The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears played a lot of memorable games since they first met back in 1921 but the Week 15 meeting at Soldier Field in Chicago was one of the strangest. Neither team had their starting quarterback available and by the end of the game, the Packers were down to third string signal caller Rich Campbell. The Bears started with their third-stringer Rusty Lisch. Eventually, they got so desperate that Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton took over as the quarterback late in the first half.

Packers and Bears Dealing with Quarterback Injuries

Both team’s starting quarterbacks were injured before this game even started. Packers starter Lynn Dickey was unavailable due to severe headaches, so rookie Randy Wright got the start. Wright struggled early and completed just 4-of-10 passes for 75 yards before he suffered a knee injury and was replaced by Campbell. Both starter Jim McMahon and backup Steve Fuller were injured for the Bears, so Mike Ditka had to start his third stringer in Lisch.

The Packers defense caused a turnover in Chicago territory late in the first quarter to set up the first score of the game. Campbell threw his first career touchdown pass, a three-yard toss to tight end Ed West. Al Del Greco booted the extra point and the Packers led 7-0.

The Packers Face Walter Payton at Quarterback

Late in the first half, with Lisch struggling, Ditka chewed him out on the sidelines. The quarterback had fumbled multiple times and the offense was going nowhere. Lisch then refused to go back into the game, telling Bears offensive coordinator Ed Hughes that Ditka couldn’t talk to him that way.

According to Jeff Pearlman’s biography of Payton, “The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” Ditka approached Lisch on the bench and said, “Please go back in the game. I didn’t mean that stuff. You’re a great kid.” But Lisch refused to return to action.

So, Payton came in to play quarterback much to the amazement of the crowd. He ran six plays as quarterback, all of them out of the shotgun. Payton ran for 12 yards on his first play at the unfamiliar position which only added to his 175 yards rushing on 35 carries for the game.

Payton had trouble calling one play, telling his teammates in the huddle, “One time he said, ‘Screen left to Cal [Thomas] over there,’” Bears center Jay Hilgenberg said. “The rest of the time he had it all right.”

“It’s O.K., but I wouldn’t want to make a living out of it,” Payton said when asked about playing quarterback. “After 10 years in this league, there isn’t much that can surprise me.”

At the end of the drive, Packers safety Tom Flynn intercepted Payton’s pass. “I’ve always told people I’m the only person in the record books to intercept Walter Payton’s pass from the quarterback position,” Flynn said later.

The interception kept the score 7-0 Packers at the half.

Packers QB Rich Campbell Struggles

Late in the third quarter, the Bears tied the game after Gary Fencik intercepted Campbell and returned it to the Green Bay 14. Four plays later, Payton threw a halfback option pass to fullback Matt Suhey to make the score 7-7.

But the Packers retook the lead on the ensuing kickoff. Del “Popcorn” Rodgers returned the kick 97-yards for a touchdown. The snap on the extra point attempt was off and the Green Bay lead was 13-7.

Walter Payton Throws a TD Pass Against the Packers

In the final minute of the third quarter, Campbell threw another interception. Seven plays later, Payton scored in a more conventional way, running around left end for a 12-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make it 14-13 Chicago.

That lead held up until the final minute of the game. The Bears had a chance to win it in the final two minutes when they drove into Packers territory. The drive stalled at the 29 but Ditka opted to go for it on 4th-and-1. The Packers defense managed to hold, and Green Bay got the ball back.

The Packers Last Minute Drama

Campbell then completed three straight passes which got the ball into Chicago territory in the final minute. But the Packers were called for holding which put the ball back at the Bears 43. Had they declined the penalty, Packers coach Forrest Gregg said after the game he would have asked Del Greco to try a 50-yard field goal.

Gregg said he would have tried a 50-yard FG if the Bears didn’t take the penalty. “We took the penalty instead of letting them try to make a field goal because I didn’t want to lose the game on that kind of a field goal,” Ditka said after the game.

So, the Packers had the ball at the Bears 43 with just 34 seconds left in the game. Facing third-and-long, Campbell went back to pass. The Bears nearly sacked the former first-round pick out of Cal, but he escaped and hurled the ball deep down the field in the general direction of speedy wide receiver Phil Epps.

The ball was severely underthrown, but Epps came back and beat defensive back Terry Schmidt to the ball. “I thought it was going to hit Schmidt in the head,” Campbell admitted. “Epps came back and got the ball.”

“I saw the ball coming and saw the ball was over his head,” Epps explained. “I knew I had to get into the end zone, so I put a move on him.”

Epps scored and the Packers held on for a 20-14 win. The Packers improved to 7-8 on the season. The Bears, who had already clinched a playoff berth, dropped to 9-6 but now knew they had to play their first playoff game on the road.

This would be the last time the Packers would beat the Bears until they swept both games in 1989. This win was easily the career highlight for Campbell who never started a game in his four-year career with the Packers despite being the sixth overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft.



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