1932 NFL Playoff Game

The 1932 NFL Playoff Game was an extra game held to break a tie in the 1932 season's final standings in the National Football League. It matched the host Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans. Because of snowfall and anticipated extremely cold temperatures in Chicago, Illinois, it was moved indoors and played at the three-year-old Chicago Stadium on December 18 on a reduced-size field on Sunday night.

1932 NFL Playoff Game
1932 NFL playoff game
The indoor field at Chicago Stadium
Portsmouth Spartans
Chicago Bears
0 9
Head coach:
George Clark
Head coach:
Ralph Jones
1234 Total
POR 0000 0
CHB 0009 9
DateDecember 18, 1932
StadiumChicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
RefereeBobby Cahn

Standings controversy

Since the NFL's first season in 1920, the league title had been awarded to the team with the best regular season record based on winning percentage with ties excluded. Four of the first six championships were disputed, but only in 1921 did two teams ever finish tied atop the standings: the two teams disputing the title had played each other, splitting a two-game series, but league officials used a tiebreaker to controversially give the Bears (then known as the Staleys) the title over the Buffalo All-Americans.

In 1932, the Spartans and the Bears tied for first place with 6–1 records.[1] Under the rules at the time, standings were based on winning percentage with ties excluded from the calculation, meaning that the Spartans and Bears each finished the regular season with identical .857 winning percentages, ahead of the defending champion Green Bay Packers' .769 (10 wins, 3 losses) winning percentage.

Had pure win-loss differential or the current (post-1972) system of counting ties as half a win, half a loss been in place in 1932, the Packers' record of 10–3–1 (.750, +7) would have won them a fourth consecutive championship, ahead of the Spartans' 6–1–4 (.727, +5) and the Bears' 6–1–6 (.692, +5).[2] The Packers controlled their own destiny at the end of the 1932 season, but lost their final two games to the Spartans and the Bears.[3][4]

Further complicating matters, the Spartans and Bears had played each other twice during the regular season for 13-13 and 7-7 ties, which rendered the league's only tiebreaker useless. As such, for the first time, the league arranged for what amounted to a replay game to determine the NFL champion, but the game would be counted in the final standings, meaning the loser would drop to 6–2 (.750) and finish third behind runner-up Green Bay.

The league also had to make a rule change to allow the game since championship-deciding postseason matches were banned in 1924.[5]

Indoor field

The game was set to be played at Wrigley Field, the Bears' home stadium, but due to severe blizzards followed by extremely cold temperatures and wind chill, the game was moved indoors to Chicago Stadium.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Two years earlier, the Bears and Cardinals had played a charity exhibition game at the arena[8] after the 1930 season,[12] and the game was moved indoors due to extreme weather, allowing for reasonable attendance and gate revenue.[13] The Bears won 9–7.[14]

A week before the game, the concrete surface had tanbark placed atop for a Salvation Army-sponsored circus; elephant manure from the circus produced an odor that caused a Bears player to throw up on the field.[15][16]

Because of the limited dimensions of the indoor arena, special rules were adopted for the game:

  • The tanbark-covered field itself was only 80 yards long (60 yards between the goal lines)[17][18] and 45 yards wide, 10 yards narrower than the regulation width at the time.[10]
  • The sidelines were butted up against the stands.
  • The goal posts were moved from the endlines to the goal lines.
  • Every time a team crossed the 10-yard line, the ball was moved back 20 yards to allow for the shortened field.[8]
  • For the first time, all plays started with the ball on or between the hash marks, which were ten yards from the sidelines.

It was also decided that due to the smaller field and indoor stadium, drop kicks and field goals would not be used in the game.[19]

Game summary

The high temperature for that Sunday in Chicago was 20 °F (−7 °C),[20] warmer than anticipated earlier in the week.

