Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: A Look Back at the NFL's Oldest Rivalry
I don't know about you, but I'm glad ESPN decided to bring back Frank Gifford for its Monday Night Football broadcasts.
Over the past two years, before Hank Williams Jr. boisterously asked us if we were ready for some football, Gifford has put upcoming MNF matchups into a historical perspective by telling a story about a game from the past in which those two teams met.
With these blasts from the past, Gifford reminds me of James Earl Jones in The Sandlot, giving us stories from the good ol' days. Not stories about how people used to walk 15 miles through the snow, but stories we actually care about.
In the upcoming NFC Championship Game, the NFL's two oldest rivals (the Packers and the Bears) will battle each other for the right to play in the Super Bowl. It is perhaps the biggest game in the rivalry's long history, a rivalry that has met head-to-head 181 times.
Even though I am only 24 years old, I found it appropriate to go back and look at some of the most famous matchups in the history of the Packers-Bears rivalry. So the following are stories of five Green Bay-Chicago matchups from the glorious past.
As a Bears fan (and because the Bears have a 92-83-6 edge in the series), I found it appropriate to only list games in which Da Bears beat Da Pack.
Don't like it, Packers fans? Then write your own list.
December 14, 1941 (Wrigley Field): Bears 33, Packers 14
Believe it or not, the Packers and Bears have met in the postseason only once in the rivalry's history.
This playoff game came only a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many players on both teams would soon be drafted into military service, serving the country in World War II.
But first, there was a football season that needed to be concluded.
Both the Packers and Bears finished the season with a 10-1 record. Therefore, for the first time in history, the NFL's Western Conference title needed to be settled with a playoff game.
In front of 43,425 fans enduring 16-degree weather, running backs George McAfee and Hugh Gallarneau led a Chicago rushing attack that racked up 267 yards.
After Green Bay took an early 7-0 lead with a Clarke Hinkle rushing touchdown, the Bears scored 24 points in the second quarter. From there, they cruised to the victory.
The Bears went on to win the NFL Championship the following week, beating the New York Giants 37-9.
November 17, 1963 (Wrigley Field): Bears 26, Packers 7
Technically, this was not a playoff game.
But with the Packers and Bears both entering the game with 8-1 records each team knew it would gain an inside track toward the Western Conference championship with a win.
Green Bay, under the legendary head coach Vince Lombardi, won the NFL Championship the previous two years. Under George Halas, however, the Bears were determined to knock them off the throne.
They had a good chance to do so, as Bart Starr was out with a broken hand, and Paul Hornung was serving a suspension for gambling.
Right from the opening kickoff, the Bears, dubbed the "Team of Destiny" by former Chicago Tribune sportswriter George Strickler, dominated. Chicago defensive back J.C. Caroline hit Herb Adderley with a bone-bruising tackle inside the 20-yard line, and from there, the Bears took over the game—and the NFL Championship race.
Packers running back Jim Taylor was held to 23 yards, as Green Bay was held to 71 yards on the ground and 232 total. The Bears' defense also forced seven turnovers, intercepting five passes from Green Bay quarterbacks John Roach and Zeke Bratkowski.
Meanwhile, Chicago's offense gained 248 rushing yards. Willie Galimore led the way for the Bears with 79 yards on 14 attempts.
Thanks in part to a 27-yard touchdown by Galimore, the Bears built a 26-0 lead and never looked back.
With a record of 11-1-2, the Bears won the NFL Championship, beating the Giants 14-10. The Packers finished the season with an 11-2-1 record, their only two losses coming against Chicago.
October 21, 1985 (Soldier Field): Bears 23, Packers 7
With the reference to Frank Gifford, you had to know that I was going to include a Monday Night Football game in this list, right?
On this fateful Monday, William "Refrigerator" Perry officially became a household name.
Mike Ditka originally got the idea of using Perry as a fullback from the previous year's NFC Championship Game. With the San Francisco 49ers' victory over the Chicago Bears in hand, 280-pound Guy McIntyre was put in at fullback for the 49ers, a move that did not sit well with Da Coach.
"I don't hold grudges, but I have a good memory," Ditka said on "America's Game."
In a rematch with San Francisco, Perry was used as a fullback late in the game as the Bears won 26-10.
Now Chicago got a chance to utilize "The Fridge" on the national stage. First, Perry bulldozed Packers linebacker George Cumby in the second quarter to make way for a two-yard touchdown by Walter Payton.
Then, less than five minutes later, he rammed through Green Bay's defense for a one-yard touchdown of his own.
And a star was born.
November 3, 1985 (Lambeau Field): Bears 16, Packers 10
Before the game, the Bears found some horse manure in their locker room.
"I showed it to the team and told them that this is what [the Packers] think of us," Ditka said on "America's Game."
Despite what Green Bay thought of them, the Bears won this rematch, thanks in part to another touchdown by their famous fullback.
We all know "Refrigerator" Perry can rumble into the end zone. But can he catch the ball?
Perry proved the answer to be a resounding yes, catching a touchdown pass from the red zone and adding to his legend.
And, as Harry Kalas said in his narration of this game for NFL Films, "giving new meaning to the term wide receiver."
In the fourth quarter, Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael sacked Jim Zorn in the end zone for a safety. Chicago went on to score the game-winning touchdown on a 49-yard drive following the safety.
Payton ran for 27 yards to get the winning score. He finished the game with 192 yards rushing.
September 19, 2004 (Lambeau Field): Bears 21, Packers 10
In his introductory press conference, newly-hired head coach Lovie Smith said he had three goals for the Bears under his regime:
1. Beat Green Bay; 2. Win the NFC North; 3. Win the Super Bowl.
In his first game against the Packers, Smith's Bears accomplished his first goal, thanks in large part to what was our first taste of the opportunistic defense that the Bears would become under Lovie.
In the second quarter, Brian Urlacher stripped the football away from Ahman Green with the Packers deep in the red zone. Safety Mike Brown scooped up the pigskin and returned it 95 yards for Chicago's second touchdown of the game.
Thomas Jones led the Bears' ground attack with 152 yards and scored Chicago's final TD on a 54-yard run.
I find this game to be significant because before Lovie Smith was hired, the Bears had only one playoff appearance since 1994.
Since winning this game, the Bears have won three NFC North division titles, appeared in a Super Bowl and is now one win away from going to another Super Bowl.
Say what you will about Lovie, but he knew going in that beating Green Bay would start the foundation for success.
Now the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears renew their rivalry at Soldier Field. This time, for the first time in this storied rivalry's history, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
In the words of Frank Gifford, "Are you ready?"
This article can also be seen on Drew Rosten's Sports Thread at http://drewrosten.blogspot.com/. Check out the Sports Thread for my two cents on the Raiders' new head coach and some retirement plans for Brett Favre.
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