As the Bears and the NFL celebrate their 100th season in 2019, fans will have the chance to vote for the greatest moment in franchise history. They’ll choose from four moments that will be featured in chronological order this week on ChicagoBears.com.
The winning moment will be announced during the regular season. It will then compete against the greatest moments from every other NFL team via a bracket tournament, with the top moment in league history set to be revealed at NFL Honors the night before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
The following story details one of the most iconic runs of running back Walter Payton’s illustrious Hall of Fame career.
Bears legend Walter Payton had many longer runs than his 18-yard rumble in a memorable win over the Kansas City Chiefs Nov. 13, 1977 at Soldier Field. But none better demonstrated his incredible strength and determination.
Taking a handoff from quarterback Bob Avellini on a sweep to the right, Payton spun away from one tackler, eluded three others and bowled over two defenders before being dragged down from behind at the Chiefs’ 4-yard line.
“That’s one of the most incredible runs I’ve ever seen,” Kansas City linebacker Willie Lanier, a future Hall of Famer, said after the game. “I thought he was down, and the next thing I knew he was still running.”
The Bears trailed 17-0 at the time of Payton’s remarkable run. He followed it with the first of three second-half touchdowns. His final score on a 15-yard dash gave the Bears a 21-20 lead with 2:02 left in the game.
The Chiefs surged back ahead 27-21 on Ed Podolak’s 14-yard touchdown run with just :24 remaining. But the Bears rallied in dramatic fashion, winning 28-27 on Avellini’s 37-yard TD pass to tight end Greg Latta with :03 to play.
The victory over the Chiefs was the first of six straight to close the season as the Bears turned a 3-5 start into a 9-5 finish to earn their first playoff berth since winning the NFL championship in 1963.
In the win over Kansas City, Payton rushed for 192 yards on 33 carries.
“The man is incredible,” Lanier said after the game. “I never got a good shot at him all day. He’s very difficult to hit. He’s always moving. He made a believer out of me.”
“He’s probably the strongest halfback I’ve ever seen,” Podolak said. “The key is his strength and cutback ability.
“We concentrated on trying to make him run laterally. That’s the only way you’re ever going to shut him down. Once he gets turned upfield, he’s almost unstoppable.”
Payton spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Bears from 1975-87, missing only one game and retiring as the league’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. His most productive season came in 1977 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,852 yards.
Payton was voted to nine Pro Bowls, set 27 Bears records and had his No. 34 retired. He also threw eight touchdown passes and led the NFL in kickoff returns as a rookie in 1975 with a 31.7-yard average. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 in his first year of eligibility.