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-most 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” that 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.
60. Tillman’s walk-off pick-6 & Jeff Joniak’s “Fade to Black”
On October 30, 2005, Charles Tillman ended a divisional matchup in Detroit in style, picking off Jeff Garcia and sprinting 22 yards to end the game in overtime. The Bears won 19-13 in typical bruising NFC North fashion, but the Peanut walk-off pick-6 is linked to another facet of recent Bears lore. The play prompted WBBM play-by-play man Jeff Joniak to debut his victory catchphrase, “Fade to black!”, which is now uttered after the final play of every Bears victory over the radio airwaves.
59. Richard Dent’s two 4.5-sack games
Any time you enter the defensive record books of a franchise with such a rich history, it’s a big deal. Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent is all over said book. He owns the most career sacks in franchise history with 124.5, and the most sacks in a season with 17.5 in 1984. Another record he holds? Most sacks in a game, with 4.5 -- a feat he accomplished twice! The first time was on November 4, 1984, in a 17-6 win over the Los Angeles Raiders, when Dent accounted for half of the 9 total sacks posted by the Bears’ defense. He reached the mark again on December 27, 1987, ironically against the Raiders as well. In another eerie similarity, Dent once again had half of 9 total Bears sacks, leading the way in a 6-3 win.
58. Wilber Marshall lays out Joe Ferguson
If you want to watch one play that captures the ferocity and edge of the mythical ‘85 Bears defense, this might be the one. The Bears wrapped up their 15-1 regular season with a win in Detroit, and during that game, linebacker Wilber Marshall laid one of the most vicious hits in NFL history on Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson. Early in the game, Ferguson rolled out to avoid William Perry, and just after releasing a pass that eventually fell incomplete, Marshall drilled with his helmet right in his chin, knocking the quarterback airborne. When he landed, he was unconscious, thudding to the ground like a sack of bricks. Ferguson eventually regained consciousness, but hit, which would now likely result in an ejection in today’s NFL, lives on as a testament to the 46 defense, and set the tone for an epic playoff run that ended in triumph in Super Bowl XX.
57. Drafting Mitch Trubisky
The bold move to trade up and draft Trubisky in 2017 will forever be a watershed moment in franchise history. GM Ryan Pace, convinced he had a franchise QB in his sights, traded significant draft capital to move up one slot in the 1st round to select Trubisky out of North Carolina. After a nondescript rookie season under John Fox, Trubisky helped lead the Bears to a division title in 2018 under Matt Nagy before nearly bringing the Bears back from the dead in the divisional round against Philadelphia. The end to this story has yet to be written, and Trubisky’s 3rd season has taken a detour thanks to a left shoulder injury suffered against the Vikings. But the decision to move up and take Trubisky will reverberate through Halas Hall for years to come, for better or worse.
56. Gould’s ‘06 playoff game-winner vs Seahawks
56a.Grossman 3rd & 10 pass to Rashied Davis
Fresh off a 13-3 regular season and a divisional title, the 2006 Bears found themselves in a dogfight against Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs. The 9-7 Seahawks were more than up to the challenge at Soldier Field, and the game headed to overtime tied at 24. Facing a 3rd and 10 at his own 34, QB Rex Grossman found receiver Rashied Davis for a clutch 30-yard completion, not only converting the 3rd down but putting the Bears well into Robbie Gould’s field goal range. 4 plays later, Gould came up clutch as he so often did, booting a 49-yard walk-off field goal to send the Bears to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1988.
55. Briggs stops Shaun Alexander in ‘06 playoffs
However, another play from that Seahawks playoff win looms as slightly more important. If not for Lance Briggs’ heroics late in the 4th, Robbie Gould may never have gotten a chance to win the game in overtime. With the game tied at 24 late in the 4th, the Seahawks were in Bears territory approaching the 2-minute warning. Facing a 4th and 1 at the Bears’ 44-yard line, Seattle handed the ball to their Pro Bowl running back, Shaun Alexander. Alexander rushed for over 1,000 yards in every season from 2001-2005 and rushed for 896 yards in only 10 games in 2006 thanks to a foot injury. Point being, he was one of the surest bets in the league to pick up a single yard with the game on the line. Briggs had other ideas, stuffing Alexander at the line of scrimmage and forcing a turnover on downs. If Alexander gets the yard, who knows what happens? Briggs gave the Bears a reprieve, and the rest is history.
54. Urlacher gets inducted into Hall of Fame
Fitting that #54 gets recognized in moment #54. This was the capstone to a legendary career. Urlacher was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February 2018 and was enshrined during induction ceremonies in August of the same year. His bust will stand in Canton forever, a testament to a Bears career that is nearly without peer.
53. Vasher’s 108-yd FG return in ‘05
Nathan Vasher was a fine cornerback for the Bears over 6 seasons, but he’s best-known for a special teams play for the ages. November 13, 2005 was an incredibly windy day at Soldier Field, wreaking havoc with the kicking game all afternoon long. At the end of the 1st half, the 49ers attempted a 52-yard field goal, which was no good. Vasher caught the ball on the fly in the back of the end zone and weaved his way 108 yards for an electrifying and unlikely touchdown. The long TD gave the Bears a lead they never relinquished, as they beat San Francisco 17-9. It was the longest scoring play in NFL history at the time, although it has since been passed by 109-yard returns by both Antonio Cromartie (missed FG in 2007) and Cordarrelle Patterson (kickoff return in 2013).
52. Devin Hester breaks NFL record for return TDs vs Vikings (2010)
Devin Hester will make several more appearances on this list, rest assured. But we must recognize his record-setting return in December 2010 against the Vikings. In a rare outdoor Minnesota game at TCF Bank Stadium, Hester returned a 3rd-quarter punt 64 yards for a touchdown, setting an NFL record with his 14th career return (punt & kickoff) touchdown. #23 broke Brian Mitchell’s record of 13 return touchdowns, but Hester did it in 73 games, while it took Mitchell 223 games to set the prior mark. Hester finished his career with 19 punt & kickoff return touchdowns, and with the league’s changes to kickoffs in the years since he played, it’s very possible that mark may never be broken.
51. The Jay Cutler trade
April 2, 2009 will be a day-long remembered in Chicago sports history as the day the Bears finally traded for their franchise QB. After sending Kyle Orton and 2 first-round picks to Denver for Jay Cutler, Bears GM Jerry Angelo figured he was set under center for at least a decade. In a way, he was right - the next 8 years of Bears football was centered around Jay, for better or worse. In the end, Cutler certainly had his moments (he is the Bears’ all-time leading passer, after all) and did bring a measure of stability to the position, but his time with the Bears ultimately produced a 51-51 regular-season record and a single playoff win. While the trade did not result in a Lombardi trophy as Angelo envisioned 10 years ago, the bold move for Cutler still rates as a massively important event in franchise history.
Thus ends the first half of our countdown – if you missed any previous installments, they are all linked below. Check back next week for moments 50-41!