Washington its first shutout of the season. The Bears eventually returned three interceptions for touchdowns. As the victors, each Bear received $873.99. If the Bears got the Time Machine to go forward to 2012, they would have earned about $2,400 each from this game.

Aside from my own real memories of the ’85 Bears and Super Bowl XX, the ’40 Bears might be my favorite. Do you have a favorite Bears memory?

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One Response to “Bears Take the Title 73-0!”

  1. Mark Says:

    Wow, what a block! Even in grainy black and white it still hurts.

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