Great performance in Bears History

Richie Petitbon set a record against the Los Angeles Rams, which still stands more than 40 years later.

Had there been more than two divisions and a wild-card team in the NFL during the 1962 season, the Chicago Bears might have squeaked into the playoffs since they sported a 7-5 record prior to facing off against the Los Angeles Rams December 9.

With only two games left in the '62 campaign, winning the NFL's Western Division was out of the question for the Bears. The division-leading Green Bay Packers (11-1) were coming into their own and, of course, would go on to become the dominant team of the 1960s.

But the Bears still had a formidable squad, and the Rams -- winners of just one game -- were about to discover that when they visited Wrigley Field, which had turned into a tundra with game-time temperatures in the 20s.

Many Bears fans that day were getting their first looks at a handful of Rams players who would go on to become household names in the NFL -- defensive linemen Merlin Olsen and David "Deacon" Jones, who made up two-fourths of the famed "Fearsome Foursome;" linebacker Jack Pardee (who would become the Bears' head coach during the mid-1970s); and quarterback Roman Gabriel.

Pardee did come up big for the Rams on one play as he ran 32 yards for a touchdown after recovering a fumble. But it was the Bears who benefited from big plays all afternoon en route to defeating the Rams 30-14.

Tight end Mike Ditka provided the Bears with the go-ahead TD, grabbing a 20-yard pass from quarterback Billy Wade in the first quarter (Ditka finished with 16 catches for 155 yards). Placekicker Roger Leclerc, who booted a 41-yard field goal that put the Bears on top 16-7, later blocked a punt. Roosevelt Taylor scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for an 11-yard score.

Yet it was Richie Petitbon who brought the Wrigley Field faithful out of their seats in the fourth quarter.

With the Bears leading 23-7, Petitbon stepped in front of a pass one yard deep in the end zone and saw nothing but frosty turf in front of him. As teammates cheered him on, Petitbon raced down the left sideline for a 101-yard touchdown.

That interception return remains the longest in team history. Petitbon, who played nine seasons with the Bears, also set a club record in 1962 for single-season interception return yardage (212), and holds the career mark for interception return yardage (643). He is No. 2 on the Bears' all-time list for career interceptions with 37, one behind Gary Fencik.

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