Bears crushed Redskins 73-0 to win 1940 title

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As the Bears and the NFL celebrate their 100th season in 2019, fans will have the chance to vote for the greatest moment in franchise history. They’ll choose from four moments that will be featured in chronological order this week on ChicagoBears.com.

The winning moment will be announced during the regular season. It will then compete against the greatest moments from every other NFL team via a bracket tournament, with the top moment in league history set to be revealed at NFL Honors the night before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The following story details the Bears’ 73-0 thrashing of the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game at Griffith Stadium in Washington.

It remains the most lopsided game in NFL history, regular season or playoffs. That the Bears’ 73-0 destruction of the Redskins occurred in a championship contest presumably between the league’s best two teams makes it all the more remarkable.

The Bears scored 11 touchdowns and intercepted eight passes—three of which they returned for scores. They kicked so many extra points into the stands that officials asked coach George Halas to run scrimmage plays for the conversions after his team’s final two TDs because they were down to their last football. 

The 73-0 victory came exactly three weeks after the Bears had lost to the Redskins 7-3 at Griffith Stadium late in the regular season. After the Bears had complained that Washington should have been assessed a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the game’s final play, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall called the Bears crybabies, quitters and frontrunners.

Leading up to the championship contest, Halas showed his players newspaper clippings of Marshall’s comments and told them in the locker room before the game: “Gentleman, this is what George Preston Marshall thinks of you. Well, I think you’re a great football team, the greatest ever assembled. Now, go out there on the field and prove it!”

It didn’t take the Bears long to heed that advice. On their second play from scrimmage, fullback Bill Osmanski—sprung by a George Wilson block that wiped out two Washington defenders—dashed 68 yards for a touchdown.

The Bears led 21-0 after 13 minutes and 28-0 at halftime. They added four more touchdowns in the third quarter, three of which came on interception returns by Hampton Pool, George McAfee and Bulldog Turner.

The scoring barrage didn’t stop until Harry Clark crashed into the end zone off right tackle for the Bears’ 11th touchdown of the game with less than three minutes remaining.

In a book chronicling the NFL’s first 50 years, the Bears’ 73-0 rout is listed as one of 10 games that most affected the growth of pro football in the United States. The book states: “The Chicago Bears played perfect football for a greater percentage of the official hour than any team before or since.”  

Eddie Gilmore of the Associated Press described the victorious locker room: “It was quite a scene. Thirty-three mastodons charging around a room, waving their huge arms and yelling like a pack of Tarzans wired for amplification.”

Some felt the turning point occurred early in the game when Redskins end Charley Malone dropped a sure touchdown pass with the Bears leading only 7-0. Asked after the contest whether Malone catching the ball would have changed the outcome, Washington quarterback Sammy Baugh said wryly: “Yeah, it would have been 73-6.”

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