Great Games in Bears history

The Chicago Bears were in a dogfight when they entered week 12 of the 14-week 1968 season. The up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings and the defending three-time NFL champion Green Bay Packers, along with the Bears, were battling for supremacy in the "Black and Blue" Central Division.

The Bears traveled to New Orleans to meet the expansion Saints at Tulane Stadium. They were met by 78,825 raucous fans, which apparently got excited, with the whiff of Bear meat.

The game itself was not what Bears fans had hoped for, as the team committed four fumbles and 13 penalties, and quarterback Jack Concannon completed only five passes. But two of them went for touchdowns to tight end Austin Denney, kicker Mac Percival booted three field goals and the Bears escaped "The Big Easy" with a narrow 23-17 win.

Befitting a Bears team of the 1960s, Dick Butkus, Doug Buffone, Dick Evey, Richie Petitbon and the rest of the defense played big, intercepting Saints' quarterback Billy Kilmer four times.

"We just couldn't block out Butkus," said Saints' head coach Tom Fears. "He was too strong on the sweeps and up the middle and their line overpowered us."

The Saints got their first touchdown when Kilmer under threw fleet receiver Dan Abramowicz, who came back to the ball then scooted around cornerback Bennie McRae for a 47-yard scoring play. The other Saints' score came in the game's final minute on a drive highlighted by John Gilliam's 30-yard flanker reverse and a 22-yard pass from Kilmer to running back Tony Lorick.

Offensively, the Bears were led by running back Brian Piccolo, filling in for the injured Gale Sayers, who had torn up his knee four games earlier against the San Francisco 49ers. "Pick" rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries while running on a gimpy ankle. Backfield mate Ronnie Bull added 82 yards on 16 carries.

"Sure, they missed Gale Sayers," said Fears. "But they have other good runners like Piccolo and Bull."

Offensive linemen Mike Pyle, Jim Cadile, Randy Jackson and George Seals tore holes in the Saints' line all day, creating a ball-control offense that eased the pressure on Concannon, who was returning to the lineup following a shoulder injury.

Percival also had a good day with his right foot, kicking field goals of 46 yards, 20 yards and 50 yards, which, according to the Chicago Tribune account of the game, was "as true as a nun's testimony."

The Bears would go to the West Coast to beat the 10-1-1 Los Angeles Rams in a dramatic game the following week, putting them at 7-6 going into the final week. But the spoiler Packers would win 28-27 at Wrigley Field, putting the Vikings into the postseason at 7-7. Minnesota won the tiebreaker, and the Bears had to settle for waiting until next season -- of course not knowing that the team would finish 1-13.

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