By George Strickler
Tribune staff reporter
December 12, 1937
Three touchdown passes by Baugh in the third period climaxed one of the finest demonstrations of individual play in the history of the game and qualified the Redskins as professional football's representative in The Tribune's All-Star contest against the college All-American's next summer.
Baugh Completes 18 Passes
Baugh, former Texas Christian half back and captain of The Tribune's 1937 All-Star team, reached new heights yesterday as he led Washington to its first league championship with the cooperation of those expert pass receivers, Wayne Millner, Cliff Battles, Ed Justice and Charles Malone.
Baugh threw thitry-three passes, assuming the brunt of Washington's offensive burden when precarious footing, even in the basketball shoes in which both teams played, curtailed the effectiveness of Battles' running ability. He completed eighteen of these passes for a total gain of 335 yards.
The 15,878 spectators, lured out into the numbing cold by the prospect of seeing Baugh, the game's greatest passer, stood and acclaimed the elongated Texan with thunderous applause as he left the field late in the fourth quarter, cheering the man for his performance and the performance for its matchless brilliance. It was recognition richly deserved and sincerely given.
Score Tied Three Times
As a contest, the game rivaled the first National league playoff held at Wrigley Field in 1933 when the Bears, eleven of whom participated in yesterday's spectacle, defeated the New York Giants, 23 to 21. The score yesterday was tied three times and the lead changed hands three times in a rapid succession of sensational plays.
After passing forth-three yards to Battles on Washington's first play from scrimmage, Baugh completed three consecutive passes to set up the touchdown on which the Redskins took a 7 to 0 early lead in the first period. Battles went over from the 7 yard line for the score and Riley Smith, a former Tribune All-Star from Alabama, added the extra point.
Manders Goes Over
The Bears tied the score four plays later on a ten yard smash by Jack Manders, the league's leading point maker, and his point after touchdown.
Late in the period they forged to the front on Bernie Master's thirty-seven yard pass to Manders. The extra point was again added by Manders and the Bears, seeking to regain the title they lost to the Giants in the famed rubber shoe playoff game onf 1934, led at the half, 14 to 7.
Shivering spectators had hardly returned from under the stands after the intermission when Baugh unleashed a fifty-five yard touchdown pass to Millner, former Notre Dame end and also a Tribune All-Star in 1936. This occurred on the fifth play of the third quarter. Riley Smith kicked the extra point to tie the score. Thirteen plays later, the Bears regained the lead, winding up an unbroken march of seventy-two yards from the kickoff with Masterson's three yard pass to Eggs Manske for a touchdown.
Redskins Tie It Again
Echoes of the resounding cheer sent up by the Bear partisans were still reverberating off nearby apartment buildings when Baugh and Millner wiped out the advantage with the most spectacular play of the contest. Baugh passed twenty-nine yards to Millner and the fleet end beat Bronko Nagurski and Manders in a race for the goal. The play covered seventy-seven yards and with R. Smith's tenth consecutive point after touchdown, tied the score for the third time.
Several minutes later Baugh capped his superb performance by producing the touchdown that eventually was to decide the game and the championship. He calmly faked a pass to Malone. Then, fading back eight yards, he fired a long pass to Half Back Justice, who completed a thrity-five yard gain with an eleven yard run to the goal.
Baugh's passing was made all the more effective by the flawless generalship of R. Smith and an offense designed to exploit the Texan's talent. While the Bears strove desperately to score on a series of long high passes by Ray Buivid and Masterson, R. Smith broke receivers into clear repeatedly by strategically switching from long to short tosses, thus keeping the Bear secondary in a continual state of bewilderment.
Bear Passes Fall
The turning point in the game came early in the fourth quarter when the Bears, trailing 28 to 21, reached Washington's 24 yard line on a 32 yard pass, Buivid to Pug Rentner, who was a member of the Redskins last year when, representing Boston, they were defeated by the Green Bay Packers in the playoff at New York.
The Bears resorted to four consecutive passes here, ignoring the running attack with which they had blasted their way to their third touchdown. All four were broken up and they surrendered the ball on downs.
Later in the period the Bears experienced their most disheartening break when, after recovering Millner's fumble on their own 14 yard line, they advanced seventy-nine yards in five plays to the Redskins' 7 yard line. Masterson went back to pass on third down and when he was trapped he slipped trying to elude Big Turk Edwards, losing seven yards. A fourth down pass into the end zone fell incomplete.
Fight Breaks Out
The final, futile challenge began with Keith Molesworth's thirty-five yard pass to Richard Plasman, Rookie end, who came to blows with Baugh and was pummeled by Redskin substitues when Baugh forced him out of bounds in front of the Washington bench. This set-to, in which both teams participated, was the only outward manifestation of the intense rivalry and fierce play which characterized the game.
The Bears had the better line, except for the ends, where Millner and Malone played superby for sixty minutes. But the Redskins had Baugh.
Baugh began passing as soon as Washington took the ball from the Bears in the first quarter. Nolting's thirty-eight yard punt had gone out of bounds on the Redskins' 8 yard line. Baugh dropped back into punt formation and faded into the end zone as bear line men charged in. He tipped a short pass to Battles and the big half back went forty-three yards to the Bears' 49 yard line.
Redskins March to Goal
The Bears braced and an exchange of punts followed, ending up on Washington's 47 yard line.
