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 fifth of 11 installments that will post on Fridays throughout the year.
October 20, 1963: Bears 14, 49ers 20
Naturally, when you think about the Bears and "rivalries," Green Bay stands at the head of the class. Over the years, Minnesota has gained an edge on a Detroit Lions club that hasn't won a world championship since devastating Paul Brown and the Cleveland Browns 59-14 way back in 1957. Remembering the '63 Champs
Then again, the Vikings' next NFL Title will be their first NFL Title, so help me Bud Grant.
However, there has always been a quirkiness to the Bears and 49ers.The two clubs played twice a year for a number of years before the Niners were pushed into the old NFC West, while Chicago joined the NFC Central in 1970 after the NFL-AFL merger.
A brief history lesson:
Go back to 1959. The Bears were headed towards a winning locker room and the crowd at Kezar Stadium was headed to the exits, when Y.A. Tittle threw to R.C. "Overdrive" Owens in the Bears' end zone. R.C., who must have had a 38-inch vertical jump, out-leaped three Bears defenders with 61 seconds left to give Frisco a 20-17 victory. The Bears' radio play-by-play man, Jack Brickhouse, nearly blew out his larynx describing the anguish of that moment to fans back in Chicago.
San Francisco came marching into Wrigley Field in 1961 with coach Red Hickey's new-fangled "shot gun offense." A lot of top-notch football men, who really should have known better, were declaring the offense "invincible" and "the end of the T-formation." Hello, the Bears, with Bill George leading the charge, crushed the 49ers spirit and the "gun," 31-0.
The genius of Gale Sayers. The Kansas Comet put on the most bedazzling individual football show I've ever seen, scoring six touchdowns on a muddy Wrigley Field turf to lift the Bears to a 61-20 victory back in December of '65. And, mind you, the 49ers had thrown a 52-24 right cross at the Bears in the season opener back in the bay area.
I could move on to the '80s, but I see too much Joe Montana. Plus, the tour guide says it's time to get back to 1963.
Anybody who says they saw this coming is conning you. The 5-0 Bears figured to treat the 49ers like rag dolls and why not? San Fran was 0-5 and had been outscored 91-20 in its previous three games.
Now, add this to the equation. The 49ers' top quarterback, John Brodie, had been lost to injury back in late September. He was replaced by an ineffective Bobby Waters, who gave way to former Chicago Cardinal Lamar McHan. Lamar would make his starting debut versus the Bears.
Was Chicago a victim of over confidence? Were their heads already back in Chicago? Probably a little of both. The 49ers jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead before Bill Wade threw a one-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver John "Bo" Farrington. Diminutive Bears' receiver Johnny Morris, enjoying a sterling silver year, did come up with six receptions good for 107 yards.
Meanwhile, the Chicago running game stalled about 15 minutes before the coin toss. Bread and butter men, Rick Casares, who really should be in the Hall of Fame, and 1962 NFL Rookie of the Year Ronnie Bull, combined to rush for just 46 yards on 18 carries.
Bill Wade vs. Rudy Bukich once again became a hot button. The old man quit on Wade at halftime and gave the ball to Bukich. Rudy did score on a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point ballgame. But, there was none of the "Rudy Magic" fans had seen the previous two weeks.
Did we mention that the Bears' turnover machine took most of the day off? Richie Petitbon recorded the Halas men's only takeaway when he came up with a 17-yard interception return.
Give the 49ers some credit. They took Mike Ditka out of the picture. Ditka, who had torn up the Rams with a four-touchdown performance just seven days earlier, was held to five catches for 33 yards. He never found the end zone.
Final: San Francisco 20, Bears 14.
The Bears were headed back to Chicago with a number of thoughts. One, how the hell did they lose to a team that probably couldn't beat Stanford? Two, they had to regroup to face the Eagles at Cubs Park the following Sunday.
And the big enchilada: Green Bay had walloped the St. Louis Cardinals. Lombardi had grabbed the daily double—a win combined with a Chicago loss. With eight weeks left, the race in the Western Conference was dead-even between the two hated rivals.
The Pack and the Bears both stood at 5-1 with the rematch - Green Bay at Chicago - just a month away. Were the Bears suddenly human? Would they end the year staring up at Green Bay? Not a chance.