NBC Sports Chicago to chronicle unforgettable Thanksgiving Day comeback on next installment of Bears Classics


NBC Sports Chicago to chronicle unforgettable Thanksgiving Day comeback on next installment of Bears Classics

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Xfinity to debut Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available 24/7 on  or via the NBC Sports app

Chicago, IL (November 16, 2017) – NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Xfinity Emmy award-winning documentary series when the network will once again go back in time to highlight a memorable Thanksgiving Day come-from-behind victory against one of the franchise’s fiercest longtime rivals.   

Debuting Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago (live stream of this program also available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers on or via the NBC Sports app), this edition of Bears Classics will turn back the clock to November 27, 1980, as the Bears traveled to the Pontiac Silverdome to face the Detroit Lions in a nationally-televised Thanksgiving Day showdown.

Since 1934, the Lions have played football on Thanksgiving Day and the team that helped them launch this special 83-year tradition was none other than the Bears. Over the years, the rivals have met a total of 16 times on the festive holiday and this thrilling match-up featured two of the NFL’s top running backs at that time: 1980’s NFL “Offensive Rookie of the Year” Billy Sims and the Bears legend in the making, the great Walter Payton. 

Down 17-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears dug deep and mounted a comeback for the ages, thanks in part to quarterback Vince Evans, a 1977 draft pick who emerged as a starter that season when Mike Phipps was benched midway through the season.  Evans was determined to own that fourth quarter as he threw and rushed for two critical touchdowns tying the game at 17 apiece.  And then there was Dave Williams, an offensive utility man whose kickoff return overtime heroics simply shocked the nation in this holiday afternoon battle that many have heralded as one of pro football’s greatest games.

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled The Feast of Pontiac, takes an in-depth look at this critical moment in Bears history featuring candid interviews with Bears players and coaches, Lions opponents, along with those who covered this memorable holiday battle. 

This edition of NBC Sports Chicago’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. 

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:


Bears Quarterback (1977-83)


Bears Running Back (1975-82)


Bears Defensive End/Tackle (1979-90)


Bears Offensive Tackle/Guard (1976-82)


Bears Linebacker (1980-87)


Lions Running Back (1980-84)

Please note the following quotes from NBC Sports Chicago’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: The Feast of Pontiac, debuting Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT:

DAN HAMPTON (on the Bears/Lions rivalry):

"When we played the Lions, it was always a fist fight. And they were looking for respectability, we were looking too…and we’d kind of took it out on each other."

DAN JIGGETTS (on the spotlight of Thanksgiving Day games):

“On that day, you knew that the rest of the league was watching, and you know, some people were sitting down and dining and other people were the turkey…and the one thing you wanted to make sure of was that you weren’t the turkey."

ROLAND HARPER (on the talents of his backfield partner Walter Payton):

“He’s gonna be Walter regardless of what, he doesn’t care what you put on the scoreboard, he doesn’t care what you say, sooner or later he’s gonna break one."

BILLY SIMS (on the late game heroics of Bears kick returner Dave Williams):

“I saw that guy coming right past me, I sure would’ve put my leg out there and trip him up (laughs).  I could not believe it."

VINCE EVANS (on having a career day as a QB):

“There's not a lot games that you have like that, I mean throughout your career…but when they happen, they’re magical."

NBC Sports Chicago will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Friday, November 24 at 8:00 PM.  In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from NBC Sports Chicago’s team of Bears experts. 

After releasing him, Bears reportedly bringing back Marcus Cooper


After releasing him, Bears reportedly bringing back Marcus Cooper

Marcus Cooper's offseason has resembled a will they, won't they relationship.

The corner back signed a three-year deal with the Bears last offseason, but struggled last year and was released by the Bears after one year of that deal. However, Adam Caplan is reporting that Cooper could be back in a Bears uniform this season.

Cooper was officially released by the Bears on March 14 and visited the Arizona Cardinals earlier on Friday. Cooper started for the Cardinals in 2016.

Cooper began the year as a starter for the Bears, but finished with just four starts. He finished 2017 with 18 tackles and three passes deflected in 15 games.

His play with the Bears didn't exactly make him Mr. Popular with fans, as can be observed by looking at the savage replies to Caplan's report.

Cooper's original contract for the Bears with valued at $16 million over three years so the reported $2.5 million number is a significant pay cut and could mean he is being brought back for depth as opposed to last year when he was expected to start.

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick.