The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers are the two most successful franchises in the history of the National Football League, combining for 21 NFL titles and producing a total of 48 members of the NFL Hall of Fame.
The two teams' rivalry is one of the most heated across all sports, and it dates back all the way to November 27, 1921, the first meeting between Chicago and Green Bay. On that day, the Bears (then known as the Chicago Staleys, so named for their owner A.E. Staley) posted a shutout, winning 20-0 in Chicago.
That marked the first of 181 meetings between the two Midwestern football powers, including one postseason game. That number jumps to 182 with tomorrow's hotly anticipated NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field, and it could very well be another storied chapter in the two teams' amazing rivalry.
For those looking for a dose of nostalgia for the Packers-Bears rivalry, we're going to try and go through the 10 best games between these two teams across their long history of going head to head. Whether it was the Lombardi-Halas era or the more modern Favre/Ditka years, we'll try to cover all the memorable moments to get you ready for tomorrow's game.
So here's a subjective list of the Top 10 Packers vs. Bears games throughout their now 90-year history of squaring off. If you think a game should have been included, feel free to chime in, as this is a fluid concept considering the two teams have met so often.
November 12, 1961: Packers 31, Bears 28
At this point in the rivalry's history, the two teams had been pretty evenly matched, as no team had swept the regular season series dating all the way back to 1935. The Packers, though, were out to change that bit of history, as they were also looking to build themselves into the superior, elite NFL team over their arch-rivals. Green Bay had made it to the NFL Championship game after the 1960 season, but during '61, they were only a game up on the Bears when the two teams met on November 12th at Wrigley Field.
A Chicago win at home could have thrown off Green Bay's drive to the top of the NFL's Western Division, but the Packers stormed out to a 31-7 lead in this game behind the passing of quarterback Bart Starr and the receiving and kicking of legend Paul Hornung. Chicago rallied all the way back behind three touchdown receptions for rookie tight end Mike Ditka, in his coming out party, but ultimately dropped this big game 31-28.
November 5, 1989: Packers 14, Bears 13
This was a game that probably still rankles Bears fans to this day, as it was decided on a highly controversial instant replay decision.The Packers faced a 4th-and-goal to go with the ball on the Bears 14-yard line with 41 seconds to play, trailing 13-7. Quarterback Don Majkowski saw his pocket collapse on the play, so he scrambled outside and up field, then delivered a pass to an open Sterling Sharpe in the end zone for what looked to be a game-winning touchdown pass.
But not so fast, as the officials on the field ruled that Majkowski had been over the line of scrimmage when the ball was released from his hand, thus negating the play, causing a loss of downs and sealing a win for the Bears.
The officials, however, decided to review the tape of the play, as instant replay was being used in its earliest, crudest form at the time. After a long delay as the officials reviewed the play, they came back and ruled that Majkowski had in fact been behind the line of scrimmage, and the play was legal, resulting in a Packers touchdown. The Bears were incensed, having victory snatched away in such an unorthodox fashion at the time, but this was a breakthrough for video replay in the NFL and a huge Packers win.
November 23, 1986: Bears 12, Packers 10
This game birthed an unbelievable amount of loathing among Bears' fans, as the game's lasting image is the cheap shot body slam executed on Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon by Green Bay defensive tackle Charles Martin.
Martin's WWE-style move came when play had moved far away from the line of scrimmage, as McMahon had thrown an interception and was watching the end of the play. Martin, after futilely pursuing McMahon, came up behind the quarterback and wrapped him up and threw him to the turf. It was the embodiment of a dirty late hit, and it resulted in McMahon separating his shoulder and being forced to miss the remainder of the Bears season.
The story goes that Martin had written the numbers of key Bears players, such as McMahon and running back Walter Peyton, on a towel he wore during the game. His objective? To take the players on his "hit list" out.
He succeeded in the cheapest way possible with McMahon, and the quarterback's injury led a Bears team that finished 14-2 to ultimately wash out in the playoffs, leading numerous Chicago fans to wonder what might have been.
Martin received a two-game suspension for his actions, which set the record for the longest suspension levied on a player for on-field actions. He never apologized for the late hit on McMahon.
October 21, 1985: Bears 23, Packers 7
This was the break out game for a Bears player that would become iconic of their great run in the mid 1980s, specifically leading them to the Super Bowl title in 1985: William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
The Fridge was a rookie in 1985, and while tipping the scales at a modest 350 pounds, he was a mountain of a man along the Chicago defensive line, a key part in arguably one of the NFL's best defensive units.
But starting in this highly anticipated Monday Night Football meeting between the two rivals, Bears head coach Mike Ditka decided to get creative with his usage of the gigantic defensive lineman.
Perry was often lined up in the fullback position during goal line situations in this game. He was a key blocker for two Walter Payton touchdowns in goal-to-go scenarios, one of two yards and the other a one-yard push.
But The Fridge's piece de resistance came in the second quarter, when he got a handoff on the goal line and plunged into the end zone, becoming one of the heaviest players to ever score a touchdown, if that kind of statistic was kept at the time.
Perry became a national icon and was a big part in the Bears Super Bowl winning season that year. This was his coming out party.
November 17, 1963: Bears 26, Packers 7
This game had high stakes for both teams, as they had identical records heading into the game and were looking to decide who would possess first place in the NFL's Western Conference.
Green Bay headed into Wrigley Field with a record of 8-1, ready to take on the Bears and redeem themselves after suffering their only loss of the season against their archrivals. This game basically would decide who would get a chance to play in the NFL Championship game, so both teams pulled out all the stops.
Ultimately, though, the Bears defense forced seven Green Bay turnovers, and up until late in the fourth quarter, Chicago held Green Bay to only 158 yards of total offense on the day.
