Bears 42, Cardinals 6: December 16th, 1979
My 13th most memorable Chicago Bears game was also the second game I ever attended as an eight year old. The weather was frigid, snow was blowing, and Chicagoland woke up to the news that 54 year old Bears President George S. Halas Jr. had died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep. “Mugs’” death was tragic, but not the only thing causing high drama that day. With a record of 9-6 the Bears would need to beat the Cardinals and have much help to make the playoffs. The Bears could win the division with a win and a Tampa Bay Buccaneer loss. If Tampa won, the Bears would need Dallas to beat Washington, and the Bears would need to score enough points to end up with a better point differential on the season than the Redskins. Basically, chances at the wildcard were slim to none.
If there weren’t enough happening, running backs Walter Payton of the Bears and O.J. Anderson of the Cardinals were battling for the NFC rushing title.
On the game’s opening drive, Payton tried to inject some humor into the glum day by continually untying the referee’s shoelaces from the bottom of the pile. Whatever the team was doing worked, as they scored on that opening drive and another on a Mike Phipps to Dave Williams pass to lead 14-0 in the first quarter. Chicago would score again in the second to lead 21-0 at halftime, and when the Cardinals did muster a touchdown, they missed the extra point. In the second half Payton would score his third touchdown of the day, while receiver Rickey Watts scored on a pass and an 83-yard kickoff return to give the Bears a 42-6 victory in the end.
Bear players gathered near their cars after the game to listen to the Cowboys-Redskins broadcast, and learned that Dallas came from behind to defeat Washington by a point, earning the Bears the playoff spot by just 4 points of differential scoring.