With terrible footing on the mulch and limited room for the offenses to work, the defenses dominated the game's first three quarters, with the game remaining scoreless. Bears quarterback John Doehling's first pass flew into the stands,[21] as did most punts and kickoffs, with one colliding with a Chicago Black Hawks sign and another hitting the organist as he played. By the end of the game, only one punt was returned.[22]

On one drive, the Spartans were in position to score when Glenn Presnell tripped on the field before he could reach the end zone.[23] For the Bears, they employed a heavy run game with fullback Bronko Nagurski, though possessions ended after just three downs as Ralph Jones frequently elected to pooch kick.[24] In the fourth quarter, the Bears scored on a controversial touchdown: Carl Brumbaugh handed the ball off to Nagurski, who pulled up and threw to Red Grange in the end zone for the score.[25] Rules at the time mandated that a forward pass had to be thrown from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Spartans argued Nagurski did not drop back five yards before passing to Grange, but the touchdown stood. The Bears later scored a safety after the Spartans fumbled the ball out of their end zone.[25][19]


  • Referee: Bobby Cahn
  • Umpire: G.A. Brown
  • Head Linesman: Meyer Morris[21]


Because it proved so popular, the 1932 NFL Playoff Game started a new era for the National Football League and for American football in general. Through 1932, the league had used the same rules as college football. Beginning with the 1933 season, the NFL introduced its own set of rules. The goal posts were moved from the end line back to the goal line (reversed in 1974), all plays started with the ball on or between the hash marks,[26] and the forward pass became legal anywhere behind the line of scrimmage; ironically, the forward pass rule was supported by Spartans head coach George Clark, who quipped, "Nagurski would do it anyway!"[27]

NFL Commissioner Joseph Carr described the rule changes as providing better scoring opportunities, which he believed "would improve the game for both players and spectators." Carr had attended the Playoff Game, and kept a ticket stub from the game in his personal scrapbook.[28]

In 1933, the NFL expanded to ten teams and divided into two divisions. The division winners met in a scheduled championship game to determine the NFL champion.[26]

The 1932 NFL Playoff Game is also regarded as the first major indoor football game, a variation of American football with rules modified to make it suitable for play inside arenas. While several attempts to develop a true indoor football game have been made since then, the only version to meet with anything resembling true success and acceptance has been arena football.


  1. ^ "Pro standings". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 12, 1932. p. 11.
  2. ^ Kuechle, Oliver E. (December 13, 1932). "Pro football league will change system of rating teams in 1933". Milwaukee Journal. p. 6, part 2.
  3. ^ McGlynn, Stoney (December 12, 1932). "Bears whip Packers, 9-0, tie for pro title". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 11.
  4. ^ Kuechle, Oliver E. (December 12, 1932). "Packers lose to Chicago Bears on snow-covered field, 9-0". Milwaukee Journal. p. 4, part 2.
  5. ^ Horrigan, Joe (1980). "CLEVELAND'S 1ST TITLE" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 27, 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Smith, Wilfrid (December 16, 1932). "Bears battle with Spartans moved indoors". Chicago Tribune. p. 25.
  7. ^ "Bears, Spartans to play indoors". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 16, 1932. p. 7, part 2.
  8. ^ a b c "Bears vs. Spartans". Milwaukee Journal. United Press. December 18, 1932. p. 1B.
  9. ^ "Pro gridders meet tonight in Windy City". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. December 18, 1932. p. 2, section 2.
  10. ^ a b Dunkley, Charles W. (December 19, 1932). "Bears beat Spartans, 9-0; win pro title". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. p. 13.
  11. ^ Williams, Marty (January 15, 1978). "Today's game not first indoors". Daily News. Bowling Green, Ohio. (Dayton Daily News). p. 12.
  12. ^ "Pro teams play indoor grid game". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 15, 1930. p. 2, Final.
  13. ^ Smith, Wilfrid (December 18, 1932). "Bears battle Spartans for title tonight". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
  14. ^ "Cards Lose to Chicago Bears". St. Cloud Times. Saint Cloud, Minnesota. December 16, 1930. p. 17.
  15. ^ Willis 2010, p. 294.
  16. ^ Klein, Christopher (January 29, 2015). "The Bizarre History of the NFL's First Title Game". History.com. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  17. ^ Kuechele, Oliver E. (December 19, 1932). "The Bears won, 9-0, but what was it all about?". Milwaukee Journal. p. 6, part 2.
  18. ^ "Bears battle for pro title". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 18, 1932. p. 2B.
  19. ^ a b Mayer, Larry (March 1, 2014). "Bears played NFL's first indoor game". Chicago Bears. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  20. ^ "The Weather". Chicago Tribune. December 19, 1932. p. 1.
  21. ^ a b Smith, Wilfrid (December 19, 1932). "Bears win, 9-0; pro football champions". Chicago Tribune. p. 19.
  22. ^ Willis 2010, p. 296.
  23. ^ Willis 2010, p. 295.
  24. ^ Dent, Jim (September 8, 2004). Monster of the Midway: Bronko Nagurski, the 1943 Chicago Bears, and the Greatest Comeback Ever. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 031230868X.
  25. ^ a b "Chicago Bears pro champions". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Chicago Tribune). December 19, 1932. p. 14.
  26. ^ a b "FIRST PLAYOFF GAME". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  27. ^ "The 1933 Rule Book". Sports Illustrated. May 20, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  28. ^ Willis 2010, p. 296–297.
  • Willis, Chris (August 19, 2010). The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810876701.

