What happened next was unbelievable and unforgettable and has been shown hundreds of times over the years, thanks to NFL Films. Bob Avellini took the snap from center, turned and handed the ball to "Sweetness."
Payton, of course, was no stranger to finding the end zone. But this play was destined to be different. Payton took the pigskin and took off, up, up and over the Buffalo defensive line and linebackers, landing square on the top of his head in the end zone, toes pointed straight to the gray autumn sky.
At its zenith, the leap was estimated to be six feet in the air, as Payton went over NFL players who were standing nearly erect. "The play is called, ‘get movement and let Walter go over the top,'" said Bears' tackle Ted Albrecht, one of the players assigned to get movement.
Bills' defensive lineman Fred Smerlas compared Payton to a fly. "That guy can leap so high he could stuff himself in a basket," he said. "He went over everyone."
Payton said he was looking for a hole on the 45-lead play. When there wasn't one, he simply went airborne. "I was a high jumper in college," Payton said calmly. "I went 6-51/4, and I'm not even 6 feet."
Along with the memorable run, Payton finished the day with 155 rushing yards on 39 carries. He also caught two Avellini aerials for nine yards. Avellini finished the day with four completions (the other two to fullback Robin Earl) in eight attempts for 22 yards. As was typical of the Bears' offense in the late 1970s, this game was another episode of the "Walter Payton Show."
Of course, this was also a great day for Bears' defenders such as Dan Hampton, Alan Page, Gary Fencik and Doug Plank, as they shut down the NFL's No. 1 offense all afternoon. The game-winning drive began when defensive tackle Jim Osborne stripped Buffalo's Curtis Brown of the football and linebacker Jerry Muckensturm recovered.
In 13 possessions for the game, the Bills and QB Joe Ferguson went three-and-out 10 times. The Bills had scored 147 points in their previous four games. "You can't help but be proud when you shut out the No. 1 scoring team in football," said Coach Armstrong.
Said Buffalo defensive back Tony Greene in a disappointed Buffalo locker room: "We were supposed to be six-point favorites today, weren't we? Well, ‘Jimmy the Greek' bombed again."