Turn Back The Clock

GREEN BAY — Football is a violent game. No news there, but when the Bears and Packers got together on a cloudy Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field in 1985, the violence escalated to steel cage match levels.

The Super Bowl-bound Bears and the Green Bay Packers didn't just dislike each other in 1985. They despised each other. The mutual loathing started at the top. Head coaches Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg were fearsome competitors who wanted nothing more than to beat the other guy, just like they did in their Hall of Fame playing days.

As the Bears prepared for battle in their Lambeau Field locker room, a bag of fertilizer was delivered to them with a note from a local radio station that read: "Here's what you guys are full of." Outside in the Lambeau parking lot, Packer fans were paying a buck for a chance to whack a refrigerator with a sledgehammer. For charity, of course.

This loathing between the two organizations was raised several notches a few weeks earlier, when the Bears embarrassed the Packers 23-7 on "Monday Night Football," thanks in part to William Perry's short touchdown run and crushing block on George Cumby for another score.

The Packers, and their 55,343 fans, were primed for the rematch against the undefeated Bears. There were six personal fouls in the first half, four by the Packers. Packer Mark Lee was ejected when he ran Walter Payton out of bounds and completely over the Bears bench. Another particularly vicious late hit was by the Packers' Ken Stills on Matt Suhey as the fullback was walking back to the huddle. "I don't mind that," Gregg said of Stills' hit. "He took a crack at somebody. That's aggressive football."

Play after play featured crushing blocks and bruising tackles, with every snap going right to the whistle, and sometimes beyond. "There was something going on every play," said Bears safety Dave Duerson. "Let's face it, it wasn't clean on either side."

"They didn't want to play football, they wanted to fight," said Bears linebacker Otis Wilson. "This was as intense a game as we've ever had against the Packers," said Payton. Suhey's take on things? "Just a typical Bear-Packer game," he said.

But through all the bedlam came Walter Payton, who ran for 192 tough yards on 28 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown run with 10:31 to play to beat the Packers 16-10. What did Coach Ditka think? "I thought Payton's exhibition was maybe as good as I've ever seen a guy with a football under his arm play," he summarized. "I haven't seen Payton at his best. The best is yet to come."

Said Packers linebacker Brian Noble: "I knocked the ---- out of Payton. He's such a good athlete that he just kept on going." Payton also played traffic cop, telling "The Fridge" where to line up before he went in motion when the Bears were on the Packers' eight-yard line. Perry burst upfield on the snap of the ball, and Jim McMahon found him in the end zone for the first TD catch of Perry's career. "I got too close to the line when I lined up, and Walter told me to step back a half step," Perry said. "I had to keep a straight face when I lined up."

The Bears survived to go 9-0, on their way to the Super Bowl XX. But this one wasn't easy. "This was by far our roughest game," said Ditka. "They played us right to the teeth."


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