Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 1929: Nevers 40, Bears 6

CHICAGO - Ernie Nevers first earned fame as a college running back for Stanford. In the 1925 Rose Bowl - a noteworthy game in itself because it was Notre Dame's first appearence on the West Coast - Nevers singlehandedly outrushed the entirety of Notre Dame's famed Four Horsemen backfield. Though Stanford lost anyway - eight turnovers will do that to you - Nevers' star was born.

He took his fame ... to the baseball field, where he ended up as a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns. Nevers was a below-average pitcher, with his only claim to fame being that he gave up two of Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927. After the 1927 season ended, Nevers went back to playing the sport he was best at, signing with the NFL's Duluth Eskimos.

Nevers' signing with Duluth was big news for the NFL. Red Grange had just started his own league - the AFL - and it was rumored that Nevers would be joining him. Many people thought that if the rumors had been true, it would signal the end of the NFL. As it was, Nevers instead went to play for the Eskimoes, a team that didn't actually have a home stadium and was forced to play all their games on the road. Nevers was basically a one-man team for Duluth, playing nearly every minute of every game for two seasons.

After the Eskimos folded - and really, it's not hard to see why, since they didn't play any home games - Nevers joined the Chicago Cardinals, providing a cross-town rival for Grange, who had rejoined the Bears. It was during the teams' 1929 meeting that Nevers left his lasting legacy on the NFL record books.

November 28, 1929, was a snowy day in Chicago. Watching the snow flurries falling at Comiskey Park, the Cardinals' coach knew that his double-wing offense would be no good in the wet and windy conditions, so he changed his game plan, instructing Nevers and the other backs to plunge straight into the Bears' line as often as possible.

The plan worked brilliantly. With the Cardinals' interior linemen leading the way, the Cardinals ran all over the Bears defense, going up and down the field with ease. While several Cardinal runners had big games yardage-wise, it was always Nevers who seemed to get into the end zone. Nevers had six rushing touchdowns, setting an NFL record that has never been topped. Since Nevers was also the Cardinals' kicker, he was able to add four points to his total with his four-for-six day on conversions, giving him all 40 points in the Cardinals' 40-6 victory.

The NFL has grown significantly since Nevers played. Players are getting faster and stronger, and offenses have become more and more complex since he played. Despite all the enhancements to the game, nobody has been able to match Nevers' record of 40 points in a game. It remains the longest-standing NFL record on the books.

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