If there’s one thing Eagles fans are bitter about over their lifetime of fanhood, it’s probably the lack of championships. Everyone knows they’ve never won a Super Bowl, only even making to it once. They do however have three NFL Championship wins, the equivalent of the Super Bowl before it was even a thing. With the theme of ice today, I have decided to look a famous NFL Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Cardinals.
It was the first championship appearance for either team (and wouldn’t be the last, as the two teams had a rematch the very next year). According to a description in Ray Didinger’s book “The Eagles Encyclopedia,” a night full of sleet and freezing conditions left the field completely frozen over for the game. One of the players said the field looked like a skating rink with how much ice was on it. Wow.
Nearly 31,000 were in attendance of the game in Chicago, Illinois…I have no idea how they were able to stand the cold, but they managed to do it. It must have been the love of football, or the fact that both teams were playing in their first ever championship. Those fans were witnessing history.
The Eagles attempted to use sharpened cleats in the game, but those were nixed before the game began, forcing them to use flat-soled shoes. I have no idea how one would basically play a football game on a sheet of ice with sneakers (while the opponent had regular cleats), but somehow they made it happen. Famous Eagles running back Steve Van Buren explained the conditions perfectly in a quote from the book: “It was the worst footing ever. I slipped and fell twice just coming out of the huddle.”
Miraculously, there were still a fair amount of points scored in the game, and the Eagles were able to hang in there despite wearing sneakers on an ice field. The Cardinals took a 14-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter on a pair of long touchdown runs, including a 70-yarder. The Eagles fought back and scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to cut the lead to seven.
Going into the half down by a touchdown, the Eagles were struggling to create plays on offense. The Cardinals returned a long punt for a touchdown that quarter to push the lead back out to 14, but Van Buren scored a 1-yard touchdown run later in the quarter. Going into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals led 21-14.
The Cardinals scored another long 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 14 again, and the Eagles couldn’t come back. They did score one more touchdown to make the score 28-21, but that would be the final scores. This left the Eagles 0-1 in championship games in franchise history, although they would get revenge the next year and start the Cardinals’ championship drought, the longest in NFL history.
All in all, the ice played a huge factor in the game, preventing the eventual Hall of Fame running back Van Buren from getting anything going on the ground. Didinger’s book said that he was slipping and sliding around the entire game, even if the offensive line was able to open up holes for him. If a team’s best player is neutralized by weather, there’s almost nothing the team can do.
The Eagles would beat the Cardinals 6-0 in the 1948 NFL Championship game, a famous one in Eagles history since it was their first ever championship. That game also faced the teams with intense winter conditions, although it was mostly just cold temperatures and lots and lots of snow. These two games will go down as two of the most famous games in Eagles history.