The Chicago Bears, one of the two remaining charter franchises of the NFL, have put together an impressive century – nine NFL championships and a league-best 28 players inducted into the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. Within that history have been signature moments spanning every era.
NBC Sports Chicago has identified the 100 greatest Bears moments, the “Hallowed Hundred” that are etched in memories throughout the history of the organization.
Some of those moments have been individual games with defining overall significance. Some have been specific plays within those games. And some of those moments have occurred away from any one game.
Pivotal games rate edges over individual performances. Fair or not, games since Thanksgiving Day 1934, the date of the first Bears game broadcast nationally on NBC radio, and since the NFL crashed into national consciousness in 1958 with “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” get a touch more weight simply because the Bears have been seen and heard more with the growth of football on the air. Put simply, games that are seen or heard are going to be arguably more memorable than ones only read about in the newspapers.
These are the first 10 moments, with 10 more to follow for the next nine weeks.
100. Mike Ditka’s 7th inning stretch
On June 5, 1998, Iron Mike unleashed one of the most infamous renditions ever of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on Wrigley Field. Words can’t quite do justice to the breakneck pace at which Da Coach made his way through the song, so it's best just to take a listen for yourself.
99. Sayers’ & Butkus’ numbers retired in Halloween night rain game
On Halloween night in 1994, the Bears were trounced 33-6 by the Packers in an absolute downpour at Soldier Field, but the loss was overshadowed in significance by the halftime ceremony to retire the numbers of franchise legends Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. Just as the two came into the league together in the 1965 draft (which was held in late November ‘64), Sayers and Butkus entered Bears immortality together as well almost exactly 30 years later.
98. Corey Wootton knocks out Brett Favre
It seems very fitting that Brett Favre’s last NFL game would come against the Bears. On December 20, 2010, the Minnesota Vikings were hosting the Bears in a rare outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis because the roof of the Metrodome had collapsed the week before under heavy snows. In the second quarter, Corey Wootton sacked Favre, and the veteran QB and Bears-killer hit his head on the frozen turf, resulting in a concussion. No. 4 would never play another snap in the NFL.
97. McCown’s 5-TD game vs Cowboys
Josh McCown had been out of the league since 2009 before being signed off the street by the Bears in late 2011 to help shore up QB depth, and in December 2013, McCown came up huge. With the Bears pushing for the playoffs, McCown filled in for an ailing Jay Cutler and accounted for five total touchdowns (4 pass, 1 rush) on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys. The epic performance helped the Bears grab a share of the division lead before the infamous 4th-and-8 loss to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, which ultimately kept the Bears home in January. This bitterly cold game is also notable for Mike Ditka’s number being retired at halftime.
96. Alex Brown’s 4-sack game vs Giants
Richard Dent holds the Bears’ franchise record for sacks in a game with 4.5 (more on those later in this countdown), but right behind him is Alex Brown, who notched a career-high four sacks on November 7, 2004 on the road against the Giants. Brown, who was a key figure on the dominant defenses of the mid-2000s, tormented future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who was sacked a punishing seven times. The Brown-led defense forced five turnovers that day en route to a 28-21 victory.
95. Soldier Field’s Renovation
Soldier Field has served as the home of the Bears since 1971, after they moved to the lakefront from their previous home at Wrigley Field. After undergoing many minor renovations over the ensuing 30 years, the stadium received a massive $660 million facelift after the playoff loss to the Eagles on January 19, 2002. Everything except the colonnades and the shell of the building was demolished and was transformed into the 61,500-seat stadium seen on the lakefront today. The Bears played their 2002 home schedule in Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois while construction took place, and re-opened Soldier Field on September 29, 2003 against (who else?) the Green Bay Packers.
94. Bears hire John Fox
After the tumultuous Marc Trestman regime of 2013-14 ended in locker room squabbles and rapidly-deteriorating results on the field, both the head coach and general manager Phil Emery were relieved of their duties. The ensuing coaching search led them to Fox, a veteran head coach who led both Carolina and Denver to Super Bowl berths. While his tenure in Chicago didn’t produce much success on the field (as a 14-34 record would attest), his steady approach was important in restoring a sense of culture and stability to the franchise.
93. Anthony Thomas wins 2001 Offensive ROY over Tomlinson
A second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, Thomas was projected to immediately produce for the Bears, and produce he did. “A-Train” rushed for 1,183 yards in the Bears’ magical 2001 campaign, and was honored as the Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. He beat out San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson for the award, likely aided by the fact that the Chargers went 5-11 that season while the Bears were bound for a playoff bye. But Thomas only cracked the 1,000-yard mark once more in his career, in 2003, before being supplanted as the starter by Thomas Jones in 2004.
92. Hunter Hillenmeyer strips Adrian Peterson on MNF
The 2009 season began with so much promise after the Jay Cutler trade and a 3-1 start, but the Bears faded badly, losing eight of their next 10 games. However, a Monday night thriller in late December against division rival Minnesota provided some signs of life at the end of a dismal season. Tied at 30 in overtime, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer stripped the dynamic Adrian Peterson after a catch-and-run, with Nick Roach recovering the loose ball, and setting up Cutler for some heroics...
91. Devin Aromashodu walks off vs Vikings
...and on the very next play, Cutler hit Devin Aromashodu in stride for a walk-off 39-yard touchdown and a 36-30 victory that helped scuttle the Vikings’ playoff hopes. Cutler followed up that performance with a four-TD effort the next week in a win at Detroit, ending the season on a high note and setting the stage for a division title in 2010.
Check back next Tuesday for the next installment of our countdown with #90-81.