Seeing as how I was only three when he retired, I never saw Walter Payton play outside of highlight reels. That certainly doesn't mean I didn't grasp how important he was to this franchise. So, like everyone, I was saddened by his death on Nov. 1, 1999.
Even sadder was the inevitable ass-kicking the Bears were likely to endure at the hands of the Packers the following Sunday. Talk about salt in the wounds.
But somehow, it didn't happen.
Bobby Engram gave reason for hope, hauling in a six-yard TD pass from Jim Miller, giving the Bears a 14-10 lead with :30 left in the third quarter. However, 10 consecutive losses to Green Bay halted any premature celebration.
Pessimism crept closer, as a Ryan Longwell field goal made it 14-13. Following a 32-yard shank by kicker Chris Boniol, Brett Favre worked his usual magic, setting Longwell up for a chip shot 27-yard kick to ruin the already frail psyche of Bear fans everywhere.
But no! The Bears were in need of a savior, and got one in Bryan Robinson, who burst through and blocked Longwell's kick as time expired. Bear players collapsed in exhausted elation, grabbing a one-point upset of the hated Pack, and thus honoring the memory of arguably the greatest Bear there ever was.
Now, I am not someone who possesses what you would call "strong theological beliefs" but like anyone, I like to think there is some sort of force issuing out justice in the world. No one was in greater need of justice than the Bears on Nov. 7, 1999—my favorite day as a Bear fan.
Sure, Favre and co. had beaten us 10 straight times coming in (by a 309-164 count, no less), and would inevitably win eight of the following 10 contests between the bitter rivals. But here, on a day when a city, a fanbase, and a franchise needed it, we got the best of them.