Steelers Are Super, But Packers Are NFL’s Best

Originally posted on February 2, 2009 by Sportslifer

SportsLifer Rewind: I posted this blog two years ago, after the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl by beating the Arizona Cardinals. Who knew that Super Bowl XLV would pit the Steelers against the Packers.

Not to rain on Pittsburgh’s parade (hey, we all love a parade), but to claim the Steelers are the best team in NFL history is a bit over the top.

Granted, the Steelers have now win six Super Bowls, more than any other franchise — the Cowboys and the 49ers have each won five. So if you want to give Pittsburgh the nod as the best team in the Super Bowl era, well who’s to argue. No disputing the fact that they are a model franchise, classy and competitive.

DSCN2434 But the best all-time? Not. That’s like claiming the team that has won the most World Series since baseball adopted its playoff format in 1969 is the best ever. (That team happens to be the Yankees with six (now seven) championships, but they won 20 more before 1969).

The Steelers were formed in 1933, and were NFL doormats for more than 40 years, never winning so much as a conference championship. Five years after shifting to the AFC Central in 1970, the Steelers won their first Super Bowl.

You can’t ignore history.

Packers Have Most Titles
So who is the best? Counting three Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers have won 12 NFL, including the first two Super Bowls, since the formation of the NFL in 1920, the  Packers have actually won 12 titles.

Green Bay is the only NFL team to win three straight championships (1929-31) and (1965-67), the latter including the first two Super Bowls.

The Chicago Bears also supersede the Steelers with nine NFL titles, including Super Bowl XX. And the New York Giants have seven championships, including three Super Bowls.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers rank behind the Steelers with five Super Bowl wins apiece

Another team that’s sometimes forgotten in the haze of football history is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won four straight championships in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) before that league was disbanded in 1950. The Browns then proceeded to make six straight appearances in the NFL championship game, winning in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

Cleveland won another championship in 1964, but has never been to the Super Bowl.

Cleaning out the Notebook
Among the dozen or more “experts” in the booth for Super Bowl XLIII, it’s hard to believe NBC would include Matt Millen. Yes, the same Matt Millen, the general manager who set the Detroit Lions back years. Heck, I wouldn’t trust this guy to pick my fantasy football team.

Jennifer Hudson’s emotional rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was moving, best since Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV.

DSCN2429 Lots of fans, even football fanatics, were looking forward to the halftime show as much as the game. Bruce Springsteen didn’t disappoint. He never does. That’s why he’s the Boss.

Finally, why didn’t the refs review Kurt Warner’s last play? Fumble or incomplete pass? Close call. But at the very least the play deserved review.

According to the NFL head of officials, the play was reviewed and upheld. For what, 20 seconds?

Rules state that if Warner’s arm is moving in a forward motion with the ball still in his hand when it comes out, the play should be ruled an incomplete pass, not a fumble.

Oh, and one more thing.

After the play, the Steelers were called for a personal foul, so if the play had been reversed, and with the 15-yard penalty yardage marked off, the Cardinals would have had the ball on the Pittsburgh 30 with about seven seconds remaining.

Certainly time enough for a miracle.


Bears-Packers Last Playoff After Pearl Harbor

Packers end Hal Van Every hands the ball to an official after scoring  in the third quarter of a 33-14 loss to the Bears in the Western Division playoff game in 1941.

In their long, storied and successful histories, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have combined for 21 championships and faced one another 181 times — but only once in the playoffs.

That game was played exactly one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on a cold, Sunday afternoon at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on December 14, 1941, nearly 70 years ago. It marked the first playoff game to determine a divisional champion in NFL history.

The George Halas-coached Bears, the famed Monsters of the Midway, were heavy favorites to win their second straight NFL title in 1941, coming off a record 73-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship game.

The Bears were led by Hall of Famers Sid Luckman at quarterback and George McAfee at running back. The great receiver Don Hutson and Clark Hinkle starred for the Pack, along with quarterback Ceci Isbell, below, being clotheslined by defense end George Wilson of the Bears in the playoff game.

The  Bears and Packers wound up tied for the NFL West Division title that year, both with 10-1 records, necessitating the playoff.

The Bears beat the Pack, 25-17, in the opening game of the season at Green Bay. The Pack got payback several weeks later when they held on for a 16-14 win in Chicago.

