As the Packers and Bears prepare for the 166th meeting of the greatest rivalry in sports, PackerReport.com will take a look back at some memorable games in the series' 80-year history.
Consider this one a cautionary tale as we recall a day when the underdog stopped a phenomenal running back en route to a 24-14 upset victory.
Not many people thought the Packers could beat the Bears at Lambeau Field on Oct. 8, 1978. Even though Green Bay came in at 4-1, the Packers dragged in a four-game losing skid against their arch-rivals while the Bears brought with them a budding legend named Walter Payton. "Sweetness" must have been licking his chops at the prospects of facing the Packers that afternoon. After all, his four previous meetings with the Packers were all 100-plus yard affairs, including an incredible 205 yards in a game a year earlier.
This time, the Packers turned Payton into a non-factor. The future Hall-of-Famer had 82 yards on 19 carries.
"We held Payton to a lot of two- and three-yard gains," Packer defensive coordinator Dave Hanner said after the game. "We keyed on him all day."
The defense, led by Ezra Johnson, Carl Barzilauskas, Mike Butler and Dave Roller, not only stopped Payton, but set up the Packer offense to produce points.
Green Bay took a 3-0 lead on a 41-yard field goal by Chester Marcol in the second quarter after safety Steve Luke pounced on a Payton fumble.
The Packers made it 10-0 in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Terdell Middleton, which followed an interception by Barzilauskas, a defensive tackle. The only interception of Barzilauskas' career put the Packers in prime scoring position inside the Bear 20.
Later in the quarter, Luke returned a Bob Avellini interception 63-yards for a touchdown to give the Packers an insurmountable 17-0 lead. Luke's interception return for a score was the first by a Packer against the Bears since Johnny Gray accomplished the feat Nov. 14, 1976.
"Any time you intercept a pass and run it back, that's got to be the highlight," Hanner said. "But we made a number of big plays and that's what you've got to do to win."
The Bears made a minor run in the fourth quarter when Avellini found wide receiver James Scott twice in the end zone.
However, a 58-yard touchdown pass from David Whitehurst to James Lofton (the Packers' longest of the season) and a heads-up play by all-pro tight end Rich McGeorge kept the Bears at bay. McGeorge covered the Bears' onsides kick attempt with 2 minutes and 51 seconds left to seal the Bears' fate.
The Packers hung on for the win, improving to 5-1 for the first time since the Super Bowl I season of 1966. A poor finish kept them out of the playoffs, but for that afternoon at Lambeau Field, they held first place in the NFC Central.
"The Green Bay Packers met the challenge today," Armstrong said. "They're a good football team. They deserve to lead the division."
Flash forward 25 years, and the Packers hope to be hearing that refrain again.