American Football Wiki
1943 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 19 - December 12, 1943
East Champions Washington Redskins
West Champions Chicago Bears
Championship Game
Champions Chicago Bears
National Football League seasons
 < 1942 1944 > 

The 1943 NFL season was the 24th regular season of the National Football League. As more players left to serve in World War II, three teams were affected by the depleted rosters. The Cleveland Rams were granted permission to suspend operations for this season. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers merged for this one season. The combined team, known as Phil-Pitt (and called the "Steagles" by fans), played four home games in Philadelphia and two in Pittsburgh.

The season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the Washington Redskins, 41–21, in the NFL Championship Game played the day after Christmas (the first time in NFL history that a playoff game was played so late in the year). Chicago had finished its regular season on November 28, winning the Western Division with an 8–1–1 record. However, the Bears had to wait for three straight weekends while the Eastern Division teams settled on a champion. Washington and the New York Giants ended the regular season by playing against each other on two consecutive Sundays, December 5 and December 12 (the December 12th game being a makeup from the postponed game of October 3rd), with the Giants winning both games to force a first-place tie at 6–3–1 each. The Redskins, however, won the playoff game to advance to play the Bears.

Despite the war, the league's popularity continued to grow. The league drew a cumulative 1,072,462 fans, which was fewer than 7,000 short of the record set the previous year despite the fact that 15 fewer games were played. The attendance bump was attributed to the increased competitiveness of the weaker squads. [1]

Major rule changes

  • The free substitution rule is adopted. The rule was enacted in response to the depleted rosters of the World War II period, but it profoundly changed the game. Previously a player could enter the game a single time in each of the first three quarters; in the fourth quarter, two players on each squad could each be substituted twice. Because of these restrictions, players went "both ways", playing both offense and defense. This rule change eventually led to teams having separate offensive and defensive units and various "specialists" (placekickers, punters, returners, etc.). A similar rule had been adopted a few years earlier in college football.[2]
  • The wearing of helmets becomes mandatory for all players.

Division Races

The NFL played a shortened schedule of ten games. In the Eastern Division, the Phil-Pitt team won its first two games and led at Week Four, with 1–0–0 Washington close behind, while in the Western Division, the Bears and Packers tied 21–21 in their first game and were 2–0–1 after four weeks.

In Week Five, the division leaders played each other on October 17, with the Bears beating the Steagles 48–21 and the Redskins defeating the Packers 33–7, leaving the two winners in first place.

The Redskins (5–0–1) and Bears (7–0–1) were still unbeaten going into Week Eleven, and met in Washington on November 21, with the Redskins winning 21–7. The Redskins had their first loss in Week Twelve when they lost to Phil-Pitt, 27–14, on November 28. The Bears clinched the Western Division the same day with a 35–24 win over the Cardinals for an 8–1–1 finish. In Week Thirteen, Phil-Pitt lost its very last game, falling to Green Bay 38–28, and was out of contention at 5–4–1. Meanwhile, the Giants beat the Redskins, 14–10, in New York. The next week, the Giants (5-3-1) defeated the Redskins (6–2–1) in Washington, 31–7, creating a tie in the Eastern Division. For the third straight weekend, New York and Washington faced each other, this time in a playoff, which the Redskins won 28–0.

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: The NFL did not officially count tie games in the standings until 1972

Eastern Division
Washington Redskins 6 3 1 .667 229 137
New York Giants 6 3 1 .667 197 170
Phil-Pitt "Steagles" 5 4 1 .556 225 230
Brooklyn Dodgers 2 8 0 .200 65 234
Western Division
Chicago Bears 8 1 1 .889 303 157
Green Bay Packers 7 2 1 .778 264 172
Detroit Lions 3 6 1 .333 178 218
Chicago Cardinals 0 10 0 .000 95 238


See: 1943 NFL playoffs

Home team in capitals

Eastern Division Playoff Game (December 19)

  • Washington 28, N.Y. GIANTS 0

NFL Championship Game (December 26)

  • CHI. BEARS 41, Washington 21


Joe F. Carr Trophy (Most Valuable Player)   Sid Luckman, Quarterback, Chi. Bears


  1. "'43 Pro Grid Cracks Attendance Records", December 7, 1943, p. 28. Retrieved on May 26, 2011. 
  2. On Any Given Sunday,Lyons, Robert (2010). pp. 97. Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-59213-731-2.

Template:1943 NFL season by team

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