Great Games in Bears History

When the Bears played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the first time ever in 1977, these were not the Bucs of today, with Jon Gruden at the helm and Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, Brad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson on the gridiron.

This was a winless team in pumpkin-colored uniforms and a legendary former college coach, John McKay, who led the NFL in post-game one-liners but not much else. Coming into the game, the Bucs, in their second season, had lost their first 25 games. But on any given Sunday in the NFL, any team can beat any other team.

Of course, that's not what the thousands of Bear fans who made the trip to sunny Tampa were expecting. But while the game wasn't one of the prettier Bear wins in their storied history, it was a 10-0 win nonetheless. And in the playoff season of 1977, when Jack Pardee's Bears won their last six games to make the postseason, grabbing a victory was the most important thing, regardless of the score.

"When they say ‘Any Given Sunday,' you better believe it," said Bears' linebacker Doug Buffone. "It's the biggest truth since Corn Flakes."

Neither team's offense lit up the scoreboard for the first three quarters, literally or figuratively. "I wasn't scared, because I didn't think they could score, so there was no way we could lose," said Bears' linebacker Tom Hicks.

Said Coach McKay: "I thought we could play that team for a month-and-a-half and they wouldn't score a touchdown, and they almost didn't."

The game was scoreless going into the fourth quarter when Gary Fencik picked off a pass from Randy Hedberg, who was under siege from blitzing safety Doug Plank. Five straight runs by Walter Payton set up a 32-yard Bob Thomas field goal, who had missed from 29 yards in the first half.

The next time the Bears got the ball they gained one yard on three plays from midfield, and Bob Parsons lined up to punt. But he noticed that cover man Steve Schubert was uncovered, so he passed to Schubert instead of punting to Tampa. Schubert streaked downfield then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Bears' Johnny Musso. First and goal, Bears.

Six Payton runs later, "Sweetness" found himself in the end zone for the insurance points they needed. Payton finished the day with 101 yards rushing on 33 carries, the first time a running back hit the century mark that season against the Bucs‘ defense, led by future Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon and his brother Dewey.

Tampa QB Hedberg ended up completing four of 15 passes on the day. But McKay said he might have a surprise for the team come the following Sunday. "I may quarterback the damn team myself," he said.


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