The Bears had played the previous Sunday, December 7, when the news about Pearl Harbor broke. They needed to beat their Windy City rivals the Cardinals at Comiskey Park that day to grab a share of the West Division title with idle Green Bay and force the playoff. And they did, 34-24.

Day of Infamy
Three scheduled NFL games were played the day the Japanese first attacked Pearl Harbor. Public address announcers in Chicago, and at New York’s Polo Grounds — where the Giants lost 21-7 to the Brooklyn Dodgers — interrupted their commentary to tell all servicemen to report to their units.  But without transistor radios — much less smartphones — many of the fans in Chicago and New York did not learn of the attack until they reached home.

At Washington’s Griffith Stadium, where the Redskins were playing the Philadelphia Eagles, the announcer paged high-ranking government and military personnel who were in attendance, but did not mention the Pearl Harbor attack.

The following Sunday, the Bears broke open the West Division playoff game against the Packers early, scoring 24 points in the second quarter, fueled by a pair of rushing touchdowns by fullback Norm Standlee. They went on to win the West, 33-14, in front of 43,424.

And on December 21, the Bears hosted the Giants at Wrigley Field with the NFL championship on the line. The Giants had finished the season 8-3, but didn’t face either the Bears or Packers that year.

Bears Win Title
In the championship game, the Giants tied the score early in the third quarter on a Ward Cuff field goal, but the Bears then proceeded on a 28-0 run — again with a pair of Standlee touchdowns — to win going away, 37-9.

In 1942 the Bears, chasing their third straight championship, finished the regular season unbeaten at 11-0. But the Washington Redskins got revenge in the championship game with a 14-6 upset victory.

When the Bears and Packers square off Sunday for the NFC title, it will mark their latest meeting in a rivalry that extends back to 1921. Chicago leads the all-time series 92-83-6.

Oh, btw, the Steelers and Jets have also squared off once previously in the playoffs. Pittsburgh beat New York, 20-17, on a Jeff Reed field goal in overtime in the 2005 playoffs. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year.


The Ring-Leaders: Champions of Championships

Do the math. The Boston Celtics have won 16 NBA titles, the Los Angeles (nee Minneapolis) Lakers 14. When the 62nd NBA Finals are completed in a few weeks, the Celtics and the Lakers will have combined for 31 titles, exactly half of the 62 championships. This is their 11th meeting in the finals, another NBA record.

What about the other sports?. Who are the champions of championships?

It starts with the New York Yankees, the king of champions. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, the most in any of the North American team sports. That’s more than double the number of championships won by the St. Louis Cardinals (10) and Philadelphia-Oakland A’s (9).

In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The Green Packers have won nine total NFL titles and the Chicago Bears 7 since the first NFL championship game in 1933.

In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens, Les Habitants, are far away the ring-leaders with 23 Stanley Cups. The Habs are followed by the Toronto Arenas-St. Pats-Maple Leafs with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings with 11, including this year’s Stanley Cup.

UCLA has won 11 NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Kentucky also won a national championship in 1933.

Notre Dame is the king of college football with 13 national championships, including nine since the polls were first instituted in 1936. In the so-called “early years” of college football (1869-1935), Yale won 18 championships and Princeton 17. All told, Alabama and USC have each won 10 total football championships, seven apiece since 1936.


1934: A Giant Accomplishment

New York Beats Undefeated Bears 30-13 in ‘Sneakers Game’

1934giants.jpg

The 1934 NewYork Football Giants

Nearly 74 years before ruining the undefeated dreams of the New England Patriots, the New York Giants took out another undefeated team, the Chicago Bears, for the NFL title. Here’s how it happened:

The year is 1934, and the nation is slowly coming out of the Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is serving the first of his record four terms as President. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are ambushed by lawmen in Louisiana. John Dillinger is shot outside a Chicago movie theater. It Happened One Night,starring Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert, sweeps the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress.

And in 1934, an unbeaten NFL team loses its grip on history with a 30-13 loss to the New York Giants in the famed “Sneakers Game.” at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan.

That year, the New York Giants faced the undefeated Chicago Bears in the penultimate game of the NFL season. In a league that featured merely 11 teams — two of which, the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Gunners, failed to finish the season — the Giants won the NFL East with an 8-5 record, a game and a half ahead of the Boston Redskins.

