By Zane Miller
In modern NFL games, one can be virtually guaranteed to see at least one team score at least one time in each game. During the most recent 2020 season, the league average for points scored was 24.8 points per game, so it makes sense that seeing a scoreless contest during the current era would be highly unlikely. However, it still isn’t impossible for neither team to score any points, as regular season games are still able to end in ties, as well as overtime periods being cut from 15 minutes to 10 minutes prior to the 2017 season making the odds of a scoreless tie a bit more favorable.
Be that as it may, the odds are still very much against this result. In fact, there was only one game throughout the entire 2010’s that made it through the third quarter with both teams knotted up at 0-0, as on Sunday, December 31st, 2017, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 6-0 with the game’s only score being a touchdown pass from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to wide receiver Brice Butler with 12:19 to go in the fourth quarter.
Other than this outlier, even the worst offenses in the league can almost always manage to put together more than one scoring drive over the course of a 60 minute football game. However, there was a time where that wasn’t the case, so to take a look at that we’ll need to rewind to November 7th, 1943.
On Sunday, November 7th, 1943, the New York Giants faced the Detroit Lions at Briggs Stadium (later known as Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, Michigan, as both teams looked to bounce back from disappointing 1942 seasons, with the Lions going winless at 0-11 and the Giants finishing 5-5-1.
While the Lions were already outperforming their previous record, standing at 3-4 coming into their home matchup, the Giants were still at roughly the same spot as the year prior with a 2-2 showing.
Lions tailback Frankie Sinkwich led the team in passing touchdowns with six, while the Giants had a much more rushing-oriented offense at this point in the season, with tailback Tuffy Leemans getting the only two passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Lions fullback Harry Hopp earned two rushing touchdowns to lead the team, as Giants fullback Bill Paschal scored seven rushing TDs for the team lead in that department. Hopp also led the Lions in receiving touchdowns with four, while Paschal and end Frank Liebel had one receiving TD each.
On the defensive side, the Lions’ Ned Mathews went on to finish 1943 with four interceptions, while the Giants’ Dave Brown also led his team with a total of six INTs.
The afternoon started with a light rain that would persist throughout the contest, leading to muddy conditions on the field. Unsurprisingly, this made it incredibly difficult for both offenses to get going, evidenced by Detroit only getting five completions for 28 yards during the game. The only surprising part here is that the Giants were actually even worse, with just one completion for three yards, for the entire game.
The rushing statistics are slightly better for both teams, albeit far from anything to write home about, as the Lions ran for a total of 102 yards with the Giants running for 81. On paper, the Lions should have won this game, but several missed opportunities kept them from breaking the deadlock. The team went 0-for-3 on field goal attempts, as well as the defense being unable to take advantage of a Giants fumble, which New York fell on to keep the offense on the field. The Giants ended up with the lone turnover on the afternoon, as future Hall of Famer Mel Hein picked off a pass, but the team was ultimately unable to capitalize, leading to a 0-0 final score.
The Lions ended the 1943 season with their third straight losing record, taking a finish of 3-6-1. The Giants concluded their season at 6-3-1, for their seventh consecutive year of claiming at least a .500 record. Despite tying the Washington Redskins (now Washington Football Team), who also had a 6-3-1 record, for first place in the Eastern Division, it would be Washington who would make it to the NFL Championship Game as they defeated the Giants 28-0 in a tiebreaker as the first round of the playoffs.
The Lions would go on to end their losing season stretch with a winning record in 1944, eventually taking their second championship in 1952. It wouldn’t take long after for the Giants to get their fourth championship, as they won it in the 1956 season.
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