Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Green Bay Packers, defending NFL champions, won their first game of the 1945 season against the arch-rival Chicago Bears and now faced the Detroit Lions on October 7 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. Still under the direction of founding Head Coach Curly Lambeau, Green Bay had coaxed the great end Don Hutson (pictured at right), who had wanted to retire, into coming back for another year.
The Lions, under third-year Head Coach Gus Dorais, had won six straight games, dating back to the ’44 season. An 0-11 doormat as recently as 1942, the Lions had improved under Dorais and gone 6-3-1. They had lost star tailback Frank Sinkwich to military duty (and afterward would lose him to the rival AAFC), thus diminishing the passing attack, but the Lions had compensated by beefing up the running game.
There was a capacity crowd of 23,500 in attendance for the key division matchup. They witnessed a scoreless first quarter. However, late in the period, a short punt by tailback Roy McKay gave the Lions the ball on the Green Bay 29. Tailback Chuck Fenenbock threw a pass to end Jack Matheson that covered 16 yards and followed up with a seven-yard run. Fenenbock started off the second quarter by running the remaining eight yards for a touchdown and 7-0 Lions lead.
For the remainder of the quarter, it was all Green Bay. Following the kickoff, McKay immediately hit Hutson on a 56-yard touchdown pass play. The Packers followed up with a 41-yard TD pass play from tailback Irv Comp to reserve end Clyde Goodnight.
It was McKay-to-Hutson again for a 46-yard touchdown completion and 21-7 Green Bay lead. Shortly thereafter, an interception by back Ben Starret set up another Hutson touchdown, this on a 17-yard pass from McKay. However, Hutson’s extra point attempt (he also typically handled the team’s placekicking) was blocked by the Lions.
Still, the onslaught continued as FB/LB Ted Fritsch intercepted a pass by Detroit tailback Cotton Price and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown. Before the half, Hutson scored his fourth touchdown of the second quarter on a six-yard pass from McKay. Green Bay led at the intermission by a score of 41-7, made all the more remarkable because all 41 points had been scored in one quarter.
Hutson accounted for a total of 29 of those points with five extra points in addition to the four touchdowns.
The second half was anticlimactic. The Packers got a safety in the third quarter when Goodnight tackled halfback Dave Ryan in the end zone on a punt return. However, Ryan connected with end John Greene on a 62-yard touchdown pass play late in the fourth quarter. The final score was 57-21.
Remarkably, the Lions had 15 first downs to Green Bay’s 7 and outgained the Packers on the ground, 137 yards to 53. They even had a slight edge in passing yards, 244 to 242. However, Detroit also turned the ball over six times, to just once for the Packers. And, of course, Green Bay’s second quarter bombardment easily determined the outcome. The 41 points remain the record for a single team in one NFL quarter.
The offensive stars for the Packers were Hutson, with six catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns, and Roy McKay, who completed 6 of 14 passes for 151 yards with the four TDs and none intercepted. Hutson also added two more extra points to give him a single-game point total of 31.
The strong start did not translate into season-long success for the Packers, who were swept by the eventual-champion Cleveland Rams in both of their meetings and ended up at 6-4 and in third place in the Western Division. The Lions, who beat the Packers when the clubs met again at the end of the year, came in second at 7-3.
In his final season, Don Hutson led the NFL in pass receptions (47) and was second in receiving yards (834), touchdown receptions (9), total touchdowns (10, tied with Frank Liebel of the Giants), and scoring (97 points). He retired as the all-time career leader in pass receptions (488 – the runner-up at the time had 298), receiving yards (7991), touchdown receptions (99 – which stood until 1989), total touchdowns (105), and scoring (823 points).
Roy McKay, typically splitting the tailback duties with Irv Comp, threw just one more touchdown pass the rest of the way (Comp threw 7) and had a total of 520 passing yards.