By T.J. Troup
The seasons of 1948 and 1949 are very interesting to me; and since I have researched both film and the stats of these two years I thought 'who would be the players of the week?'.
Today would have marked George McAfee's 99th birthday and he is on the list, along with some names very familiar, and some not quite so. Some of the weeks just could not separate, thus co-players of the week. That said, here we go!
Wednesday, September 22nd: Wednesday night football in the Coliseum? Tom Fears starts off his career with a bang; he has already intercepted a halfback option pass from future Hall of Fame halfback Bill Dudley from his defensive left end position. Los Angeles is now on the Detroit nineteen yard line, and drives to the four where Jim Hardy flips a 4-yard touchdown pass to Fears. Later in the 4th quarter Fred Enke throws into the right flat and Fears not only intercepts he returns the errant throw 35 yards for a touchdown. Fears is the only rookie in league history to return an interception for a touchdown and catch a touchdown pass in his first game in the league.
Co-player of the week is Johnny Lujack. The Bears take on the rival Packers on Sunday, September 26, with Lujack starting the game at both quarterback and right corner. His first drive as the triggerman for the Bears results in a touchdown as Chicago goes 27 yards on the ground in six plays with Johnny scoring from the four-yard line. Indian Jack Jacobs throws long on 2nd and fourteen and is intercepted by Lujack. During the second quarter Johnny twice more intercepts Jacobs and his returns of 36 and 25 yards both lead to touchdowns. Lujack is the first player in league history to intercept 3 passes in his FIRST game as a pro.
Sunday, October 3rd. Tony Canadeo of the Packers gains 118 yards rushing on 17 carries in the 33-21 win over Detroit at City Stadium. Tony is the first Packer to have three 100 yard rushing games in a career.
Sunday, October 10th: George McAfee returns 3 punts for 108 yards including a 60-yard burst for the opening touchdown in Chicago's 42-21 win over Los Angeles. Though used sparingly on offense he still catches four passes, and contributes a sparkling 17-yard run from his halfback position. NOTE: though not a player of the week; special mention for Bob Waterfield of the Rams who recorded the second longest punt in league history (88 yards) against Green Bay.
Sunday, October 17th: Ray Mallouf completes 14 of 18 passes for 256 yards in the 63-35 slugfest with the Giants. Four of Mallouf's passes are for touchdowns as he records the first perfect passer rating game in league history (158.3). His precision pitching helps the Cardinals establish a new league record by scoring 35 points in the 3rd quarter.
Sunday, October 24th: The Cardinals must continue to win to stay in the western conference race with the Bears. Rangy middle linebacker Bill Blackburn returns two interceptions for touchdowns in the 49-27 destruction of the Boston Yanks. Bill pilfers Roy Zimmerman's 2nd quarter pass and trundles 27 yards over the Comiskey Park turf to put Chicago up 21-6. Rookie Al Dekebrun's 3rd quarter pass is stolen by Bill and he goes 31 yards to score.
Sunday, October 31st: The Boston Yanks earlier in the year had evened their slate with a record of 2-2, but now the wheels have come off the cart as they have been blown out in back to back games. Rookie Dan Sandifer ties teammate Sammy Baugh's record by intercepting 4 passes in a game. For the only time in league history a player will return two interceptions for a touchdown in back to back weeks; last week was Bill Blackburn, and this week it is Sandifer with returns of 50 and 35 yards. Sandifer's rookie year is one for the ages as he becomes just the second player in league history to intercept in 6 consecutive games (never listed in the league manual).
On this Sunday in our Nation's Capitol Baugh joins Sandifer as co-player of the week. Though Sam has had many great days slinging the ball; this one is his most efficient as he gains 446 yards on just 24 passes(he completes 17). Four going for touchdowns in the 59-21 demolition of Boston. Baugh's passer rating of 152.8 ranks second to Mallouf for the season.
Sunday, November 7th: A victory today will keep the Cardinals a game ahead of their cross-town pursuers (the Bears). Charlie Trippi ignites the offense as he gains 103 yards rushing on just 10 carries in the 56-20 win over Detroit (Charlie scores three of the touchdowns), as Chicago has scored 195 points in their last four games. Trippi catches 5 passes for 61 yards and completes his only halfback option pass for 24 yards to Mal Kutner.
