‘we need to generate more than zero points to win games, no question about it,’ chicago bears coach john fox.
This is hardly questionable logic. Coming after his Bears lost 26-0 to Seattle last Sunday, what more could Fox say? when I first read this line, I chuckled like everyone else probably did. Fox is a master of subtle jokes, those self-deprecating one-liners that break up the room. He is part of what has made him one of the best coaches of his time, leading two teams to the Super Bowls and inventing a midseason offense that worked for Tim Tebow.
Reading: Has an nfl game ever ended 0-0
but his words on Monday got me thinking: if you don’t score and the other team doesn’t score and the game ends in a 0-0 tie, presumably it’s some kind of win. At least it’s not a loss. However, he couldn’t remember an NFL game ending scoreless. I could remember a few 3-0 games in recent years, but never one that was 0-0. so i looked it up. surprisingly, the last 0-0 match was more than 70 years ago. It was played on November 7, 1943 between the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants.
However, the game log was poor. He said the Lions and Giants played before 16,992 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium generating just 214 yards between them. Knowing there had to be more, I called Dan Daly, a football researcher out of Washington DC.
daly knows a lot about the last game 0-0. in fact, he thinks about it every time a game goes scoreless at halftime or goes into the third quarter without a point. He has a score chart of the game, found in an old copy of the New York Times. the score chart revealed some interesting facts that might have explained how the game could have ended the way it did.
for example, lions kicker augie lio missed field goal attempts from 32, 40 and 15 yards. giants kicker ward cuff also missed one.
“It had to have been a terrible field,” Daly said. “It was probably muddy and the guys couldn’t get up. the kickers probably couldn’t get to their feet.”
In those days, he said, it was common for an NFL stadium to host high school games on Friday nights, college games on Saturdays, leaving the field stomped for the pro game on Sunday. Since the fields were not built with sophisticated drainage systems at the time, the rain often rendered them useless.
But even if the field was in tip-top shape, neither team was likely to be very good. this was in the middle of the second world war and 1943 was the first season that saw a widespread exodus of players, recruited to fight abroad. The Rams suspended operations for the year, and the Steelers and Eagles merged into one team everyone called the Steagles. while many teams still had stars who had been given deferments because they had families or owned ranches or farms, they lacked depth. All 11 starters might be good pro players, but the backups probably would never have made a roster in normal times.
In the upcoming season, which was played after the D-Day invasion, Daly said the Giants could create a backfield in which none of the players had ever played college football in college.
One of those players, Bob Pachel, running back for the Giants in the 0-0 game, ruined his college career at Georgia Tech when he injured his leg sliding off an upper bunk in a dorm his freshman year. when his leg didn’t heal enough, he dropped out of school, found a job, got married and had kids until he tried soccer again years later.
that was football in those days. Giants Hall of Famer center Mel Hein worked as a physical education instructor for weeks at Union College, before running to the games on Sunday. Detroit’s starting shooting guard, Riley Matheson, was a mining engineer whose nickname was “The Rattler” because he liked to catch rattlesnakes.
The Lions’ tailback that day, Frankie Sinkwich, the 1942 Heisman Trophy winner, was nicknamed “Flatfoot Frankie” because his condition landed him a medical discharge from the Marines. Although Daly has seen evidence that the real reason for Sinkwich discharge was ulcers, it was more fun to call him Flatfoot Frankie, so the story stuck.
two players in the game – giants right tackle al blozis and lions tackle alex ketzko – would be dead within two years, killed in war. Ketzko died just a year later during the Battle of the Bulge. he was 25 years old. Blozis was assassinated at the age of 26 in France in January 1945.
Details about what happened in the 0-0 match are limited. The Lions rushed for 102 yards and the Giants 81. New York attempted only four passes that day, completing just one for three yards, so the weather was likely miserable.
Since that day there have been six 3-0 games, including the infamous 1982 Snowplow game, which involved a more blatant form of cheating by the New England Patriots than we are used to today. With 4:45 remaining in a scoreless tie and the field at Foxborough’s Schaefer Stadium covered in snow, Patriots coach Ron Meyer instructed a plow operator to clear a spot for kicker John Smith, who scored a 33-yard field goal to beat miami.
Given the weather that day and the fact that the field under the snow was frozen solid after last night’s storm, the snowplow game might be the closest we’ve ever come to a scoreless draw in the modern era.
the last one remains a forgotten day in detroit in the middle of the second world war.
“It’s not mentioned much because it’s beyond the realm of imagination in this passing era,” Daly said.
but given that the bears expect another week with jimmy clausen as their quarterback, a 0-0 tie might be john fox’s best hope.