A continuation of the Legacy of Champions series. Articles that chronicle the 13 Packer championships. If you’re just joining us, read about all the great Packer championships by clicking here.
On February 5, 2014 the Denver Broncos walked off the field, heads hung low after an embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks. But, this was far from the only championship embarrassment. Today we flashback to 1939 and an electrifying win over the New York Giants that brought championship number five home to Green Bay, WI.
The late 30’s were an era when the Giants and the Packers annually gave the rest of the teams in their division a good thrashing.
And, 1939 was no different…
Packers’ 1939 Season
The Packers ended the 1939 season with a 9-2 record. Their two losses were close battles in which the Packers just couldn’t close the door on a scrappy opponent. On October 1st, the Cleveland Rams scored 13 points in the final period to shock the Packers 24-27.
Their loss on November 5th was a result of their annual slug-fest with their now arch-rivals, the Chicago Bears. There were no shockers in this game as the Bears have always fielded good teams and given the Packers everything they can handle. The lead changed five times in this game as the Packers and the Bears traded punches. In the end, the Bears’ Bill Osmanski culminated a drive with a three yard run to the endzone to put the Bears on top as time ran out.
In 1939 the Packers added several wrinkles that confused opponents and gave them a distinct advantage.
To begin with, in Arnie Herber’s declining years the Packers drafted Cecil Isabel, an upstart tailback who was an accurate passer. Coach Curly Lambeau would switch Herber and Isabel frequently as Isabel was learning Lambeau’s offense forcing defenses to adjust to different styles, but the Lambeau added another twist that threw defenses into chaos. He would, from time to time, feature packages where both deadly passers were on the field.
In addition to these tweaks on offense, Lambeau made a key transition on defense. In 1939, players still played both sides of the ball. For a tight end like Don Hutson, this meant switching to the defensive end position. However, in the middle of a game against the Lions, Lambeau pull Hutson from the body-slamming defensive end position and placed him in the defensive backfield as a safety. This saved wear and tear on Hutson’s body but also leveraged his outstanding speed in a way that changed the face of both the Packers’ passing offense and pass defense.
1939 NFL Championship: Packers vs Giants
On December 10, 1939 the New York Giants came to town in what could have been the one and only NFL Championship game held in titletown. However, in the interest of higher attendance, the decision was made to hold the game at the state fairgrounds in Milwaukee, WI.
In the days leading up to the game, the threat of a blizzard hung over Wisconsin. However, concerns subsided an the teams had unseasonably warm weather for the game. The wind was a factor though as both teams bucked 35 mph winds.
The Packers led 7-0 after the first half as both defenses shined and both offenses attempted to get their feet under them. In the second half though, the Packers offense shifted gears and began to pick up speed while their defense countered everything the Giants attempted.
As the final seconds ticked of the clock, the Giants offense had only been able to muster 164 total yards and their passing attack suffered six interceptions at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. The Pack logged a 27-0 win over the easter division champion, the first championship shutout in NFL history, and the fifth NFL title for Titletown, U.S.A.