Skip to main content

Packers-Bears Rivalry



The Packers' long and colorful rivalry with the Chicago Bears, now in its 84th year, has seen about every kind of scenario there ever has been.

There have been 2-0 shutouts, registered by each side over time, 6-3 field-goal duels, 21-all ties and a 49-0 blowout, among a host of others during their annual, home-and-home collisions.

But never, before or since, has there been a study in one-season contrasts such as unfolded in 1980, a year when Bears founder George Halas was still with us.

(Halas had long since stepped down as head coach of the Midway Monsters but remained as chairman of the board and a familiar figure at home games in the Windy City's Soldier Field, where the Packers engage the Bears next Sunday for the 168th time in regular season competition).

The then-embattled Packers prevailed in their first '80 encounter with their venerable adversaries, squeezing out a 12-6 victory - in the only overtime game in the history of the series to date - when placekicker Chester Marcol's field goal attempt was blocked by the Bears' Alan Page and providentially bounced back into the kicker's arms.

Marcol alertly gathered in the football and, untouched, cantered 24 yards down the west sideline into the end zone to settle the issue at the 6-minute mark of sudden death -before almost everyone in Lambeau Field was aware of what had transpired.

The rematch in Chicago exactly three months later (Dec. 7) was a dramatically different story. Following a scoreless first quarter, the Bears erupted for 28 points in the second quarter to mount a 28-7 halftime lead en route to a 61-7 runaway.

The 61 points remain the most ever scored against the Packers by an NFL opponent in a regular season game.

In retrospect, the circumstances which surrounded the two contests are as intriguing as the results thereof.

The Packers could hardly have been in more traumatic straits, psychologically, when they faced the Bears in their Sept. 7 showdown in '80.

The Green and Gold had just struggled through a bleak preseason, which had seen them fail to win a game, going 0-4-1 in their five non-league contests, in the last of which they were swamped by the Denver Broncos, 38-0.

To compound the situation, defensive end Ezra Johnson was detected devouring a hot dog on the Green Bay sideline during the fourth quarter of the Broncos game, an embarrassing development to say the least.

The following Monday morning - six days before the regular season opener against the Bears - GM/Head Coach Bart Starr fined Johnson $1,000 and required him to apologize to the team for his misbehavior.

Defensive line coach Fred vonAppen reportedly was not satisfied with the discipline meted out to Johnson, however, and resigned on Thursday morning - three days before the opener.

Starr, who subsequently called all of the organization's department heads together to announce vonAppen's decision, obviously was in a highly emotional state under the

unsettling circumstances. But he acted quickly, bringing in veteran Jim Champion as defensive line coach the following day.

Whatever their mental state on the day of the game, the Green and Gold were fully prepared to do battle just 48 hours later, dueling their venerable adversaries tenaciously through the 60-minute regulation to a 6-6 tie, produced via 41- and 46-yard field goals by the Packers' Chester Marcol and 42- and 34-yard successes by the Bears' placekicker, Bob Thomas.

They also shut down the Bears - who won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive - after one first down in the sudden death period. Quarterback Lynn Dickey then hurled the Packers into scoring position, lofting a 32-yard strike to wideout James Lofton for a first-down at the Chicago 18-yard line.

After settling for a net of one yard with thee subsequent rushing attempts - two of them by Eddie Lee Ivery - Starr called for Marcol and the bizarre finish ensued.

For those watching on television, there was an added and unexpected dash of humor. Veteran announcer Lindsey Nelson, calling the play-by-play for CBS, was so overcome by Marcol's unexpected scoring sortie following the blocked field goal that all he could do was keep repeating the kicker's name.

Temporarily unable to describe what had just happened, he kept exclaiming "Chester Marcol!...Chester Marcol!...Chester Marcol!." without ever describing what had just happened.

There was nothing to suggest that the Dec. 7 rematch with the Bears in '80 would deteriorate into the blowout it became, but the Packers should have been forewarned by the way the weekend began.

They were scheduled to fly by air charter to Chicago early on Saturday afternoon. At the scheduled time of takeoff, a heavy fog shrouded the Green Bay area and the departure was delayed until it became obvious and necessary to make other transportation arrangements.

Eventually, the Packers party boarded hastily "recruited" buses for the Windy City and arrived there somewhere between 6 and 7 o'clock in the evening, understandably more than somewhat out of sorts.

Whether that change in schedule and transportation had any psychological effect upon the players will never be known. But, whatever the case, Sunday's subsequent encounter with the Midway Monsters was a legitimate nightmare.

The Bears had amassed 594 yards of offense before the day was over - 267 rushing and 336 passing, running back Walter Payton spearheading the Chicago ground game with 130 yards in 22 attempts and quarterback Vince Evans completing 18 of 22 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Starr was highly incensed when, in the fourth quarter, Bears coach Neil Armstrong, with an insurmountable 54-7 lead, had re-inserted Payton in the game and was continuing to have his quarterback call and throw play-action passes.

But, fair or not, it has always been the "no holds barred" nature of the Packers-Bears rivalry, now in its ninth decade.

To add ultimate insult to grievous injury that gray December day in Soldier Field, the unhappy Packers found themselves showering in cold water in the visitors' locker room after the game.

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content