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On This Date in Sports December 18, 1949: Repeating in the Rain

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Heavy rains are the story as the Los Angeles Rams host the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL Championship Game. It is the second consecutive Championship Game beset by inclement weather. The Eagles had won the 1948 Championship in a blizzard. This time the LA Memorial Coliseum was turned into a mud pit by torrential rain. Once again, the Eagles would claim the NFL Championship, winning 14-0.

 Coming off a 7-0 win in the 1948 NFL Championship, the Philadelphia Eagles had the fortune of winning a lottery bonus to pick Chuck Bednarik from Pennsylvania first overall. The Eagles had avenged a loss in the 1947 Championship by beat the Chicago Cardinals 7-0. The Eagles were even stronger in 1949 coach Earl “Greasy” Neale, posting a record of 11-1. Their only loss coming in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears (38-21).

 In their fourth season since moving from Cleveland, the Los Angeles Rams won their first six games for coach Clark Shaughnessy. The Rams' first loss came in a Championship Game preview against the Eagles, losing 38-21 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The Rams scuffled in the second half, winning just two of their final six games. However, the torrid start was enough to get the Rams a Western Division Championship as they finished 6-2-2 to edge the Bears out of the playoffs. 

 While the Rams prepared to host the NFL Championship at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Eagles were on along cross-country train ride.  Coach Greasy Neale was afraid of flying, leaving his team to traverse the 2,713 mile trip by rail. The Eagles would stop in Chicago for a Wednesday practice at Stagg Field. 

Gameday brought Monsoon-like conditions as a steady downpour brought three inches of rain to the field at the LA Coliseum. This diminished the expected crowd, as 22,245 fans were on hand. The Rams had wished the game to be postponed, but with Christmas in a week, the game had to be played as scheduled. The field was a quagmire slowing down the high flying offense of the Rams. Los Angeles had just 119 yards total offense.

The Eagles meanwhile used a steady diet of Steve Van Buren running the ball to control the game. Van Buren had been the hero of the 1948 NFL Championship Game, rushed for 196 yards on 31 carries. This helped set up the game’s first score as Pete Pihos caught a 31-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. With a 7-0 lead, the Eagles extended the lead to 14-0 in the third quarter when Leo Skladany blocked Bob Waterfield’s punt and carried it into the end zone. The Eagles dominated as the Rams crossed the 50 twice, with Waterfield missing a 45-yard field goal. The final score was 14-0, with the Eagles becoming the first team since the Bears in 1941 to repeat as champions.