Baugh's first and second down passes were incomplete, but his third pass went to R. Smith for fourteen yards. He followed with and eighteen yard toss to Pinckert, putting the ball at the Bears' 21 yard line. His third consecutive completion netted six yards, R. Smith taking the ball on the 15 yard line. Baugh got three yards inside Right Tackle Bjork and Battles made the third first down in the march with a two yard plunge to the 10 yard line. Battles added three more on a smash, them Manders knocked down Baugh's flat pass to him. On third down Battles took the ball from Baugh on a weak side reverse and as Wilson smashed in from his right end position, Battles slipped outside him for seven yards and the touchdown. R. Smith kicked the ball into Waveland avenue, adding the extra point.
Bears Tie Score
Nolting brought the kickoff back eighteen yards to the Bears' 28 yard line and got two yards on a wide end run to the left. With a lead, the Redskins substituted Justice for Pinckert to strengthen their pass defense, but on the first play, Masterson dropped back from under the center and tossed straight up the field to Manske, who cut over the right and ran 15 yards to the Washington 18 yard line. It was a gain of fifty-two yards and only Battles' great speed prevented the play from going for a touchdown.
Nagurski then went outside Right Tackle Barber and ran over Baugh for eight yards. Manders then jumped inside Left Tackle Edwards on a quick opening play from a man in motion formation, ran right at Battles and charged over the half back for a touchdown. His successful placekick for the extra point tied the score at 7 to 7.
Washington advanced twenty-nine yards in five plays after Manders had kicked off over the goal line for a touchback. Baugh broke off tackle twelve yards, passed to Malone for five and lobbed a shovel pass to Millner for thirteen yards on an end around on consecutive plays before Wilson intercepted his pass on the Redskins' 49 yard line.
Manders made four, then five yards on quick opening plays from a man in motion and Nolting added three on a similar attack to make it first down on the 37 yard line. Manders broke into the clear past Battles on the next play and took a pass from Masterson. Wilson took Battles out of the play with a perfect block just as the Redskin lunged for Manders and Manders went twenty yards to a touchdown. Manders added the extra point to put the Bears ahead for the first time, 14 to 7.
Millner Scores on Pass
Washington tied the score on the first five plays of the third period, starting from the 32 yard line where Irwin had been brought down with the kickoff. Irwin got two yards. Baugh passed seven to Millner and Irwin made it first down on the Redskins' 45 yard line with a six yard smash off the weak side. Baugh rushed up the to line and threw a short jump pass to Millner in the flat at the left, but Millner dropped the ball.
On the next play Millner cut across through the secondary from his left end position and eluded Manders to take Baugh's bullet pass for twenty yards. Millner beat Manders in a thirty-five yard race for the goal line, going over just as Masterson got up to tackle him. R Smith added the extra point and the score was tied, 14 to 14.
Bear power then unleashed itself for its one devastating demonstration of the day and blasted all before it, as the Chicagoans marched back into the lead. Manders ran over two tacklers to bring the kickoff back twenty-three yards to the 28 yard line. Nagurski drove outside tackle for six yards, and Manders bowled Baugh out of the way to go twenty-three yards on a quick opening play.
Nolting jammed into the line for eight yards. After Manske just missed reaching Masterson's long pass over the secondary, Nolting added two more yards on a quick opening play inside tackle, making it first down on the Redskin 35 yard line. Nagurski charged into Edwards, blew him back on his bloomers, and bullied his way nineteen yards to the 14 yard line, on a man in motion play. Manders added four, then repeated inside tackle for five. Nagurski's two yard plunge produced the fourth first down in the drive and put the ball on the 3 yard line.
Bear Pass Scores
He attempted to go outside Edwards on the next play, but when trapped he lateraled to Masterson, who fumbled. Masterson recovered the ball and fired a forward pass to Manske, but it was incomplete. Another pass failed, but on third down with the Redskins massing an eight man line to stop Nagurski and Manders, Masterson passed over center to Manske for the touchdown, completing an unbroken march of seventy-two yards. Manders added the extra point.
The lead endured for less than a minute. R. Smith returned the kickoff fourteen yards to the 23 yard line. On first down Baugh faded back and passed twenty-nine yards to Millner, who started up the field with Nagurski and Manders in pursuit. Nagurski was no match for the fleeing end, but Manders was able to get his hands on him as he went across the goal line. It was a gain of seventy-seven yards, and when R. Smith added the extra point the score was tied for the third time.
The Bears received the ensuing kickoff and Manders made thirteen yards on second down to reach midfield before the Redskin line braced and forced Nolting to punt over the goal line for a touchback. From this point the Redskins started goalward.
Start Winning March
Irwin made nine yards through center from a modified spread formation to get the winning march under way. The same play was good for seven yards, and a first down. Irwin added two off tackle and Baugh's pass was knocked down. The drive appeared to have spent itself. A ten yard pass, Baugh to Malone, on third down, kept it alive, however. Baugh passed eight yards to Millner and Irwin made a yard on successive drives.
It was first down on the Bears' 42 yard line. Baugh flipped a snap pass to Irwin for seven yards. On second down Riley Smith, calling the play that baffled the Giants so repeatedly last week, sent Baugh back to pass. The elongated Texan calmly faked to Malone, then faded back five more yards and threw a long pass to Justice, who had slipped away from Masterson. Justice ran eleven yards to the goal line, completing a thirty-five yard gain. R. Smith brought the score up to its final status of 28 to 21 by making his eleventh consecutive point after touchdown in two games and his twenty-sixth of the season.
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