Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: A Historical Analysis of Their NFL Rivalry

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Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: A Historical Analysis of Their NFL Rivalry
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

How long have you and your main rival been in competition? Will the rivalry last for almost the next 100 years and counting? Probably not.

There is a rivalry in the National Football League, though, that could last a century.

The NFL’s longest rivalry—Packers-Bears—started in 1921. 

How well do these organizations know one another? The NFC North Division mates have been punching each other in the mouth for almost 90 years. Bitter rivals since the days teams didn’t wear helmets, they share similar traditions and customs.

Neither team has a professional NFL cheerleading squad. The Packers use collegiate squads at home games. In 1976, Chicago formed the Honey Bears but dumped them in 1985. The Bears haven't won a Super Bowl since. Getting rid of their honeys has proved to be bittersweet.

Chicago leads the all-time series with a record of 92–83–6. Including the 61-7 Bears victory in 1980, there have been several epic events, like the time the Packers legend Bart Starr confronted the Bears coaching staff after Chicago gave Green Bay one of the worst drubbings in the Packers history. 

Here's some interesting history for you. The 1941 season—seven days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor—was the last time the Bears and Packers met in the playoffs.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

They played in the wake of arguably America's worst tragedy up until then. It shows me how important football was in keeping the spirits of America up—much like the MLB playoffs after Sept. 11, 2001. 

The Bears won the last playoff matchup with the Packers, 33-14, on Dec. 14, 1941 in Chicago. They also won the NFL Championship over the New York Giants later at Wrigley Field.   

The two clubs have won a total of 21 NFL championships combined—including four Super Bowls. Green Bay has a 3-1 edge over the Bears in Super Bowl victories.  They can never, of course, play in the same Super Bowl because they've always been in the same division. 

The Packers won five championships in the 1960s—including the first two Super Bowls (1967-68). Their last Super Bowl win was in 1997.

The Bears in 1985-86—one of the best football teams ever—won it by owning the New England Patriots.  

From the team owners on down, the two clubs' stories make for much of American football history and intrigue.  

Starting in 1919, the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears have had 16 coaches. “Papa Bear” George Halas was the player/coach from 1920 to 1967. The NFC Championship trophy is named after him.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

George Halas or “Papa Bear”—as opposed to a sweeter sounding “Sugar Bear"—is the man. 

He was born in Chicago and played football, baseball and basketball for the University of Illinois. The Illini won the Big Ten football title in 1918. During World War I, he played for the Naval Station Great Lakes academy near North Chicago and was Rose Bowl MVP in 1919.  

He was a civil engineer and an ensign during the war. Three other NFL awards have been named after him.

His rival was renowned Packers player/coach Curly Lambeau of Lambeau Field.

In Green Bay, Wisc., Lambeau Field opened in 1957. The stadium's street address has been 1265 Lombardi Avenue since 1968. Highland Avenue was renamed in honor of one of the most iconic coaches of all times.  

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921. Starting with Lambeau, the Packers have had 15 coaches in their history. Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun are famous for forming the Green Bay Packers on August 11, 1919. Lambeau was working as a shipping clerk at the Indian Packing Company.  

It was owned in principal by F.P. Comstock and specialized in the canned meat market.  Lambeau successfully asked his bosses for money for jerseys and use of the company's athletic field in 1919. The team was known as the Packers.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

He played halfback from 1919 to 1929. He usually took the snap from center in the “wildcat” formation. Coaching from 1921 to 49, he won six NFL championships (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939 and 1944). He also threw the Packers' first official forward pass.

The Packers have the opportunity to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Lambeau Field family. They’ll have to go through linebackers Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and the imposing Bears cover two shell defense to do so.

On Sunday, they'll play the season series tiebreaker—a rare shell in this rivalry.  

The teams have previously faced one another three times in a single season only seven times—in 1926, 1928-29, 1930-31, 1933 and 1941. Green Bay swept the Bears 3-0 in both 1928 and 1929 and outscored them 62-0 in three games in 1929. The Bears swept the Packers 3-0 in 1933. 

Winning the Halas Trophy in Chicago at Soldier Field would be one of the most sweeping victories in Packers lore.

Soldier Field opened in 1924, but the Bears didn't call it home until 1971—the year after the first NFC Championship game was played. Wrigley was their spot. 

This year marks the fourth NFC Championship game at Soldier Field (1985, 1988, 2006, 2010). The Bears have a 2-1 record in those games—bringing home two trophies.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is trying to stay hot in cold weather and extend the Packers legend by beating the Bears in the biggest game of his young career.

Rodgers played in one of the coldest games in recorded Bears history. It was at Soldier Field in 2008, and the temperature was two degrees—minus-13 with wind chill at kickoff.  A victory against the Bears would have ended Chicago’s playoff hopes, but the Bears rallied from losing 14-3.  

They scored after a turnover on a Packers punt return and blocked a last second field goal to send the game to overtime. Scoring on the first possession in overtime, they won the game 20-17 on a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. 

Controlling the Gold Coast in the 1940s and 1950s, the Bears won the series 35-5-2.  Under Lombardi from 1959 to '67, the Packers bounced back to become the team of the 1960s. 

The series was 11-9 in favor of the Bears in the 1970s, and the Bears won eight in a row from 1985 to 1988. On the flip side, Chicago lost every game to the Packers from 1994 to 98.

The two teams split the series in 2010. In their last meeting—the finale of the 2010 regular season—the Packers faced a win-or-go home predicament. 

The Bears had already clinched the No. 2 seed and had little to gain by playing their starters. Coach Lovie Smith played them, though, for the whole game. Chicago had a chance to eliminate Green Bay from playoff consideration, but failed.

The Bears (12-3) were winning 3-0, but the Packers (9-6) tied it in the third quarter.  The Pack took the lead in the fourth quarter on a pass by Rodgers to Donald Lee. In the fourth quarter with 20 seconds left, Cutler got picked off by Nick Collins, and it was a wrap. The Packers earned themselves the No. 6 seed. 

On Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Mike McCarthy can win his first NFC Championship as the Packers head coach. One week after the American holiday honoring one of the world's greatest men, Lovie Smith can win his second Halas Trophy.

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