Sunday, November 14th: Tommy Thompson completes 10 of 18 passes for 197 yards with four going for touchdowns(all to different receivers) in the 45-0 shellacking of Boston. Philadelphia has now won six straight as they stay focused on the goal for the season: a first championship.
Sunday, November 21st: We have co-players of the week as rookie Emlen Tunnell of the Giants records the first 3 interception game of his career. Tunnell returns his three interceptions 60 yards, including a 43-yard scamper to score in the impressive 49-3 road victory over Green Bay in Milwaukee. Steve Van Buren is the reigning rushing champion and as we head into the home stretch he continues to pound out the tough yards. He gains 171 yards rushing in the scalping of the Redskins 42-21. Steve has gained 560 yards in the last four weeks with his longest run being just 28 yards.
Sunday, November 28th: Again, we have co-players of the week. Fred "Dippy" Evans is aligned at right corner for the Bears as they take on Washington in Wrigley Field. Not once, but TWICE in the same quarter a Redskin running back will fumble the ball right to Evans. Dippy scoops up the ball and trots into the end zone on returns of 16 and 10 yards. He is the only player in league history to return two fumbles for a touchdown in the same game. Pete Pihos of Philadelphia has been consistent and productive all season for the high-flying Eagles, yet today he is at his best. A season-high seven receptions (he catches at least 1 pass every game) for 112 yards and his 10th touchdown of the year in the 17-0 hard fought win over the Steelers.
Sunday, December 5th: This has been a year for rookies, and today is no exception as Charley Conerly sets a new league record with 36 completed passes. He is forced to throw since the Giants trail in the game and eventually loses 38-28 to Pittsburgh. Chuckin' Charley gains 363 yards with his precision passes with 3 going for touchdowns (he has thrown for 20 scores in his last 8 games).
Sunday, December 12th: Los Angeles can finish with a winning season with a victory today over Pittsburgh in the Coliseum. Veteran Kenny Washington in his final game as a pro gains 54 yards on 10 carries in the 31-14 victory. Attempting to overcome his knee injuries has been a difficult challenge for Kenny, and he even contributes in this last season of two platoon football with an interception.
The NFL brings back free substitution for the 1949 season, and as such there are players who solely concentrate on one side of the ball. Though many still go both ways at times; this is a transitional year for the league. Let's see who are the players of the week.
Monday, September 26th: Yes, we have Monday night football in 1949 as the Redskins invade Comiskey Park to take on the defending Western conference champion Cardinals. Charlie Trippi is player of the week as he gains 130 yards rushing, including a 55-yard touchdown run (he carries the ball only 10 times). Charlie is also an effective receiver with 3 catches for 37 yards, and a touchdown reception as well.
Monday, October 3rd: Washington is still on the road playing Monday night games, but on this pleasant evening at Forbes Field the Redskins even the season slate at 1-1 with a 27-14 win over Pittsburgh. Hugh "Bones" Taylor usually aligns at left end, but tonight he will line up both on the right and left side(usually split out). Bones will catch 5 passes for 111 yards, and 2 scores. The first he is split right and easily outruns Jerry Nuzum for the score. The second he is split left and Baugh lofts the pigskin down the middle of the field on a post pattern for 58 yards as he strides past rookie safety Bobby Gage.
Sunday, October 9th: We have co-players of the week. The Rams have lost their last three games to the Bears, and if they are going to contend for the western conference crown they need to defeat the big bad Bears. Bob Waterfield completes 16 passes for 211 yards and 3 scores in the 31-16 victory to keep Los Angeles undefeated. Under the title of "nemesis" Emlen Tunnell holds a record that will never be broken. He has the most interceptions against a specific opponent than any other player in league history. Today, Tunnell steals 3 in the Giants 45-35 win to stay in the eastern conference race with a record of 2-1.
Sunday, October 16th: The Rams continue to win, and as such the Bears can ill afford a second consecutive loss. Last season Chicago lost a hard fought defensive battle with the soon to be champion Eagles; today the Bear offense is ignited by glue-fingered right end Jim Keane who latches onto 8 passes for 127 yards and a key score against the best secondary in the league. Chicago is back in contention with the 38-21 win.
