December 16, 1945: An Early Safety Leads To A Championship Title For The Cleveland Rams
On December 16, 1945, a first quarter safety that was caused by the uprights led the Cleveland Rams to a 15-14 Championship victory over the Washington Redskins on a frigid day in Cleveland, Ohio. The mercury dipped to negative eight that day, which didn't keep the crowd of more than 32,000 away. The fateful safety happened early in the first, the Redskins signal caller Sammy Baugh dropped into his own endzone, went to pass the ball, only to have it hit the uprights resulting in an automatic safety. At the time the goalpost was in the front of the endzone rather than where we see it today. While the play proved to be unfortunate the Redskins didn't lie down. In fact, they bounced right back in the second quarter when Baugh's backup Frank Filchock connected with Steve Bagarus on a 38 yard touchdown pass. The 7-2 lead held for just a few minutes as rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield engineered a 70 yard drive that was capped off with a 37 yard pass to Jim Benton that ended in the endzone to put the Rams up 9-7. There was no looking back for Cleveland. Late in the third quarter Waterfield struck again. This time he unleashed a 53 yard bomb that landed in the hands of Jim Gillette who took it in for the score. After missing the extra point that early safety loomed even larger for the Rams. The Redskins tried to comeback from he deficit but it was too much to overcome even after Filchock connected with Bob Seymour for a nine yard score in the fourth. Not once but twice Washington had the chance to take the lead but their kicker Joe Aguirre missed field goal attempts from 46 and 31 yards out. The victory marked an end of an era in Cleveland as the Rams would pack their bags and head to L.A. for the '46 season. They had joined the league in '37 to replace a team out of St. Louis that were known as the Gunners. While the run in Cleveland might have been short it marked the birth of a franchise and ended with a title.