External links

Coordinates: 41°52′55″N 87°40′23″W / 41.882°N 87.673°W

1932 Boston Braves (NFL) season

The Boston Braves finished their inaugural 1932 season with a record of four wins, four losses, and two ties, and finished in fourth place in the National Football League.

1932 Brooklyn Dodgers (NFL) season

The 1932 Brooklyn Dodgers season was their third in the league. The team improved on their previous season's output of 2–12, winning three games. They failed to qualify for the playoffs.

1932 Chicago Bears season

The 1932 Chicago Bears season was their 13th regular season completed in the National Football League. The club posted a 7–1–6 record under third year head coach Ralph Jones.

1932 Chicago Cardinals season

The 1932 Chicago Cardinals season was their 13th in the league. The team failed to improve on their previous year's 5–4 record, winning only two games. This was the NFL season without a scheduled postseason or divisions.

This was the last season of ownership for Dr. David J. Jones, who sold the team to attorney Charles Bidwill for $50,000.

1932 Green Bay Packers season

The 1932 Green Bay Packers season was their 14th season overall and their 12th in the National Football League. The club posted a 10–3–1 record under coach Curly Lambeau, earning them a 2nd-place finish despite winning three more games than the champion Chicago Bears. With only one loss, the Bears' winning percentage was calculated by the league at .875, as ties were discarded, compared to the Packers' .769.

The Bears and Portsmouth Spartans were tied for first at the end of the season and played an extra game; the winner was the league champion and the loser finished in third in the standings. The game was played indoors on a shortened field and the Bears won, 9–0.

In 1933, the NFL divided into two divisions and began an annual NFL championship game to decide the league's crown.

1932 NFL season

The 1932 NFL season was the 13th regular season of the National Football League. The Boston Braves (the current Washington Redskins) joined the NFL before the season, whereas the loss of the Providence Steam Roller, Cleveland Indians and Frankford Yellow Jackets dropped league membership to eight teams, the lowest in NFL history; the league also had eight teams in 1943 due to World War II.

Although the Green Bay Packers finished the season with 10 wins, the league title was determined at the time by winning percentage with ties excluded, so the Portsmouth Spartans and the Chicago Bears finished the season tied for first place (6–1).

Since both games between the teams ended in ties, the NFL arranged for the first ever playoff game to determine the NFL champion.

Extremely cold weather forced the game to be moved from Wrigley Field to the indoor Chicago Stadium. The makeshift football field in the stadium was only 80 yards long with undersized endzones, forcing officials to move the goal posts to the goal line due to a lack of space to put them at the back of the end zone, as was standard in college and professional football. This change was favored by players and fans, and the goal posts were moved to the goal line as one of several rule changes the league made in 1933, with the rule lasting until 1973.

