100 Seasons, 100 Facts: A Century of Chicago Bears History - NBC Chicago
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100 Seasons, 100 Facts: A Century of Chicago Bears History

The Bears will kick off their 100th season against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 5

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Packers vs. Bears: A Rivalry By the Numbers

    The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have been doing battle for nearly 100 years, and as a result there are some truly fascinating numbers that have come out of the league's most historic rivalry.

    (Published Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019)

    In honor of the 100th season of Chicago Bears football, we’ve put together 100 remarkable facts about the team to get your football season started on a good note.

    The Bear Necessities

    1 The Bears are one of two remaining charter members of the NFL who have been around since the league’s inception. The Arizona Cardinals, originally based in Chicago, are the other.

    2 The Bears were originally called the Decatur Staleys, but changed their name to the Bears in 1922 to pay homage to the Chicago Cubs.

    3 The “GSH” on the team’s jersey sleeves are the initials of George S. Halas, the team’s founder and a player and coach for the organization.

    4 The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971, but prior to that they played their games at Wrigley Field for nearly half a century.

    5 The Bears currently hold their training camp in Bourbonnais at Olivet Nazarene University, their home for the last 17 years.

    6 Although the Bears have only won a single Super Bowl, they also won a total of eight NFL championships before the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.

    7 Mitchell Trubisky is off to a flying start in his NFL career, as he’s one of just three Bears players to throw for six touchdowns in a game. He’s also one of only three Bears taken with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.

    8 Khalil Mack’s six-year, $141 million contract was the biggest ever given out to a defensive player.

    9 Matt Nagy is one of only two Bears coaches to win 10 or more games in his first season with the team, and he’s the second coach in team history to make the playoffs in his first season.

    10 The Bears’ defense boasts a group of stellar players, including three First-Team All-Pros from a season ago: Mack, Eddie Jackson, and Kyle Fuller.

    In The Beginning

    11 The Staleys nickname came from the A.E. Staley food starch company, located in Decatur, Illinois. That city was the home of the Bears’ franchise for its first year of existence.

    12 After the Staleys’ first season, Halas bought the rights to the team for $100 and moved them to Chicago.

    13 The Bears borrowed their blue and orange team colors from another Illinois institution: the University of Illinois in Champaign, the alma mater of Halas.

    14 The Bears’ iconic “C” logo was borrowed from two different teams: the Cardinals, who left down in 1959, and the University of Chicago, who disbanded their football team in 1939.

    15 The “Monsters of the Midway” nickname also originated with the Chicago Maroons, as the Bears borrowed the nickname after the team folded in the 1930’s.

    16 Red Grange was the first big-time Bears free agent signing, and he gave a new legitimacy to both the team and the league when he inked a contract in 1925.

    17 Halas not only played football for the Bears, but he also dabbled in Major League Baseball, registering two hits in 22 at-bats with the New York Yankees in 1919.

    18 Halas held an NFL record for nearly 50 years, returning a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown during the 1923 season.

    19 Halas was one of three Bears to be charter members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, joining Grange and Bronko Nagurski.

    20 Halas’ name not only adorns the Bears’ practice facility, but also the NFC championship trophy, which the Bears have only won twice in team history.

    There’s No Place Like Home

    21 When the Bears moved from Wrigley Field to Soldier Field, they left something interesting behind: the cement bases for their field goal posts. The bases were found when crews re-did Wrigley’s playing surface after the 2007 season.

    22 The 1932 tiebreaker game between the Bears and Portsmouth Spartans was moved from Wrigley Field to the indoor confines of the Chicago Stadium, making it the first NFL game to be played indoors. The Bears ultimately won 9-0.

    23 The Bears have played their home games primarily at Wrigley and Soldier Field, but renovations in 2002 forced the team to play their home games at Memorial Stadium, home of the University of Illinois.

    24 Because of those renovations, Soldier Field was stripped of its status as a national historic landmark in 2006.

    25 Soldier Field has also been the home stadium of Notre Dame’s football team, the Chicago Fire soccer club, and even the Chicago Cardinals, who split the stadium with the Bears in 1959.

    26 The Houston Texans are the only undefeated team in Soldier Field history, winning both of their games at the historic stadium.

    27 The Baltimore Ravens are the only NFL team never to win a game at the stadium, going 0-3. The Pittsburgh Steelers are an awful 1-11 at the iconic venue.

    28 According to Pro Football Reference, the Bears played 14 games at the old Comiskey Park on the South Side, going 8-6 in those games. 

    29 The Bears have played two games outside of the United States, winning both of them. They will play a third game abroad this season, taking on the Oakland Raiders in London.

    30 The Bears have played exhibition games in five foreign countries, including Sweden, Germany, and Ireland.

    Weathering The Storms

    31 The coldest game in Bears history was played in Minnesota in 1972, according to Pro Football Reference. The Bears and Vikings played in weather that hit 2 degrees below zero, and the Bears lost 23-10.

