COACH: GREASY NEALE
DID YOU KNOW? FOUR MEMBERS OF THE '48 SQUAD (PIHOS, VAN BUREN AND WOJCIECHOWICZ). AS WELL AS NEALE, WERE INDUCTED INTO THE HALL OF FAME.
THE 1948 SEASON started on the wrong note, as the Eagles lost their opener 21-14 to the Chicago Cardinals, the defending NFL champions. The next week wasn't much better, as Philadelphia blew a 28-point lead over the Los Angeles Rams and settled for a 28-28 tie. By Week 3, however, the Eagles finally found their wings. Led by quarterback Tommy Thompson, who would finish the season with an NFL-best 25 touchdown passes, and receiver Pete Pihos, who would have 11 TD receptions, Philly shut out both the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins 45-0 in consecutive weeks, propelling the team to an eight-game winning streak. On the defensive side, stalwarts such as linebacker Alex Wojciechowicz helped Philadelphia hold the opposition to 13.0 points per game, second best in the NFL. The Eagles clinched the Eastern Division, earning two more wins than the second-place Redskins.
The championship game was played on Dec. 19 in Philadelphia's Shibe Park—home to baseball's Athletics. On the morning of the game a snowstorm blanketed the city and showed no signs of letting up. A tarp had been used to protect the field, and even though it was removed just before game time, the first-down and yardage markings disappeared almost immediately under a fresh coating of snow. The league—which had sold the television, radio and newsreel rights for $33,000—dictated that the game would be played, with the referees using their judgment, rather than a tape measure, to call first downs. Despite the weather, 28,864 Philly fans came out to cheer on their team.
The game began well for the Eagles, with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to end Jack Ferrante in the first quarter, but an offside penalty brought the play back. The two highest scoring teams in the NFL were locked in a scoreless tie at the half.
Late in the third quarter Philadelphia recovered a Chicago fumble deep in Cardinals territory. Halfback Steve Van Buren rumbled in from five yards out, putting his team ahead 7-0. The Eagles would not relinquish the lead, as the defense, which had shut out four teams during the season, held on for the franchise's first title.
Four players ( Van Buren, Thompson, Pihos and tackle Al Wistert) were named All-Pro, and Greasy Neale was Coach of the Year. The Eagles were on top of the football world and determined to stay there.