Meanwhile the Chicago Bears dominated the West with a 13-0 record, scoring nearly twice as many points as the Giants while surrendering fewer. Included in that Chicago unblemished record were two wins against the Giants in November, 27-7 at home and 10-9 in New York.

Chicago’s powerful offense
The 1934 Bears were without a doubt the best offensive team in NFL history to that point. After being held to a tie on the last day of August in front nearly 80,000 fans in the first College All-Star game sponsored by Chicago Tribune Charities at Soldier Field, the Bears rampaged through the NFL.

They scored 37 touchdowns in 13 games, with 12 different players reaching the end zone during the year. Bronko Nagurski rushed for 586 yards on 123 carries and 8 touchdowns while blocking for a record setting performance by rookie Beattie Feathers. Feathers, who played in only 11 games due to a shoulder injury, rushed for 1,004 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was not only the NFL’s first official 1,000 yard rusher, but he performed this feat 12 years before it would be repeated (by Steve Van Buren in 1946) in an era when all players “went both ways” and many backs on a team shared rushing, receiving, and passing duties.

The Bear offense was far more, however, than Nagurski and Feathers running the ball. Red Grange, Carl Brumbaugh, Bill Hewitt, and Gene Ronzani each caught at least 2 touchdown passes, four different players passed for 3 or more each, and “Automatic” Jack Manders led the league with 10 field goals.

On the other hand, the Giants lost their first two games before rebounding to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers. They suffered three more losses during the regular season, two to the Bears, and were shut out by the Philadelphia Eagles 6-0 in the final game of the regular season. Quarterback Harry Newman led the club in both passing and rushing. Ken Strong was the team’s second leading rusher, and Red Badgro lead in receiving. There were no gaudy statistical leaders on this Big Blue edition.

Heavy favorites
The Bears breezed into New York as heavy favorites to win their third straight NFL title. A freezing rain the night before the game froze the bathtub-shaped Polo Grounds field in Manhattan. Temperatures peaked at 25 degrees that Sunday and limited the crowd to 35,059 fans.

Before the game, captain Ray Flaherty suggested the Giants wear sneakers on the frozen field. He had played in a game under similar circumstances at Gonzaga, and the sneakers proved to be effective. Giants’ head coach Steve Owen sent equipment manager Abe Cohen to purchase as many sneakers as he could.

Due to traffic and the fact that most athletic goods stores were closed on Sunday, Cohen was unable to return before the game started and the Giants, wearing conventional footwear, trailed 10-3 at the end of the first half. Realizing time was short, Cohen went to Manhattan College — where he had a key to the equipment and locker rooms — and returned to the Polo Grounds at halftime with nine pairs of basketball sneakers, saying that “nine pairs was all I could get.”

Footnote: Giants respond
Players donned the sneakers and the Giants, after allowing the Bears another field goal late in the third period, would respond with 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win their first NFL Championship game. Giants quarterback Ed Danowski threw a touchdown pass to Ike Frankian to make the score 13-10. On the Giants next drive, running back Ken Strong scored on a 42-yard touchdown run. Later an 11-yard run by Strong was turned into another touchdown for the Giants. Finally the Giants closed it out with Danowski’s 9-yard touchdown run. The game ended with the Giants ahead: 30-13.

The game would come to be known as “The Sneakers Game” and the 27 points the Giants scored in the fourth quarter set a single–quarter championship game scoring record that stood for decades. After the game offensive tackle Len Grant expressed his sincere gratitude by stating simply “God bless Abe Cohen.”

Many of the participants in the game, most notably Hall of Famers Bronko Nagurski of the Bears and Mel Hein of the Giants, attributed the Giants’ second half dominance to their selection of footwear. A mini-documentary of the game, narrated by Pat Summerall, can be seen in the 1987 video “Giants Among Men.”

Ironically, eight years later the 1942 Bears finished the season 11-0, only to lose to the Washington Redskins 14-6 in the title game.The Redskins came into the game with a 10-1 record, the only blemish on there record a 14-7 loss to the Giants in week two. And they avenged a 73-0 loss to the Bears in the 1940 championship game, still the worst loss in NFL history.

And 38 years later the 1972 Miami Dolphins capped off a perfect 17-0 season with a 14-7 win over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII. That remains the only undefeated season in NFL history.