On Dec. 8, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt found the words to denounce Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, his choice was: "A date which will live in infamy."
The same description could have been applied to another Dec. 8, 50 years ago, though nobody rose up to characterize it in such Roosevelt-Churchillian rhetoric. But the numbers spoke for themselves: Chicago Bears 73, Washington Redskins 0.
Almost exactly one year to the day before the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, the Bears struck at Griffith Stadium. This, too, had the elements of a surprise attack against the unsuspecting Redskins.
On the Redskins, the Bears sprung their new weapon, a wholly revamped T-formation that left the Redskins as slaughtered innocents, their 36,034 Griffith Stadium fans in shock and the world of pro football agape.
In the NFL championship game, the Bears visited on Washington the greatest carnage since the British torched the White House in 1814. At least in that affair, Dolley Madison saved the silverware.
And weren't these the same Bears the Redskins had beaten, 7-3, three weeks before on this same field? The answer is yes, and no. The Bears' personnel was the same, but their weaponry wasn't. The same Bears team that couldn't score a touchdown three Sundays before, scored 11 touchdowns this day, beginning with their second play from scrimmage. After that it got much worse. For the Redskins.
The Redskins were hornswoggled by, mostly, the Bears' new, tight offense, a con job keyed to luring the Redskins' defense toward the Bears' man in motion -- usually George McAfee, their twin threat as runner and pass receiver. The Redskins took the bait and were left vulnerable to quick-openers for the Bears' running backs that ate up big yardage all day.
This was demonstrated on their first possession when Bill Osmanski took a quick handoff from Sid Luckman and darted into the gap off left tackle for 68 yards and a touchdown, untouched. The area had been emptied of the Redskins' right linebacker, who had been decoyed by man-in-motion McAfee. Also confusing to the Redskins was another new Bear strategy -- a split end.
After the Osmanski burst the Bears scored every which way, their 11 touchdowns scored by 10 players. Their ground success gave them need for only 10 passes while the desperate Redskins put 51 passes in the air to little avail.
Later, the amateur psychologists would make much of an episode that followed the Bears' first touchdown. Wide open on the Bears' 4-yard line, Charley Malone dropped a Sammy Baugh pass. Some folks would fantasize that had Malone scored to tie the game at 7 it would have been a different kind of contest. "Yes," Baugh was reported to have commented, "it would have been 73-7 instead of 73-0." True or not, it was a Sammy Baugh quote that found its way into pro football lore.
Within five minutes the Bears had a 14-0 lead. Their second touchdown was scored by quarterback Luckman, who took the ball in from the 1. This recalled an interview with Luckman when he was a rookie Bear. Asked about the difference between college and pro football, Luckman said, "Well, one difference was that when I joined the Bears I learned George Halas had eight plays off the quarterback sneak."
The day could also be remembered for the public relations gaffe by Redskins owner George Preston Marshall. In the third quarter, when the Redskins were being ripped, 48-0, Marshall's publicity staff, which did nothing without his command, announced over the loudspeakers: "Now on sale are next year's Redskins season tickets." The timing was hardly propitious.
In another way, Marshall's contribution to the game was also recalled. When the Bears squawked at the officiating after their earlier defeat by the Redskins, Marshall called them "crybabies" and "a first-half team." Halas posted these utterances in the Bears' clubhouse. The Bears a first-half team? They scored seven touchdowns in the second half.
Also remembered is that after their ninth touchdown, the game officials communicated to the Bears that they were running out of footballs, which were being kicked into the crowd, and would the Bears please refrain from kicking for extra points. The Bears obliged by passing for the extra points thereafter.
And what were the Redskins doing all this time? Very little of substance. They had been blitzed for so many points so quickly they had to abandon their running game. Baugh was withdrawn early after failing to put any points on the board. To his two interceptions, his successors, Frank Filchock and Roy Zimmerman, added six. The Bears were having a carnival anticipating the Redskins' passes.
Some details of the Bears' 45-point second half: A Baugh pass was intercepted by Hampton Pool, who scored on a 15-yard runback for a 35-0 lead.
On fourth and 17, Baugh scorned a punt, threw an incomplete pass, and a bit later Ray Nolting ran 23 yards for a score. 41-0.
McAfee intercepted a Zimmerman pass for a 34-yard touchdown. 48-0.
Bulldog Turner intercepted another Zimmerman pass, went 21 yards to a score. 54-0.
On a reverse, Harry Clark went 44 yards. 60-0.
Filchock fumbled on the Redskins' 2 and Gary Famiglietti scored. 67-0.
A Filchock pass was intercepted and Clark later took it in from the 1. 73-0.
On the ground, the Bears amassed 382 yards. Relatively, the Redskins' rushing gains could be written on the head of a pin. They totaled 22 yards. Six Bears -- Osmanski, Clark, Nolting, McAfee, Joe Maniaci and Ray McLean -- individually exceeded the Redskins ground gains.
Curiously, the Redskins had as many first downs as the Bears, 17, thereby demonstrating the insignficance of first downs.
For the Bears' new, bewildering offense, the Redskins could blame Clark Shaughnessey, an old friend of Halas, who pioneered the Bears' original T-formation. Shaughnessey was then coaching the Rose Bowl-bound Stanford team. But Halas flew him into Chicago regularly to design the new man-in-motion and split end strategies, which he had installed that year at Stanford. It was from the Bears' bench that Shaughnessey saw the 73-0 thing.
Obliterated was what had been a proud Redskins team. Baugh was generally recognized as the league's No. 1 passer, although it is remembered he was not the quarterback. In the Redskins' double-wing offense, he was the tailback. Willie Wilkin and Jim Barber were top tackles, and Charley Malone and Wayne Milner were formidable ends. And going into the game the Redskins took a glittering 9-1 record against the Bears' 7-3.
Among the memories of the times was that Bob Masterson was frequently described as the Redskins' "mastodonic tight end." He weighed 200 pounds. Physically, the players of both teams would be regarded today as conspicuous lightweights; interior linemen wouldn't be invited to a modern tryout camp. Only two Bears and two Redskins weighed more than 230 pounds. As their title game rewards, each Bear got an $873 paycheck. Each Redskin got $650, plus an awful place in pro football history.