Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game #18A since 1979
Bears 27, Lions 24: September 6, 1992
One of my favorite Chicago Bears memories.
The Bears had finished the 1991 regular season on a decidedly sour note. While Chicago was being blown out 52-14 by the San Francisco 49ers on national television, Lions coach Wayne Fontes was being shown live, chomping on a cigar, celebrating the Bears defeat. The defeat gave the Lions the NFC Central crown, and they would advance to the NFC Championship Game where they lost to the Redskins. So the schedule-makers had compelling drama on their hands at Soldier Field on opening day.
The game was even through most of the first three quarters. The Bears first led 10-0, then the Lions came back to even the score at 10-10 by halftime. In the fourth, legendary running back Barry Sanders, then in only his third season, made perhaps his best broken-tackle touchdown run to give Detroit a 17-10 lead. On the play Sanders rushed right, running into a wall of Bears defenders. But somehow he spun out of the arms of at least three Bears defenders and slashed down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. The Bears roared back, however, on a Kevin Butler field goal, then an 18-yard touchdown run by Neal Anderson, which he ended with another of his patented pylon dives.
The Bears led 20-17 at that point, until with less than a minute to go, Lion QB Rodney Peete hit Willie Green on a 27-yard score. The touchdown gave Detroit a 24-20 lead, which looked insurmountable with so little time remaining. The Bears would have to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown to pull out the win.
Chicago quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who would earn the moniker “Captain Comeback” in 1995 with the Indianapolis Colts, brought the Bears down the field steadily, and with mere seconds on the clock and no timeouts, had the Bears at the Detroit six. Harbaugh took the snap in shotgun, and on the famous Ditka play “13 Wing Jet”, threw a low fastball to Tom Waddle in the end zone with just one second remaining on the clock. The crowd erupted, and the Bears beat the odds, and the defending division champs, in the season’s first week.
Perhaps I love this game so much because it was one for which I was too immature to stay in the Soldier Field crowd until the glorious end. I heard the winning touchdown on the radio while on a shuttle bus taking me back to the loop to drink more beer. I will always regret missing that finish, but perhaps this memory is what tempered me to vow to never miss the end of a game again. Thankfully in 2001, I did not do so.