The Bears won the playoff game 9–0, which was scoreless until the fourth quarter, and as the game counted in the final standings, the Spartans finished in third place. The Spartans became the Detroit Lions in 1934.

1932 New York Giants season

The 1932 New York Giants season was the franchise's 8th season in the National Football League.

1932 Portsmouth Spartans season

In 1932, the Portsmouth Spartans appeared in the league championship game, the first playoff game in NFL history, losing to the Chicago Bears 9–0. With a record of 6–1–4 in 1932, the Spartans finished in a tie for the NFL title with the Chicago Bears. It was the first time in history that the season ended with two teams atop the league's standings. (Ties were omitted in calculating winning percentage.) Both games during the season between Portsmouth and Chicago had ended in ties. To determine a sole champion, the league office arranged for the first playoff game in NFL history.The game was originally scheduled to be played at Wrigley Field, the Bears' home stadium. Due to severe blizzards and sub-zero wind chill throughout the week, the game was moved indoors to Chicago Stadium. The arena allowed only an 80-yard field (end lines) that came right to the walls, and the goal posts were moved from the end lines to the goal. The Bears won 9–0, scoring the winning touchdown on a two-yard pass from Bronko Nagurski to Red Grange in the fourth quarter. Attendance for the game was 11,198.With the loss, Portsmouth dropped to third in the final league standings.

1932 Staten Island Stapletons season

The 1932 Staten Island Stapletons season was their fourth and final in the league. The team failed to improve on their previous output of 4–6–1, winning only two games. They failed to qualify for the playoffs.

1932 in sports

1932 in sports describes the year's events in world sport.

1933 NFL season

The 1933 NFL season was the 14th regular season of the National Football League. Because of the success of the 1932 NFL Playoff Game, the league divided its teams into two divisions for the first time, with the winners of each division playing in a championship game to determine the NFL champion. Three new teams also joined the league: the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Cincinnati Reds. Also, the Boston Braves changed their name to the Boston Redskins and the Staten Island Stapletons, while still scheduling games against league teams, left the league.

The season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the first ever NFL Championship Game.

1935 NFL Championship Game

The 1935 National Football League Championship game was the third National Football League (NFL) title game, held December 15 at University of Detroit Stadium (Titan Stadium) in Detroit, Michigan. The 1935 champion of the Western Division was the Detroit Lions (7–3–2) and the champion of the Eastern Division was the New York Giants (9–3).The Giants, coached by Steve Owen, were in their third straight title game and were defending champions, while the Lions (coached by George "Potsy" Clark) were in their first title game, three years removed from their nailbiting loss in the indoor 1932 NFL Playoff Game as the Portsmouth Spartans.

Bill Hewitt (American football)

William Ernest Hewitt (October 8, 1909 – January 14, 1947) was a professional American football player who played as an end and fullback in the National Football League (NFL). He played five seasons for the Chicago Bears (1932–1936), three for the Philadelphia Eagles (1937–1939), and one for the Phil-Pitt Steagles (1943). He is remembered for his refusal to wear a helmet as one of the last NFL players not to wear one.Hewitt played college football at the University of Michigan, where he was named team's most valuable player and first-team All-Big Ten his senior season. In nine NFL seasons, he was named an All-Pro six times, won two NFL championships, and in 1934 led the league in touchdown receptions. His jersey number 56 is retired by the Bears and he is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame. Hewitt was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

History of American football

The history of American football can be traced to early versions of rugby football and association football. Both games have their origin in varieties of football played in Britain in the mid-19th century, in which a football is kicked at a goal or kicked over a line, which in turn were based on the varieties of English public school football games.

American football resulted from several major divergences from association football and rugby football, most notably the rule changes instituted by Walter Camp, a Yale University and Hopkins School graduate who is considered to be the "Father of American Football". Among these important changes were the introduction of the line of scrimmage, of down-and-distance rules and of the legalization of blocking. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gameplay developments by college coaches such as Eddie Cochems, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Parke H. Davis, Knute Rockne, and Glenn "Pop" Warner helped take advantage of the newly introduced forward pass. The popularity of college football grew as it became the dominant version of the sport in the United States for the first half of the 20th century. Bowl games, a college football tradition, attracted a national audience for college teams. Boosted by fierce rivalries and colorful traditions, college football still holds widespread appeal in the United States.

