Did the NFL Have to Change the Rules of a Game Because They Were Running Out of Footballs?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The NFL changed the rules for extra points during the 1940 NFL Championship Game because they were running out of footballs.

On November 17th, 1940, the West division leading Chicago Bears brought their 6-2 record into Washington D.C. to face off against the East division leading 7-1 Washington Redskins. Both teams had a very good chance of making the playoffs and then facing off again in the NFL Championship Game in three weeks (the Redskins ended up having a very good Brooklyn Dodgers team give them a bit of a scare at the end of the season, but the Bears were pretty much all by themselves in the West) and the game had a bit of a “let’s find out who the best team in the NFL is” feel to it.

The Redskins won 7-3, but the game ended with the Bears on the Redskins’ five-yard line and a possible game-winning touchdown pass going by Chicago Pro Bowl fullback Bill Osmanski. The Bears called for pass interference but to no avail, the game was Washington’s. Redskin owner George Marshall then gave Chicago both barrells as he called them whiners and crybabies, even going as far as to say that they were quitters and they were not a second-half of the season team.

The December 8th Championship Game was a rematch in two ways, with the Redskins only previous NFL Championship coming in 1937 when they also defeated the Chicago Bears.

The game went a whole different direction, though.

The biggest Super Bowl margin of victory in NFL history is 45 points.

The Bears defeated the Redskins by SEVENTY-THREE points!!!

Yep, 73-0.

And here’s where the rule change came in. Late in the game, with the Bears up 60-0, they missed their NINTH point after kick. This led to a problem – the balls were going into the crowd and the angry Washington audience were NOT returning them! So they were running out of balls to play with!!

Therefore, for the last two scores in the game, the Bears were not allowed to kick an extra point. They had to pass or run the ball in. The Bears went 1 for 2 in their attempts.

Pretty nuts, huh?

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

2 Responses to “Did the NFL Have to Change the Rules of a Game Because They Were Running Out of Footballs?”

  1. The Bears’ fullback is *Bill* Osmanski, not Rob.

  2. Thanks, John! Fixed.

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