21st Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game since 1979
Bears 20, Saints 7: October 7, 1984
Not so much excitement as far as the football action went in this game, other than the Bears ending a two-game losing streak when they beat New Orleans. But this was the game in which everyone knew Walter Payton would break Jim Brown’s all-time rushing record.
Payton had entered the Saints game needing 66 yards to break Brown’s record. Everyone assumed he would, but Payton cautioned them that “rushing for 66 yards isn’t exactly as easy as falling off a log.” But early in the third quarter, Payton finally eclipsed the record on a sweep left behind guard Mark Bortz. The game stopped momentarily while Payton high-fived teammate Todd Bell, but before we knew it, the running back himself was urging everyone else off the field so play could continue.
Following Chicago’s 20-7 win, Payton deflected the glory given to him for reaching his goal to several athletes that weren’t able to accomplish theirs: Joe Delaney (Chiefs running back who died in 1983 attempting to rescue three children from drowning), David Overstreet, a Dolphins running back that had died in a car accident four months earlier, and Brian Piccolo, the late running back of the Bears.
Emmitt Smith surpassed Payton as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in 2003. While I couldn’t possibly take anything away from Smith, I can never fail to note that Payton gained his yards behind some pretty bad offensive lines in Chicago from 1975-1982, at least. And without a quarterback or highly talented receivers for most of his career. Smith was a part of one of the most talented and prolific offenses in history, with an offensive line to rival the best ever.
To me, Payton will live on as the best running back I ever had a chance to see play, and I tried to enjoy this performance as a 13-year old in the stands in 1984.