Sunday, September 4, 2022

Don Hutson's Only Career Touchdown Pass (1943)

By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Don Hutson, Packers end 

Today PFJ looks back at one of the greatest plays in the career of Don Hutson. A play that didn’t involve him catching or intercepting a pass, or kicking a field goal or extra point. It doesn’t involve him making a tackle. Hard to imagine anything else.

On October 31, 1943, the 3-1-1 Green Bay Packers traveled east to play the 2-1 New York Giants, in a grudge match between two of the NFL’s best teams. When Don Hutson walked out onto the grass field at the Polo Grounds, he didn’t know what the day held in store for him. He would play one of his best overall games of his career and that’s saying a lot. A crowd of 46,208 spectators would witness one of the Alabama Antelope greatest achievements.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

Polo Grounds 

Packers- 35
Giants – 21

On the Packers second drive of the game, the great Don Hutson did something for the first and only time in his career – he threw a touchdown pass. He tossed it in his 92nd career game

After a few first downs the Packers faced a third and nine at the Giants 38-yard line. Time for a trick play. Don Hutson lined up tight at left end in a three-point stance. As soon as the ball was snapped Packers backs Tony Canadeo and Tony Falkenstein did a spinner play in the backfield, as Hutson did an end around, eventually taking the handoff from Falkenstein. Hutson sprinted wide around the Packers right end as if he was running the ball, but he stops quickly to launch a deep pass down the seam. Right as he throws the ball, he is clobbered from the blindside by Giants end Will Walls.

The hit didn’t faze Hutson as he threw a dart deep downfield to Packers end Harry Jacunski for a 38-yard touchdown. Jacunski had gotten by Giants defenders Emery Nix (NYG #44) and Bill Paschal (NYG # 8) down the seam to haul in the score. Hutson kicked the extra point to give the Packers a 7-0.

Don Hutson (#14), lines up tight at left end

Don Hutson about to throw with Giants end Will Walls (#24) bearing down

Harry Jacunski crosses goal for Packers touchdown

Polo Grounds scoreboard, Packers 7 Giants 0

This would be Hutson’s only TD pass of his 11-year NFL career. In 1937, Hutson threw four passes – three incompletions and one interception. He would go 0-for-3 in his other tosses in 1943. This would be his first and only completion. In the game recap the Green Bay Press-Gazette wrote: “It started like an end around, with Hutson taking the ball after Canadeo and Falkenstein had handled it first. It started out as a spinner, continued to look like the end around when Hutson took the ball and then ended up as a pass from Hutson to Harry Jacunski in the end zone. The play covered 37 yards all together! Hutson kicked the point and the Packers were out in front by 7 to 0.”

In the second quarter Hutson catches a 17-yard TD pass to help the Packers go up 21-7. It looks to be an easy Pack victory. But early in the fourth quarter the Giants storm back behind two touchdown runs by rookie back Bill Paschal to tie the game at 21-21.

Then the great Don Hutson went back to work. In the red zone Hutson ran a stutter and go route to catch his second TD pass of game, this one from 12 yards out from Tony Canadeo. Later in the fourth Canadeo runs 35-yards for the game-clinching score, 35-21. Hutson finishes the day with 7 receptions for 117 yards, 2 for touchdowns and goes 5 for 5 on extra points to score 17 points in the win. Oh, he also threw his only NFL touchdown pass.

Game recap, headlines and touchdown description
(Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette) 

In his 11-year career Hutson threw a total of 11 passes. Eight incompletions and two interceptions. His only completion was his TD pass to Harry Jacunski against the Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1943.

As for Jacunski he gets the distinction of being the only man in Packers’ history to catch a touchdown pass from Don Hutson. 

Harry Jacunski, Packers end

Jacunski was one of the Seven Blocks of Granite who played at Fordham, joining the likes of Vince Lombardi and Alex Wojciechowicz, on the Rams front line. He joined the Packers in 1939 playing the opposite end position from Don Hutson. Jacunski had his best individual season in 1943, finishing second to Hutson (47 catches, 776 yards, 11 TDs) with 24 receptions for 528 yards and three touchdowns. His impressive 22.0 average per catch led the team and was one of the best in the NFL. In 1944 he helped the Packers win the NFL Championship- his second title, also won in 1939. He would retire after that season. Jacunski was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1991. 

The Hutson-to-Jacunski connection only happened once, but it was a memorable one in 1943.

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