Bears vs Packers: The History of NFL's Greatest Rivalry
If there was an official list of the greatest NFL rivalries, the Bears vs Packers rivalry would have a great case for number one. No rivalry has been played more, and it’s impossible to argue the amazing moments the matchup has given us.
The 200th Matchup
Even if Mitchell Trubisky is not up to the rivalry’s lofty standards, this is a game where history and tradition trumps who’s in uniform. If you can get your hands on Bears vs. Packers tickets for the 200th matchup, you’re in for a once in a lifetime experience. The Packers hold the edge at 97-95-6 since the first meeting in 1921. Inside those numbers are enough stories and hall-of-fame figures to span generations.
Chicago largely controlled the Bears vs Packers rivalry until the 1960s with 49 head-to-head wins to the Packers’ 26. The Bears’ run included 5 straight shutouts behind the dominant defense of legendary head coach George Halas. The 1940s saw hall-of-fame quarterback Sid Luckman lead The Monsters of the Midway to 4 NFL Championships and a 12-4 record over Green Bay.
The Packers finally got revenge with an impressive stretch behind quarterback Bart Starr. Beginning in 1961 Green Bay won 20 of their next 25 games against Chicago – a stretch that wore on Halas. Former Bears running back Rick Casares summed up his coach’s feelings, “Coach Halas, he’d burn your ears with language the week of the Green Bay game.”
Significant Coaches and Players
Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi won 13 of his 18 meetings against Chicago until Halas retired after the 1967 season. The two men are integral to the history of football. NFC champions receive the George S. Halas Trophy while Super Bowl winners get the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The 1970’s tilted in the Bears’ favor due to another legend. Walter Payton put his stamp on the Bears vs Packers rivalry with a signature moment in 1977. Chicago’s all-time leading rusher had his second-best ground game against Green Bay. The Bears won 26-0 behind 205 rushing yards from Payton. The effort tied Bears legend Gale Sayers’ Bears single-game rushing record set against Green Bay in 1968.
Chicago owned the matchup into the 1980s. The decade began with a moment that epitomizes the bad blood between the teams. Packers defensive lineman Charles Martin body slammed Bears quarterback Jim McMahon a full 2 seconds after the play was blown dead. Chicago lost McMahon for the season and Martin was banned for 2 games, the first suspension of its kind in league history.
The Bears vs Packers Rivalry Continues
The Bears won 10 of 11 games during the mid-1980s. The ‘85 Bears’ defense is still considered one of the NFL’s best but defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry was introduced to the Bears vs Packers rivalry on offense. During a 23-7 Bears win, “The Fridge” – all 314 pounds of him – barreled through the line of scrimmage for a touchdown. He spiked the ball and danced for the cameras on Monday Night Football. Green Bay has owned the Bears vs Packers rivalry since 1992 behind two all-timers.
Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have led the Packers to a 41-14 edge over Chicago save for one game started by Brett Huntley due to a Rodgers injury. The Bears have had 18 different starting quarterbacks in that time.
Favre’s signature moment may have come in 1995. The QB severely sprained his ankle the week prior to the Chicago game – with first place on the line. The injury limited his movement which took the improvisational genius out of his comfort zone. The result was a 355 yard, 5 touchdown performance. It was a then-franchise record for TD’s and a 35-28 Packers victory.
The Match-Up in the Present Day
While Favre won 11 straight in the Bears vs Packers rivalry at one point, his successor put together a stretch of 10 wins in 11 games. Rodgers’ memorable moment can’t be held to just one. The highest-paid player in Packers history started for his team on the rivalry’s highest stage.
The 2010 NFC Championship game featured two Rodgers touchdowns – one on the ground and one through the air. The QB wasn’t at his best but the game epitomized the blue-collar nature of the Bears vs Packers rivalry. Rodgers tackled hall-of-fame Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher after an interception and Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler was forced out of the game due to injury. The Packers won that game 21-14 en route to winning the 2010 Super Bowl. Another unforgettable moment came in 2013 when the Packers won the NFC North on a last-minute 48-yard touchdown from Rodgers to Randall Cobb.
The title of “NFL’s greatest rivalry” is up for debate. The enormous impact the Bears vs. Packers rivalry has had on football is not. No matter who steps in to fill the shoes of legends on both sides of the rivalry, the story of football will continue to be told through this legendary matchup.