The 1946 NFL season was the 27th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, Elmer Layden resigned as NFL Commissioner and Bert Bell, co-founder of the Philadelphia Eagles, replaced him. Meanwhile, the All-America Football Conference was formed to rival the NFL, and the Rams became the first NFL team based on the West Coast after they relocated from Cleveland, Ohio to Los Angeles. The last regular season game played on Tuesday until the 2010 season happened on October 1, between New York and Boston.
The season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.
Major rule changes
- A forward pass that strikes the goal posts is automatically ruled incomplete. This is sometimes known as the "Baugh/Marshall Rule" after Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh and team owner George Preston Marshall. In the previous year's NFL Championship Game, the Rams scored a safety when Baugh, throwing the ball from his own end zone, hit the goal posts (which were on the goal line between 1933 and 1973). The two points were the margin of victory as the Rams won 15–14, and Marshall was so outraged at the outcome that he was a major force in passing this rule change.
- The free substitution rule was repealed and substitutions were limited to no more than three players at a time.
- The receiving team is permitted to return punts and missed field goal attempts from behind their own goal line.
- The penalty for an invalid fair catch signal is 5 yards from the spot of the signal.
- A fair catch signal is valid when it is made while the ball is in flight.
In the Eastern Division, the Giants, Eagles and Steelers all had 4 wins and 2 losses in Week Seven of an 11-week season, while in the Western Division, the Bears 10–7 win over the Packers (Nov. 3) put them a game ahead of the Rams. In Week Eight, the Giants beat the Eagles 45–17, and the Steelers lost to Detroit 17–7, and the Bears beat the Rams 27–21 to widen their lead. Week Nine the Giants were tied by Boston, 28–28, putting them at 5–2–1, while the Steelers beat the Eagles 10–7 to be a half-game behind at 5–3–1. The teams met in New York in Week Ten, and the Giants' 7–0 win put them in front again.
The final week of the season had the 6–3–1 Giants hosting the 5–4–1 Redskins, and a Washington win would have given them both 6–4–1 records and forced a playoff. That became a moot point with New York's 31–0 win. A crowd of 60,337 turned out at the Polo Grounds, more than the 58,346 that came there for the championship a week later.
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
NFL Championship Game
Chi. Bears 24, N.Y. Giants 14, at Polo Grounds, New York City, December 15, 1946