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What is the largest margin of defeat ever in an NFL game?

The incredible defeat given to the Redskins by the Bears in 1940 was fueled by a wrong choice of words from the Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall.

Willie Gault #83 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball during the game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field
Jonathan DanielGetty Images

The Chicago Bears played their 21st National Football League season in 1940 and finished with an 8-3 record, matching their record from the previous season. The team was led by head coach George Halas and NFL great Sid Luckman, who helped them secure a spot in the NFL Championship. They faced the Washington Redskins and used a new formation called the T formation to win their fourth league title.

On December 8, 1940, the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders) in the NFL Championship with a score of 73-0. This victory marked the largest margin of defeat in NFL history. The Bears brought a 6-2 record to their regular-season meeting with the Redskins in Washington on November 17, 1940, but lost 3-7, as one of the three losses that season, with the losses against the then Chicago Cardinals, and the Detroit Lions being the other two. After the game, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall called Halas and his team “quitters” and “cry babies.” Halas used these words as motivation for his players, and they scored 78 points in their next two games to set up a rematch with the Redskins in the championship game on December 8, also in Washington.

The Bears started strong, with running back Bill Osmanski scoring the first touchdown less than a minute into the game with a 68-yard run. After the Redskins missed a chance to tie the game, the Bears took control and went into halftime with a 28-0 lead. The Redskins were unable to recover, and by the end of the second half, officials had to ask Halas not to let his team kick for extra points as they had run out of footballs due to too many being kicked into the stands.

The Bears went on to win two more consecutive championships, including a game against the New York Giants at Chicago’s Wrigley Field just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many great players were drafted into World War II, and Halas himself left in 1942 for a tour of duty in the Pacific. In 1946, after the war ended, Halas and several former players returned to the team, and the Bears won their fourth NFL Championship in seven years.