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While soccer (known as football on the other side of the Atlantic) sees many games in a season without either team scoring a goal, scoreless results in the NFL are extremely rare, especially since the overtime rule was introduced in 1974.
The last NFL game that ended 0-0 was played on November 7th, 1943, when the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions played to a ‘pointless’ draw at Briggs Field in Detroit. The game was played to a very sparse crowd of just 16992 spectators, but bear in mind this was in the middle of World War 2.
While the details of the game itself are not well-known, some have been preserved for posterity, so let’s journey back to the early 1940s and learn more about the last NFL game that ended 0-0.
The Only NFL 0-0 Game: Field Conditions Were Poor
Several factors contributed to this almost impossible result, and one of those was the ground condition. Dan Daly, a Washington sports writer, has a box score from the game, which he discovered in an old newspaper copy of the New York Times.
His conclusion about the ground condition was that it would have been muddy and unkempt, unlike the arena fields we see today. This could have been because stadiums often hosted college games on a Saturday, with high school games played on a Friday, and the field would not have had time to recover.
Add to that some inclement weather and that field would have looked like the battlefields and trenches from World War 1, making it virtually impossible to have secure underfoot conditions that would support the rigors of an NFL game.
The Only 0-0 NFL Game: Field Goal Stats
Dan assumed the ground was in such poor condition because between the two teams, the kickers missed four attempts at goal, leading to the assumption that getting traction for the kickers on the ground was extremely difficult.
This idea is borne out by the kicking stats, which are incredible when you consider that the Lions kicker Augie Lio missed three kicks from 32 yards, 40 yards, and even one from 15 yards! When you consider the improbability of an NFL kicker missing from inside 20 yards from right in front – you either have very poor kickers, or the ground was in shocking condition.
The Giants kicker also missed a field goal attempt, but the records don’t have the distance from which the kick was attempted. In modern terms, missing four kicks in a single game is quite unusual, even by standards in the 1940s.
The Only 0-0 NFL Game: Offensive Yardage Stats
Adding more credibility to the notion that the weather wasn’t playing ball that day are the pitiful yardage stats on the day. The total yardage for both teams was just 214 yards! In terms of rushing, the Lions only achieved 102 yards rushing against the 82 yards of the Giants for a game total of 184 yards.
The passing stats are even more incredulous when you calculate that the total passing yards were just 30 yards between both teams over the whole game. NY only threw a TOTAL of four passes that day with only ONE complete for a gain of just three yards!
So the next time your team achieves low overall game yardage, don’t be too disheartened; imagine how the players in that game in November 1943 must have felt! But believe it or not, this is not the worst yardage stat by far.
In 1979, the LA Rams pegged the Seahawks to a total offensive yardage of -7 yards! So even though the Lions/Detroit game was a 0-0 result, at least the offensive yardage was not a negative!
The Only 0-0 NFL Game: The Team Quality Was Poor
Probably the biggest contributor to this once-off 0-0 tie was that this was 1943, and aside from pro players that had been deferred from the draft where they owned farms, ranches, or had families, many of the regular players had been drafted to fight.
This meant that although the starting 11 may have had some good players before the war, the backup players would not have been at the same skill level, and most of them would never have made the starting lineup in the regular season.
To put that in context, after the D-Day invasion the following year, the Lions could have fielded a backfield group in which none had played varsity college football; such was the drain on players due to the war.
Have There Been Any Other NFL Games That Ended 0-0
The game in 1943 is the only NFL game in recorded history with this result. The lowest scores since them have been six games that ended 3-0, including the infamous ‘Snowplow’ game in 1982.
Foxborough’s Schafer Stadium was under the snow that day, and the New England Patriots were hosting the Miami Dolphins. With 4:45 left in the scoreless game and the possibility of having a 0-0 final score heading into overtime, New England coach Ron Meyer instructed a snow plow operator to remove the snow and clear a spot for kicker John Smith.
Even with the ground under the snow frozen from rain the night before, Smith slotted the 33-yard field goal to secure victory for the Patriots. When you compare this to the four kicks missed at the 0-0 game in 1943, you get an idea of how incredibly tough those conditions would have been that day in 1943 at Briggs Field.
It is highly unlikely that in the modern game, with the field conditions and far better drainage and management as well as the modern equipment, overtime, and player depth in the starting and reserve squads, we will ever see an NFL game ended 0-0 again.
With this being the only single game ending 0-0 in NFL History and considering the field and weather conditions as well the depleted player quality on the field that fateful day, it was a convergence of conditions, both atmospheric and wartime, that created this infamous but almost forgotten result.