Packers-Bears: 1941 Playoff Meeting Was In Shadow of Pearl Harbor

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  • Norm Standlee (22) of the Chicago Bears running the ball with the Packers' Clarke Hinkle (30) chasing him during the 1941 NFL Western Division playoff game. | File Photo: Milwaukee Sentinel

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GREEN BAY - For the first time in seven decades, the Packers and Bears play in the playoffs.

Just like this year, their last meeting - the 1941 Western Division title game - sent the winner to play for the world championship, but it happened a week after America entered war.

The scene was set for the 1941 Western playoff one week before. 

The Packers had completed their regular season and owned a half-game lead on the Bears, but the Bears' still had a game to play.

"The Bears played the Chicago Cardinals, and if the Cardinals had won, the (NFL) Championship Game would have been in Green Bay," said then-rookie reporter Art Daley of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

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The Packers sent a pretty large scouting staff to the Bears-Cardinals game

"Curly Lambeau had the whole Packers team in the stands that day, because he figured they'd play them the next week."

The Bears-Cardinals game happened to be on Dec. 7, when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor and killed thousands in Hawaii.

"They heard about Pearl Harbor," explained Daley.  "(Hall of Fame Running Back) Tony Canadeo told me they were sitting way up in the grandstand, and we heard about Pearl Harbor, and everybody said 'Where the hell is Pearl Harbor?' "

Canadeo and his teammate soon found out.

They also found out they'd play the Bears at Wrigley Field a week later after they beat the crosstown Cardinals, 34-24.

"The Packers were pretty well beaten in the (playoff) game," Daley remembered.

It didn't start out that way.

"We took a lead when they fumbled the opening kickoff, and we scored right away."

Hall of Fame fullback Clarke Hinkle plunged in to give Green Bay its first, and last, lead.

As the Bears dominated, the most dominating player of his era, Packers receiver Don Hutson, wasn't playing at 100%.

"Don Hutson was hurt.  He was hurt going into the game," said Daley.

He dropped a sure TD pass, one of three scoring throws that slipped through Packers' receivers' hands. 

Had they held on, Green Bay might have won, 35-33.  Instead, they lost 33-14.

Daley says, however, it wasn't just a lack of concentration on thrown passes, but a lack of concentration on the game due to world events that hurt Green Bay the most.

"One of the reactions among the Packers later on, on the way home, they thought that the Pearl Harbor thing was more of a bad thing for the Packers than it was for the Bears.  Canadeo and some of the other guys were saying they were worried about going to war."

Many Packers and Bears players would eventually find themselves on the same team, serving America for the next four years.