Sunday, October 23rd: Jim Keane ties the league mark for receptions in a game with 14, yet he is not player of the week. Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts of the Giants dazzles the crowd at the Polo Grounds as he gains 201 yards receiving on just 4 catches. Three of the receptions are for scores as the Giants knock off the Bears 35-28. The first he is aligned at left halfback and runs an up pattern down the sideline, and is wide open to the score. The second he is flanked left and makes a dandy over the shoulder catch and pulls away to score. Finally, he is at left halfback, releases into the flat with blockers in front. Choo Choo weaves his way between Bear defenders utilizing his blockers, then dashes into the end zone to complete the 85-yard score.
Co-player of the week is rookie safety man Don Doll of the Lions. Doll ties the league record with 4 interceptions(he returns them 89 yards). This is the 4th consecutive game he has intercepted and will rank second in the league with 11. Doll is also an effective and productive kick-off return man and he gains 89 yards on his 3 returns in the 24-7 win over the Cardinals(Detroit's first win of the campaign).
Sunday, October 30th: A victory today by Los Angeles will give them a three-game lead over the Bears. Bob Waterfield will throw for 303 yards today, yet it is his left end Tom Fears who is player of the week. Tom has caught 19 passes in the first five weeks of the season, but today is his day as he maneuvers his way through the Chicago secondary with 11 catches for 143 yards in the Rams 27-24 win at the Coliseum.
Sunday, November 6th: Bobby Layne finally threw a touchdown pass for the Bulldogs in the 14-14 tie with the Redskins. Today though he is relentless in bringing back his team for his only victory of the season in defeating the Giants at the Polo Grounds 31-24. Layne passes for 333 yards on his 23 completions. Though he will complete passes to seven different receivers; his main target is left end Bill Chipley who grabs 9 for 143 yards.
Sunday, November 13th: The Cardinals with a record of 3-4 head to the Polo Grounds to take on the Bulldogs. Bob Nussbaumer was an effective receiver as an offensive halfback for both the Redskins and Packers; now, as a Cardinal, he is playing safety. Bob enters the game having intercepted 4 passes during the first seven weeks of the season. Nussbaumer ties the league record as he pilfers 4 passes (he returns them 30 yards) in the 65-20 massacre. Bob will go on to win the interception title with 12 for the season.
Sunday, November 20th: Wingback Jerry Nuzum of the Steelers is our player of the week as he gains 168 yards rushing on 20 carries in the 30-7 win over the Packers in Milwaukee. Nuzum now ranks 4th in the league in rushing with 548 yards, as he sets his sights on setting the team rushing record for a season.
Sunday, November 27th: We have co-players of the week with one very famous player, and the other having a month to remember. Red Cochran is a fine defensive halfback for the Cardinals, but this season he has emerged as a top-flight punt returner. The first six games of the year Cochran gained 60 yards on his five punt returns, but during November he returns 7 for 224 yards.
Today against Green Bay he gallops 35 and 71 yards on his two returns in the 41-21 win over the Packers. Steve Van Buren surpasses 200 rushing yards for the first time in his career as Philadelphia defeats Pittsburgh 34-17. Van Buren has gained 379 yards rushing in the past two weeks. The Eagles are determined to defend their crown and have the ballcarrier to lead them.
Sunday, December 4th: Ralph Heywood gained 161 yards receiving last week against the Rams, yet today he shines even brighter as he ties the league record for catches in a game with 14 against the Lions. Heywood's two second-half touchdowns have given New York the lead, but their porous defense could not hold off John Greene and the Lions as Detroit prevails 28-27.
Sunday, December 11th: The game in the Coliseum between the Redskins and Rams is one for the ages as the teams combine to set a new league record with 88 pass attempts. Baugh, Waterfield, and rookie Norm Van Brocklin all sparkle, yet for all their passing prowess they pale in comparison to one Johnny Lujack in navy blue & burnt orange. Chicago has fought back into the race but must beat the Cardinals to have any chance to win the division. Lujack sets a new league record by gaining 468 yards passing in the Bears 52-21 win.
Though Jim Keane ranked among the receiving leaders all season, today he catches but two passes. Johnny's main targets are left end Ken Kavanaugh, and rookie halfback John Hoffman as they combine for 14 catches for 311 yards, and four touchdowns! There were 30 different 100-yard receiving games this year in a 60 game season; the most ever in league history. Free substitution is here to stay, and the modern era is upon us, especially in the passing game.