The origin of professional football can be traced back to 1892, with William "Pudge" Heffelfinger's $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. In 1920 the American Professional Football Association was formed. This league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) two years later, and eventually became the major league of American football. Primarily a sport of Midwestern industrial towns in the United States, professional football eventually became a national phenomenon.

The modern era of American football can be considered to have begun after the 1932 NFL Playoff game, which was the first indoor game since 1902 and the first American football game to feature hash marks, forward passes anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, and the movement of the goal posts back to the goal line. Other innovations to occur immediately after 1932 were the introduction of the AP Poll in 1934, the tapering of the ends of the football in 1934, the awarding of the first Heisman Trophy in 1935, the first NFL draft in 1936 and the first televised game in 1939. Another important event was the American football game at the 1932 Summer Olympics, which combined with a similar demonstration game at 1933 World's Fair, led to the first College All-Star Game in 1934, which in turn was an important factor in the growth of professional football in the United States. American football's explosion in popularity during the second half of the 20th century can be traced to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, a contest that has been dubbed the "Greatest Game Ever Played". A rival league to the NFL, the American Football League (AFL), began play in 1960; the pressure it put on the senior league led to a merger between the two leagues and the creation of the Super Bowl, which has become the most watched television event in the United States on an annual basis.

History of the Portsmouth Spartans

The professional American football team now known as the Detroit Lions previously played in Portsmouth, Ohio from its founding in 1929 to its relocation to Detroit in 1934. This article chronicles the team's history during their time as the Portsmouth Spartans. Originally drawing players from defunct independent professional and semi-pro teams, they joined the fledgling National Football League in 1930. Their home stadium was Universal Stadium (known today as Spartan Municipal Stadium).

List of Chicago Bears starting quarterbacks

These quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. They are listed in order of the date of each player's first start at quarterback for the Bears.

List of National Football League head coaches by playoff record

At the end of the 1932 NFL season, the Portsmouth Spartans and the Chicago Bears tied for first place (6-1); under the rules at the time, standings were based on winning percentage, with ties excluded from the calculation. The Spartans and Bears had tied each other twice during the regular season, making the league's only tiebreaker useless. So the league had to make a rule change to allow another game. For the first time, the league played what amounted to a replay game to determine the NFL champion. Coach Ralph Jones led the Bears to a 9-0 victory over Coach Potsy Clark. The game is recorded as a regular season game for the teams' statistics. Three seasons later Coach Clark would lead his team to their first title, when they were the Detroit Lions.

Because it proved so popular, the 1932 NFL "Playoff Game", as it is unofficially called, started a new era for the National Football League. Beginning in the 1933 NFL season, the league was divided into divisions, and the winner of each division would meet in a playoff game to determine the champion.

The first NFL official playoff game was the 1933 NFL Championship Game between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants where Coach George "Papa Bear" Halas beat Hall of Fame Coach Steve Owen. After the 2017 season there have been a total of 549 NFL playoff games including games from the AFL, but not the AAFC. The following list shows the career postseason records for each coach that has recorded a win in the NFL playoffs from 1933 through the 2017–18 NFL playoff games.

List of gridiron football rules

The following is a description of the various and alternating rules of gridiron football. Numerous leagues or organizations tend to send a laundry list of rules in order to better distinguish themselves from their counterparts.

Replay (sports)

A replay (also called a rematch) is the repetition of a match in many sports.

Game information
Fourth quarter
Chicago Bears 1932 NFL champions
Retired numbers
Key personnel
Division championships (21)
Conference championships (4)
League championships (9)
Current league affiliations
Seasons (100)
Notable people
Division championships (4)
Conference championships (4)
League championships (4)
Current league affiliations
Seasons (90)
NFL Championship Game
AFL Championship Game
AFL-NFL World Championship Games[1]
Super Bowl[2]
Conference tiebreakers
NFL playoff system

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