1940’s Game Notes

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a fair amount of Packers’ games from the 1940s at NFL Films and thought it would be interesting to share some of my game notes from those games as one man’s impressions of the players of that time. First, though, we should review some of the basics of the pro game from that time before I start filing those posts.

Pro football in the 1940s was still a two-way operation for the players. Everyone played on both offense and defense. However, they were not 60-minute men as many were in the 1920s. Different teams had different substitution patterns, although the league rule for the time was that once a player left the game, he could not return till the next quarter.

On offense the prevailing formation was the Single-Wing in which the line was unbalanced with both guards to the same side of the center. In the backfield there were two deep backs, a tailback and fullback, who usually would receive the deep snap from center. The other two backs were lined up close to the line. The quarterback was a blocking back lined up behind the line, while the wing back was lined up outside the end.

The Packers mostly ran a variation of the Single-Wing called the Notre Dame Box. That scheme featured a balanced line with the backs originally aligning in a T formation before shifting into a box similar to the Single-Wing arrangement of backs with the tailback usually receiving the deep snap from center.

Meanwhile, the Bears were modernizing the T Formation that had existed for 50 years with an emphasis on a backfield man in motion and counter plays against the grain.

On defense, teams usually lined up in six- or seven-man lines. The Packers mostly ran a six-man line with two linebackers and three defensive backs. Those on the offensive line also manned the defensive line, aside from the center who became the right linebacker, with the fullback becoming the left linebacker. Sometimes in passing situations, one of the guards would drop back from the line as a middle linebacker. The DBs had been the quarterback, tailback and wingback until sturdy Larry Craig joined the team in 1939, allowing Craig, a blocking back on offense, to move to defensive end and slightly-built end Don Hutson to play in the defensive backfield.

So that’s the setup for the game notes series to follow in the coming weeks.

1940dhutson  1940lcraig

Custom cards are colorized.

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