42nd Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game

42nd Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game since 1979

1991 NFC Wildcard Playoff: Cowboys 17, Bears 13: December 29, 1991

The resurgent Dallas Cowboys entered Soldier Field as the underdogs in this game.  They had been surprisingly good in 1991, but no one figured they were ready to take on the playoff-seasoned Chicago Bears.  Funny to see that written, isn’t it?

Despite having a record on 9-2 in November, the Bears finished the year 11-5, narrowly losing the division crown to the Detroit Lions in the last week of the season.  Chicago was defeated 52-14 in San Francisco in that game, so they did sputter into the playoffs, but yet were still expected to win.  In attendance with the frenzied Soldier Field crowd were none other than Saturday Night Live’s “Superfans”, whose fame was then at its apex.

The Cowboys led 10-0 in the second quarter, 10-3 at halftime, and 17-6 at the end of the third.  The Bears did narrow the deficit  to 17-13 late in the fourth quarter, and held the ball with less than two minutes remaining.  After all the heroics of the 1991 season, it figured that the Bears would engineer a game-winning drive.  But it was not to be, as Harbaugh was intercepted, ending the game for Chicago.

The only positives on the day for the Bears were the play of rookie running back Darren Lewis and receiver Tom Waddle.  Lewis, a sixth-round pick in 1991, played sparingly through the regular season.  But on the final drive of the first half he became a revelation, rumbling to several long gains on rushes and short passes.  He finished the day with 65 yards rushing on only 9 carries, besting Anderson who had 34 yards on 13 tries.

Waddle played like an all-pro, setting a Bears playoff record for receiving with nine catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.  Many of the catches were painful, ended up with him landing on his head or his back after spinning in the air, and resulted in the crowd of 65,000 chanting “WADDLE…WADDLE.”

This playoff game was a watershed moment for both teams.  While the Cowboys would lose in Detroit the following weeks, their stock was rising, and they would win the Super Bowl in the following two seasons.  The Bears were bloodied, beaten and demoralized after the loss.  Derision broke out in the postgame locker room, and the team would never be the same, leading to the dismissal of legendary coach Mike Ditka after the 1992 season.

5 Responses to “42nd Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game”

  1. As much as the season ended with a whimper, I thought that 1991 was one of the most exciting Bears seasons in my memory (which goes back to the end of 1984 when I was 7). From their discovery of the forward pass, to the many close wins, to the emergence of little “Tommy” Waddle, that 11-5 record felt more genuine than 1990′s 11-5 record (which was earned vs. a weak schedule).

    I’d think many games from that season could end up on this list. That Giants win on Perry’s blocked FG was ultra-dramatic (even though NYG ended up 8-8). That win over the 7-0 Saints where Harbaugh entered the final drive 2-19 for 16 yards only to go 3-3 for the game-winner.

    And who can forget that MNF win over the Jets, who had the game won until McMichael turned into Superman and Harbaugh-Anderson tied it at the end of regulation, Boso’s face o’ grass, the old-school instant replay reversal, and finally Harbaugh’s (reviewed) 1-yard lunge to win it.

    I recall a couple of things from ’91 on the heels of that Jets game:
    - Ditka’s always-entertaining post-game press conference: “We might be the luckiest team in the country. Ah, I’ll take the luck, I’m tired of the skill!”
    - That week’s SNL “Superfans” skit included the following exchange:
    Man 1 “Da Bears have won their first 4 games by a total of 13 points.”
    Man 2 “Yeah – he’s a merciful Ditka.”

  2. Another couple of Ditka postgame gems, after getting trounced by SF 52-14:
    - (On 4th string QB Musgrave’s late 30-yard TD pass) “I don’t know how much longer I’ll coach in this league, but I have a good memory.”
    - (On what the Bears will work on during the week (to prepare for the Cowboys)) “We’ll work on our baseball.”

  3. Wow Tim, impressive. Your memory beats mine….but agreed, remembering some of these games is a fun walk down that lane.

  4. Thanks Roy – Appreciate that. I often reminisce about those Ditka years (and postgame pressers/interviews) w/ a fellow Bears fan friend I work with…

    I hope you can forgive me, as I was wrong about one of the things above. Per pro-football-reference.com – Musgrave’s TD pass was 15 yards, not 30. ;)

  5. 91 was special for all of the reasons mentioned above. Still memorable even though I was 13 at the time. Waddle, the Jets game, and the first bears game I attended live, which unfortunately was the 52 to 14 hammering in SF. I still remember watching the wildcard game at a friend’s house and being utterly disappointed and depressed that the season was over.

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