The Chicago Bears, one of the two remaining charter franchises of the National Football League, have put together an impressive century – nine NFL championships and a league-high 28 players inducted into the NFL’s 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” which are etched in memories throughout the history of the organization that started it all.
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 of the time.
30. Dennis Green’s rant (Oct. 16, 2006)
The anniversary of this epic rant just passed, and while the game itself will be addressed soon in this space, Denny Green’s meltdown at the podium after his Cardinals squandered a Monday night game against the Bears will be replayed for all eternity. Classic lines like, “The Bears are who we thought they were!”, and “If you wanna crown them, then crown their @$$!” are now cemented in Bears lore, and the entire rant was the perfect capper to a miraculous night in Phoenix.
29. Urlacher vs. Arizona Cardinals (Oct. 16, 2006)
More from the 2006 escape in the desert… Brian Urlacher played perhaps the best game of his Hall of Fame career that night at University of Phoenix Stadium. The official box score gives Urlacher 19 tackles, while the Bears credited him with 25, but regardless of whose stat-keeping you believe, Urlacher was an unstoppable force against the Cardinals. Whether it was flying around to stifle Edgerrin James and the run game or forcing a key fumble that was returned for a touchdown, Urlacher made this his signature effort as his defense single-handedly dragged the team back from a massive halftime deficit. Fittingly, highlights of this game were plentiful when #54 was inducted into Canton last summer.
28. 44-0 (Nov. 17, 1985)
The statement game of the legendary 1985 team. The Bears dealt the Cowboys & Mike Ditka’s mentor Tom Landry the worst defeat in their franchise’s history, winning in Dallas 44-0. The Cowboys, who entered the game at 7-3 and tied for first in the NFC East, did not advance the ball past the Bears’ 38-yard line and turned the ball over five times while suffering six sacks. The Bears’ first two touchdowns came off interception returns, and they rang up the easy victory to move to 11-0 and clinch the NFC Central division without QB Jim McMahon, who was recovering from shoulder tendinitis.
27. Halas outruns Jim Thorpe (Nov. 4, 1923)
Legendary founder George Halas is known more as a coach and founder of the league, but he had quite a few notable moments on the field as well. In the Bears’ 4th season and just the 2nd while known by that moniker, Halas got the best of the legendary Jim Thorpe on November 4, 1923 at what was then as Cubs Park, now better known as Wrigley Field. During a rainy game against the Oorang Indians, Halas picked up a Thorpe fumble and outraced Hall of Fame running back 98 yards for the game’s final touchdown in a 26-0 Bears win. The 98-yard return set an NFL record that would stand for 49 seasons until it was broken in 1972.
26. Hiring Matt Nagy (Jan. 8, 2018)
Coming off the rough Marc Trestman/John Fox period, the Bears badly needed to hit on their next head coach, and they appear to have with Matt Nagy. The former Kansas City offensive coordinator came over from the Andy Reid coaching tree, and immediately instilled a new sense of purpose and culture within Halas Hall. His first season went about as well as could possibly be expected, with his Bears finishing 12-4 and Nagy picking up Coach of the Year honors. The only blemish was the bitter end to the season in the Wild Card round against the Eagles, and while the 2019 season has not gone according to plan thus far, there’s no doubt that hiring Nagy helped shake the franchise out of its previous doldrums and pointed them toward better days.
25. Devin Hester’s Super Bowl KOR TD (Feb. 4, 2007)
One of the most electrifying moments not only in franchise history, but league annals as well. Hester returning Adam Vinatieri’s opening kick-off of Super Bowl 41 92 yards for a touchdown was the first such play to ever open a Super Bowl, and was the quickest score in the Super Bowl history until the Seahawks recorded a safety 12 seconds into Super Bowl 48. For the entire two weeks prior, pundits wondered whether Tony Dungy’s Colts would kick to the dangerous Hester at all, and Indianapolis paid for their decision to do so immediately. Fans will always have fond memories of Hester looking at himself on the video board as he crossed the goal line, but unfortunately the rest of the game did not go nearly as well, with Peyton Manning’s Colts emerging victorious, 29-17.
24. The Fog Bowl (Dec. 31, 1988)
One of the most memorable sights in franchise history was a game where not much could be seen at all. In a Wild Card playoff game against the Eagles on New Year’s Eve 1988, a massive fog bank rolled over Soldier Field during the 2nd quarter, cutting visibility down to mere yards. Players couldn’t see the sidelines or first-down markers, and both fans and television cameras in the stands couldn’t see anything. The Bears won, 20-12, despite Eagles QB Randall Cunningham throwing for 407 yards. In an interesting subplot, the head coaching matchup featured Mike Ditka getting the best of his former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who left for the Eagles job after the Super Bowl 20 triumph.
23. The first NFL championship (Dec. 17, 1933).
During the back-and-forth NFL Championship game, the first such scheduled game in league history, the Bears were driving against the Giants with little time remaining. Down 21-16, Bears fullback Bronko Nagurski faked a run into the line, then threw a jump pass to Bill Hewitt, who ran before lateraling the football to Bill Karr, who scored the winning touchdown.
22. Bears keep Buddy Ryan (1982)
The architect of the ‘46’ defense was Neill Armstrong’s defensive coordinator when Armstrong was fired after the ’81 season and Mike Ditka was hired. The entire defense signed a letter to George Halas imploring him to keep Ryan on staff. Halas did, the defense reached epic heights and Ryan’s relationship with Ditka became the stuff of legend.
21. Walter Payton sets all-time rushing mark (Oct. 7, 1984)
In the weeks leading up to the 7th game of the 1984 season against the Saints, Walter Payton admitted he was feeling a lot of pressure as he approached Jim Brown’s all-time rushing yards record. That pressure dissipated in the third quarter when he finally surpassed Brown’s 12,312 yards, ending the day with an even 12,400 after his 154-yard effort against New Orleans. Payton ended his career with 16,726 rushing yards, and held the all-time record until Emmitt Smith broke it in October 2002. There are now ten men ahead of Brown on the all-time list, but Walter stands alone in 2nd, his legacy secure as one of the greatest rushers in league history.
If you’ve missed any of our previous installments, check them out below: