Nov. 29, 1931: Punter/halfback Verne Lewellen helps secure Green Bay Packers' third title
TITLE 3 of 13: Packers Win Title, Lewellen Is Star
Editor's note: This story was originally published Nov. 30, 1931.
New York, N.Y. – Verne Lewellen, mighty old war horse of the Green Bay Packers, thrust his long arms forward in the first quarter of the game at Ebbets field Sunday and in his hands was a football, momentarily grounded over the goal line. An instant later it went bounding from his clutch to be recovered by the Brooklyn Robins behind their own goal line.
But Lewellen’s plunge and the ball in his outstretched arms stood for a touchdown despite prolonged boos and uproar among the 18,000 persons in the stands. Red Dunn a moment later kicked the extra point after the touchdown. The count was Green Bay 7, Brooklyn 0, and that count stood for the rest of the afternoon.
The scoring ended about eight minutes after the game had opened, and that single precarious touchdown, which it took four lunges from the two-yard to count put Green Bay home with its third consecutive football championship in the National Professional league. Thus, the Packers beat the all-time mark of two consecutive flag winners, established by themselves a year ago, and set a new mark which may stand for years.
Meet Bears In Final
The Packers meet the Bears at Chicago in the final game of the season next Sunday, but win lose or draw, the Packers are in with the flag, and Green Bay may now turn the town upside down if that has not already been done.
Lewellen, most publicized and most idolized of all the Packer string in the east, in four trips here has become practically synonymous with Packers in the minds of fans. New York was disappointed when he failed to appear in the lineup against the Giants a week ago. He is familiar to all sports readers as district attorney of Brown county and as probably the mightiest punter ever seen on a gridiron by the professional fans.
Appearing for the first time in Brooklyn, Lewellen, his punts and his touchdown will live in the minds of fans across the bridge. He was an invaluable addition to the lineup on a wet field, booting high and mighty spirals, 60 and 65 yards. On one such kick of 65 yards from under his own goal line late in the game, Lewellen came galloping down the field and made the tackle himself, stopping the runner back with a measly five-yard return.
Of course, Lewellen had brave assistance, particularly from Joe Dunn and Engleman in the first quarter. But in the east, Lewellen stands as the hero of the game.
Following an exchange of punts a few minutes after the game opened, Saunders of the Packers took McBride’s punt and ran it back 13 yards to his own 48-yard line. Engelman and Saunders picked up three yards in two attempts. Dick O’Donnell, last year with the Packers, but now a Robin, did valiant service in smearing those line plays.
Dunn Passes 30 Yards
Then Dunn fell back and tossed a pass directly over the center of the line for 30 yards, Engelman snaring it and trotting it to the 13-yard line. That cancelled Engelman’s failure of a few minutes earlier when he had an equally long pass in his hands for an almost certain touchdown, only to lose it.
The next 10 yards came on three plays. Saunders failed to gain, Engelman picked up eights yards on a spinner and Lewellen three more for first down two yards from the Brooklyn goal. There the Robins set up the most stubborn defense they have offered any team this year.
Engelman, Saunders and Engelman were hurled back in three plays, scarcely gaining half a yard. On the fourth down Lewellen dived into his famous touchdown play, arms outthrust with the ball. Referee Bobbie Cahn ruled that the ball had been grounded over the goal line and therefore was dead when it bounded from Lewellen’s hands.
But it was tagged a “phantom” touchdown in the minds of the fans and the Robins protested volubly but no so violently nor so long as the Robin rooters, who booed Mr. Cahn heartily as the game was resumed and delivered another chorus of loud noises for his benefit as he passed from the field at half time.
It was a stubborn battle, with a slippery ball, that slid into the arms of receivers with deceiving ease and slipped away for grounded passes with disconcerting regularity. The multitudinous Mr. Nash on the Packers’ right wing received two such perfect heaves and dropped them ingloriously.
On the other hand Bo Molenda inserted himself twice into the last minute efforts of the Dodgers to snare two over the line heaves from McBride of the Robins, once at a highly important juncture of the contest, in fact 15 yards from a touchdown.
Mooney Robin Star
Mooney of the Robins, who looms like a heroic figure in the gold and green jerseys of the Robins, virtually matched Lewellen in the punting duels, booting several in the 60-yard range. The Packers used the huddle system entirely in pre-attacks, but despite this precaution, it seemed at times that O’Donnell, Perry and Radick, all former Packers, were diagnosing the plays with singularly keen perception. Then, too, the Packers, with the spinner play attack, were at a disadvantage on a wet field and were matched against a team hopped up for this particular contest.
