There’s a joke among people who don’t like soccer that it isn’t worth watching because games often end in scoreless ties — something that rarely happens in other sports. In the NFL, it’s nearly impossible to score just a single point, save for a PAT attempt. This leads to NFL games being relatively high-scoring.
But did you know there was once a 0-0 NFL game? Here’s the story behind the only scoreless NFL game in 1943.
The Lions and Giants’ scoreless game
On Nov. 7, 1943, the Giants headed to Detroit to take on the Lions. It was in the middle of World War II, and many NFL players were overseas after being drafted into battle. This led to team’s facing diminished rosters.
For this game, in particular, it was a rainy day that caused subpar field conditions. Back then, fields didn’t have sophisticated drainage systems, so rain would lead to issues with mud. This was essentially a perfect storm, setting the stage for a scoreless game.
The teams combined for just 214 yards of offense. Even the kicking game was lacking due to the poor conditions. Lions kicker Augie Lio missed his three field-goal attempts — from distances of 32, 40, and 15 yards. Giants kicker Ward Cuff also missed his sole field goal. Needless to say, you didn’t miss much.
Several 3-0 games in NFL history
On Dec. 12, 1982, the Dolphins visited the Patriots for a game that played out in a snowstorm. The poor conditions affected both teams, as neither the Dolphins nor the Patriots had more than 235 yards of offense, and they combined for three turnovers. No one scored until 4:45 remained in the fourth quarter.
As the Patriots lined up for a field-goal attempt, coach Ron Meyer asked Mark Henderson, the stadium’s snowplow operator, to clear a path on the field, which gave kicker John Smith a better chance at converting the 33-yard try.
Smith made the kick, which ultimately became the game’s only score. Dolphins head coach Don Shula was upset, thinking the move gave the Patriots an unfair advantage. He protested to then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, who did not reverse the game’s result.
Why the NFL doesn’t have any more scoreless games
It’s rare to see an NFL game be scoreless at halftime, let alone end with zero points. There are several reasons for this. First, rain doesn’t have the same effect on games as it once did. After all, modern stadiums have better drainage systems. Second, teams are more offensively minded than they were in the past.
The main reason the NFL doesn’t have more scoreless games involves the players themselves. They are bigger and more athletic than ever, which means it’s likely that both teams will score. Even in bad weather, it would be hard to imagine both kickers combining to go 0-for-4 on field goals, even in bad weather.