Chicago sports media icon Chet Coppock shares his memories of the 1963 Chicago Bears World Championship season with you on ChicagoBears.com this season. This is the seventh of 11 installments that will post on Fridays throughout the year.
November 17, 1963: Bears 26, Packers 7
This is just for the record. If I didn't know better I'd swear the two clubs were both playing the single wing. On the ninth Sunday of the 1963 football season, the Bears won a drowsy 6-0 game over the Los Angeles Rams at Cubs Park. Sound strange? It should, the Bears had run up 52 points on Los Angeles in Southern California just four weeks earlier.
The Halas men had now scored just 53 points over their last four games, hardly the production of champions. But, Chicago fans were just seven days a week from one of the most dynamic and historic afternoons in the history of pro football's most venerable franchise.
Lombardi was coming to town. On November 17, 1963, Vince and the Packers arrived at Wrigley Field with two thoughts in mind. One, gain revenge for their 10-3 loss on opening day and gain sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
The Pack would leave empty handed.
|Safety Richie Petitbon all but guaranteed a Bears win on TV in 1963. Click for photos of the 1963 championship season|
Honest to gosh, you had to live the "week" before the two clubs went to work to really understand just how big the buildup on this game actually was. All four Chicago daily newspapers were on Bears overload.
It was truly overwhelming, especially with Richie Petitbon. The Cajun and nails tough safety, set a big time tone on Friday when he said on local TV that he expected the Bears to knock off Green Bay again, "only this time worse!"
This was long before the NFL embraced showmanship. Petitbon had teammates who thought Richie was off his rocker for "guaranteeing" a W.
Could the Bears' offense generate enough points and possession time to keep Green Bay, if you will, at bay? How would the Packers respond without injured quarterback Bart Starr, the Lombardi project, who would be chosen NFL Most Valuable Player in 1966? Would Papa Bear erase the ugly memories of 1962 when the Pack laced the Bears 49-0 and 38-7?
I do recall the temperatures were unseasonably warm, just over 60 degrees beneath thick, gray sky that is so much a part of Chicago as Thanksgiving and Christmas begin to occupy people's thoughts.
And, I also recall the opening kickoff - vividly. Herb Adderley, Green Bay's All-Pro defensive back, took the opening boot and was met - head on - with a wicked, open field tackle by J.C. Caroline. "J.C.'s tackle set the tone and brought the crowd into a frenzy," according to former Bears running back Ronnie Bull.
J.C. was one hell of a guy. During his college days at Illinois, he busted several rushing records that belonged to Red Grange. He began as a running back with the Bears but was eventually shifted to defense where he briefly held the team record for pass interceptions. In 1963, he was only used on kick teams.
The Caroline blast brought forth a guttural shriek from the full house at Cubs Park. I mean a roar so shrill that your ear drums begged for a reprieve. J.C. had delivered the "message" to the green and gold, "We own you."
The Bears got on the board rapidly with a pair of first quarter field goals by Roger Leclerc. But that was just a warm up. Late in period one, Willie Galimore, "Willie the Wisp" found a hold up the gut and sprinted 27 yards for a touchdown.
The beat down was in progress. The Bears came up with five interceptions off Green Bay pitchers John Roach and Zeke Bratkowski. Zeke, who played for the Bears in the 1950s and was later an assistant coach with the team, had been imported by Lombardi to serve as Starr's caddy. Roach and Bratkowski, under a swarm of blue jersey, combined to complete just 11 of 30 passes overall.
Let's also mention that the Pack gave up the ball twice on fumbles.
In the fourth quarter before a crowd best described as delirious, quarterback Bill Wade made his presence felt on the ground. Wade, rolling out to his right, not all that far from the left field wall, scored from five yards out to lift the Bears lead to 26-0.
Chants of "Good bye, Vince...Good bye, Vince" began to fill the friendly confines. Papa Bear had to love it. "You know Halas just didn't like the Packers...even though he helped Lombardi get his job in Green bay," added Bull.
The Pack would get on the board before the final gun, but it did not diminish the fact that the Bears, in their 44th year, had come up with one of the greatest performances in team history.
Coach Halas always told me he felt the club's 1963 opening day win over the Packers was the Bears' greatest team effort. I have to disagree. The 26-7 win in the rematch is as real to me today as Sayers scoring six TDs versus the 49ers in 1965, Walter Payton rushing for a then-league record 277 yards against Minnesota in 1977 and Wilber Marshall's 52-yard fumble return in the snow in the Bears' 1985-86 NFC title win over Eric Dickerson and the Rams.
I could go on for another half an hour.
November 17, 1963. Bears 26-Green Bay 7. Unforgettable. So real. So tangible. So stirring. You truly had to be there.