The second quarter degenerated almost entirely into a punting duel between Lewellen and Mooney. Mooney opened with a 60-yard punt to the Packers’ 20-yard mark, and Lewellen immediately booted the ball back to the Robins’ 26-yard line. A moment later Saunders picked another Mooney punt off his own 30-yard stripe and two plays later Saunders, back for a pass, was thrown for a 10-yard loss. Lewellen passes perfectly to Nash, who let the wet ball get away. It was a tremendous heave.
So the battle raged, neither team being able to get much beyond midfield. In this period Lewellen received two passes from Dunn, and Nash recovered a fumble on Brooklyn’s 45-yard line and the half ended with the Robins again backed down to their own 20-yard mark.
In the third quarter, with Bruder, Fitzgibbons, Molenda and Blood in the backfield and with Bruder carrying the brunt of the attack, the same story was repeated until mid period. Then with the Robins thrown back against their own goal post, Nash crashed through the Brooklyn line to block a punt on the Robins’ 15-yard line and Blood recovered. Three attempts by Molenda, Bruder and Molenda brought a total of two yards and Molenda’s try for a placement field goal went wild as the quarter ended.
The final quarter saw a repetition of the same tedious see-saw. The ball soared up and down the field. Neither backfield could gain, both lines tore through to break up the backfield execution. Almost at the middle of the last quarter the tedium was enlivened by what looked like an incipient fist fight between Stahlman of the Packers, wearing a mask over his broken nose and appearing an ominous figure, and Gordon of the Robins. Stahlman was hustled off the field by the Packers and a moment later the Dodgers got a break which placed the ball on the Packers’ 15-yard mark.
Dunn Sneaks Up
Dunn sneaked up under a Mooney punt. It hit the earth, bounced and struck Dunn and a Robin recovered it on the Packers’ 35-yard line. On the next play, Senn, the veteran, tossed a pass to Vance to place the ball on the Packers’ 15-yard line. McBride gathered in three more yards, but on the next attempt at passing, Molenda cut across the backfield to intercept the ball on his own five-yard line and end the last quarter threat for the time being.
Lewellen had been injected into the game for just such an eventuality, it seemed, and standing far back of his goal line hoisted a punt of 65 yards and then raced down the field to make the tackle. Another pass, Senn to Vance, made first down on the Packers’ 45-yard line. Molenda then stepped into another over the line pass to return the ball to the Packers on their own 40-yard stripe.
Lewellen banged another 60-yard kick that rolled the ball over the goal line and the Robins had worked the ball back to their own 32-yard line as the game ended.
1931 Packers at a Glance
Coach: Curly Lambeau
Hall of Fame players: Arnie Herber, Cal Hubbard, Johnny "Blood" McNally, Mike Michalske
Key statistics: The Packers scored 44 touchdowns, which would stand as a team record until 1961. . . . McNally led the league in scoring with 14 touchdowns.
A story worth retelling: Most players back then couldn't survive on their salaries, so they went on barnstorming tours during the off-season. To make some extra money, most of the players on the 1930 team agreed to play two exhibitions the weekend after the season ended. They played on Saturday, Dec. 12, at Borchert Field in Milwaukee against the semipro Ische Radios and then again the next day in Janesville against the Fort Atkinson Black Hawks. The Green Bay Pros, as they were called because the Packers wouldn't sanction the team, won both games.
Cliff Christl, 1998
1931 Green Bay Packers
1930 Green Bay Packers
1929 Green Bay Packers
1928 Providence Steam Roller
1927 New York Giants
1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets
1925 Chicago Cardinals
1924 Cleveland Bulldogs
1923 Canton Bulldogs
1922 Canton Bulldogs
1921 Chicago Staleys
1920 Akron Pros
Packers' championship titles
1. Dec. 8, 1929: The Green Bay Packers' first league title
2. Dec. 14, 1930: Tie clinches second straight championship
3. Nov. 29, 1931: Punter/halfback Verne Lewellen helps secure third title
4. Dec. 13, 1936: Green Bay's first championship decided by a post-season game
5. Dec. 10, 1939: Fifth title dubbed the Dairy Bowl
6. Dec. 17, 1944: The Packers' final championship under Curly Lambeau
7. Dec. 31, 1961: Vince Lombardi's first NFL title
8. Dec. 30, 1962: Packers still champs as Ray Nitschke leads way
9. Jan. 2, 1966:1st of 3 straight Packers titles began with 'Mud Bowl'
10. Jan. 15, 1967: Packers beat Chiefs to win Super Bowl I
11. Jan. 14, 1968: Packers rout Raiders to repeat as Super Bowl champions
12. Jan. 26, 1997: Power and the Glory. Packers win Super Bowl XXXI.
13. Feb. 6, 2011: Packers survive injuries to beat Steelers in Super Bowl XLV