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Remmel: Packers vs. Bears


One thing professional football players presumably are supposed to do is follow instructions...especially those issued by the head coach.

But human nature being what it is - predictably perverse at times - there are occasional and prominent exceptions.

One more noteworthy than most comes to mind in connection with the Packers' 170th regular-season collision with their immemorial enemies, the Chicago Bears, immediately ahead in Lambeau Field on Christmas Day.

It occurred in Green Bay's "old" City Stadium, a stone's throw from the community's East River, a venue then in its final year of use by the Packers a half-century ago.

The date was October 7, 1956, and the Packers, trailing 7-0 during the first quarter of their 73rd regular season meeting with the Bears, were awaiting were awaiting a Chicago kickoff.

Head Coach Lisle Blackbourn, a strict disciplinarian, had given very specific instructions to the Packers' designated kickoff returner, Al Carmichael, should the kickoff come to him in the end zone.

He told Carmichael, who had been a first-round draft selection out of USC three years earlier, something to this effect, "If the kick comes to you in the end zone, I want you to down it. I don't want you to try to run it out and put us in bad field position."

As it turned out, the kick did indeed come to Carmichael - six yards deep in the stadium's west end zone.

A young man with a mind of his own, Carmichael promptly gathered in the football and, explicitly contrary to instructions, set off for the distant goal line.

And he didn't stop until he had arrived in he east end zone, completing a 106-yard excursion and thus establishing a National FootbalL League record.

And, 49 years later, it still is a record.

Carmichael's spectacular strike has been tied twice, however-the first time by the Kansas City Chiefs' Noland Smith against the Denver Broncos in 1967 and by Roy Green of the then St. Louis Cardinals against the Dallas Cowboys in 1979.

History, by the way, does not record how Blackbourn dealt with Carmichael for disobeying orders.

Presumably, with some degree of tolerance, considering there was a highly positive result.

It was not sufficient, however, to carry the day. The Bears subsequently departed "old" City Stadium-for the last time-with a 37-21 victory.

The Midway Monsters also went on to win the NFL's Western Conference title before losing to the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game, 47-7.

--A MILESTONE: Fittingly, in view of their venerable status in the annals of professional football, the Packers and Bears Sunday add to their imposing historical stature by becoming the first two teams in league annals to play each other for a 170th time in regular season competition.

For the record, the Bears and the Detroit Lions share the NFL's second-most prolific rivalry, having met 152 times.

The Packers and the Monsters of the Midway also own another joint distinction, having met in the very first divisional playoff game in NFL history-at Chicago's Wrigley Field in 1941.

The playoff was necessitated when the neighborhood rivals closed out the regular season tied for Western Conference honors with identical 10-1 records.

To this day the teams' only postseason encounter in their mutual history, the Bears won that one, 33-14.

--Not Easy to Bear: Appropriately, the Packers own Lambeau Field's single-game rushing record, it being the property of Ahman Green, who amassed 218 yards in 20 attempts against the Denver Broncos, December 28, 2003.

But the Bears, to the presumed chagrin of Packers loyalists, were the first to scale the 200-yard barrier in "Lambeau." In fact, the Windy City representatives hold title to two of the three 200-yard efforts in the stadium's history.

Chicago's Gale Sayers and Walter Payton share that honor, Sayers having rushed for 205 yards in 24 attempts a 13-10 Bears victory on November 3, 1968, and Payton matching that total on 23 carries in a 26-0 Bears success on October 30,1977.

Green and Payton also share the fourth-best "Lambeau" single game rushing laurel. Payton gained 192 yards in 29 attempts on November 3, 1985-and Green matched that performance with a 192-yard production (also in 29 attempts) against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 10, 2003.

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. *

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