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.