The Bears were paced by elusively quick running back Willie Galimore, who ran for 79 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown. The Bears opened up a 26-0 lead and held it for most of the game and ultimately cruised to a comfortable win in the friendly confines of Wrigley.
Chicago would go on to finish 11-1-2, a meager half game ahead of Green Bay in the Western Conference and book their ticket to take on the New York Giants in the NFL Championship, which Chicago would win.
November 12, 1995: Packers 35, Bears 28
Yes, his act grew extremely tired late in his career, but back in 1995, this game marked one of Brett Favre's gutsiest and most impressive individual performances as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay was 5-4 heading into this game, but they were only one game behind the Chicago Bears for first place in the NFC Central division. Green Bay had already beaten Chicago on the road earlier in the season, and this game would ultimately have a huge impact on the playoff race in the tightly contested division.
Favre, however, was dealing with a badly sprained ankle leading up to the game, and his status was considered extremely doubtful as game time approached. He didn't practice during the entire week, and it seemed a long shot he would play.
But play he did, and Favre had one of the best games of his career even while dealing with a bad injury. He threw for a whopping five touchdown passes, racking up 336 yards through the air and single handedly carrying the Green Bay offense.
The Bears were right in this game until the bitter end, but Green Bay got a huge interception in the end zone to thwart a late game Bears drive and seal the win.
Green Bay would go on to win six of their final seven games after this pivotal meeting and ultimately finish atop the NFC Central. They would then enjoy a great playoff run, getting all the way to the NFC Championship game, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Ultimately, though, this was the start of the Packers dominance of the NFC, as they went to the following two Super Bowls.
November 7, 1999: Bears 14, Packers 13
This was an emotional day at Lambeau Field, as it was the first game the Bears would play after the passing of their legendary running back Walter Payton.
The 1999 Bears were not a very good team, led by quarterback Jim Miller and running back Curtis Enis. They had also had a terrible time going head to head against the Brett Favre-led Packers, having been unable to win even one game against their bitter rivals dating all the way back to the 1993 season.
This day in Green Bay was looking to play out like all the other meetings between the two teams in recent years, as the Packers, though trailing by a point, drove down the field at the tail end of the fourth quarter.
They got into ideal scoring range and set things up for a game-winning Ryan Longwell field goal from only 28 yards away.
Miraculously, though, Bears lineman Bryan Robinson got his hand up on the field goal attempt and blocked Longwell's kick. It gave the Bears a highly improbable victory at Lambeau, and after the game, Robinson credited Walter Payton for intervening, saying he may have even lifted him up high enough to block the kick and get the Bears a much-needed win.
September 13, 1964: Packers 23, Bears 12
This game is best remembered for Packers head coach Vince Lombardi shocking the entire football world by invoking an often overlooked, rarely if ever used rule to get his team a chance to put some points on the board.
At the very tail end of the first half, with the Packers leading 14-3, the Bears punted the ball back to the Packers. Green Bay's Elijah Pitts made a fair catch of the punt on the Bears 48-yard line, with hardly any time left on the clock for Green Bay to execute a play.
Lombardi then alerted the officials that his team would be attempting a free kick, meaning they would get to kick directly from the 48-yard line, and the Bears couldn't try to block the kick, as they had to remain 10 yards downfield before the snap.
So, the Packers lined, with quarterback Bart Starr set to hold as Paul Hornung would attempt a 52-yard "free kick" field goal. Hornung impressively made the kick, giving Green Bay a 17-3 lead at the half. It was a puzzling play, but it sparked the Packers on to another victory.
Four years later, the Bears would execute this same fair catch free kick strategy/rule, although their kick in 1968 actually decided the game. Still, this is one of the more memorable moments in this rivalry's storied history.
September 7, 1980: Packers 12, Bears 6
Another nail-biting affair between these two teams and another wild ending that will no doubt still resonate for a long time fans of both teams.
This game had been a defensive chess match for the length of regulation, as the two teams played to a 6-6 tie and headed into overtime to decide a winner (or potentially end up in a tie).
The Packers got the ball into the Bears end, though, and sent out their kicking team to try and put an end to the game via a field goal. Their kicker was Chester Marcol, who wore glasses and didn't much resemble a football player.
Chicago Bears defender Alan Page spoiled the Marcol game-winning field goal attempt, as he managed to break through the line and block the kick.
From there, though, things took a turn for the wacky. The ball bounced off Page's helmet and managed to ricochet directly into the hands of Marcol. None of the players, particularly the Bears defenders, knew where the ball was.
It was in Marcol's hands, and it was a live ball. He scurried away from the pile-up at the line of scrimmage and walked untouched into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown, a most improbable ending to a Packers victory.
December 14, 1941: Bears 33, Packers 14
A game forever etched in history, as it was up to this point the Bears and Packers' only meeting in postseason play. History also spins around this game thanks to the fact that it took place only seven days after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, which shocked the nation.
Green Bay and Chicago had finished the regular season with identical 10-1 records, and therefore they needed a one-game playoff at Wrigley Field to decide who would get the Western Conference's spot in the NFL Championship game against the Eastern Conference's New York Giants.
The stakes were extremely high for opposing coaches George Halas (Chicago) and Curly Lambeau (Green Bay, obviously), and the game managed to not disappoint despite the somber feelings that shrouded the festivities due to the United States' impending entrance into World War II.
Chicago dominated the game, even though Green Bay opened the scoring early on. Chicago rattled off 30 first half points, completely smothering the Packers and holding a comfortable 30-7 lead at halftime. The 33-14 final set the stage for the Bears to head to the NFL title game, which they would win, sealing their fourth championship.