    32 The hottest games in Bears history were played with the temperature at 89 degrees. The Bears lost two of the games in Florida, including last year’s contest against the Dolphins, but won a game against the Steelers at Soldier Field in 2017.

    33 The Bears lost the coldest playoff game in team history in 1988, falling to Washington 20-17. 

    34 When the temperature is at 32 degrees or below at kick-off, the Bears are 46-48-1 in their history, according to Pro Football Reference.

    35 The Bears aren’t much better in the heat, going 30-33 when the temperature is above 75 degrees.

    36 The Bears have won in some wacky conditions however, including the infamous “Fog Bowl” in 1988 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Visibility dropped to 15 yards during the game, and the Bears won the contest.

    37 The Bears did lose a game in which the playing surface at the Polo Grounds in New York literally froze into a sheet of ice. The Giants ended up wearing sneakers during the game, beating the Bears thanks to their superior footing.

    38 The Bears were the first team in Super Bowl history to play the Big Game in a rain storm, but they didn’t fare very well, losing to the Colts. They did get to enjoy the sounds of a Prince performance, however. 

    39 Mike Ditka’s jersey retirement ceremony was naturally impacted by cold weather, with wind chills falling to 9 degrees below zero. The Bears did win the game against the Dallas Cowboys.

    40 The Bears won their coldest game ever against the Packers, beating Green Bay 20-17 when the temperature dropped to 2 degrees above zero. The game is the coldest in the history of Soldier Field.

    DA BEARS

    41 “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” was an iconic “Saturday Night Live” skit, but many don’t know that it was based on a real TV show: “The Sports Reporters,” which aired in Chicago in the 1980’s. Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk took the show’s premise and added drunken football fans to the mix, and a legendary sketch was born.

    42 Bill Swerski was named after a real person, too: Chicago broadcaster Chuck Swirsky, who is currently the radio play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls.

    43 Al Bundy of “Married With Children” fame sold his soul to the Devil in an episode of the show so he could play for the Bears. He led them to the Super Bowl, but was condemned to Hell before he could enjoy the fruits of his career.

    44 Soldier Field has been featured in several episodes of the NBC show “Chicago Fire,” including one episode that saw purple smoke billowing from the stadium.

    45 Quarterback Jay Cutler has had his own star turn, marrying reality star Kristin Cavallari and appearing on her TV show “Very Cavallari.”

    46 Brian Urlacher had very prominent flings with Paris Hilton and Jenny McCarthy, dating the latter for several months before separating in 2012.

    47 Ditka is an accomplished thespian, appearing alongside Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall in the 2005 comedy “Kicking and Screaming.”

    48 “The Super Bowl Shuffle” hit number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts after the Bears won the championship in 1986, and was actually nominated for a Grammy.

    49 William Perry became an icon after that Super Bowl win, appearing in an episode of “The A-Team,” taking a turn as a professional wrestler, and appearing in several episodes of “Celebrity Boxing.”

    50 “Brian’s Song” is still one of the most iconic sports movies of all-time, starring Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers and James Caan as Brian Piccolo.

    10 For The Record Books

    51 The Bears have 14 retired jerseys, the most of any NFL team. The team has stopped retiring numbers, with Mike Ditka’s number 89 the last to receive that honor.

    52 The Bears have 27 players that have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any team.

    53 The Bears set the NFL record for biggest shutout victory in 1940, beating Washington 73-0 in the NFL Championship Game.

    54 Devin Hester’s kickoff return touchdown to start Super Bowl XLI is the fastest touchdown ever scored in the game, and was the fastest score of any kind until the Seattle Seahawks registered a safety in their Super Bowl win over the Broncos.

    55 Hester’s touchdown broke the previous record for fastest score, held by the Patriots. That team scored a field goal 1:19 into Super Bowl XX against….the Bears.

    56 The Bears have the shortest punt return touchdown in NFL history, with Shaun Gayle scoring on a 5-yard return in a 1986 playoff game.

    57 The Bears have drafted 41 players from Notre Dame, the most of any school in the draft era.

    58 Matt Forte held the NFL single-season record for receptions by a running back with 102, which he accomplished in 2014, but that record was beaten by Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey last season.

    59 The Bears were the last team to have a player take the field without a helmet, as Dick Plasman did so in the final game of the 1940 season, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

    60 The Bears had the first ever 1,000 yard rusher in NFL history, as Beattie Feathers achieved the feat in 1934.

    Leaders And Legends

    61 Patrick Mannelly has the Bears’ records for most seasons with the team, with 16, and most games played, with 245.

    62 Steve “Mongo” McMichael has the record for most consecutive games played with the Bears, appearing in 191 straight games between 1981 and 1993.

    63 The team’s all-time leading scorer is kicker Robbie Gould, who scored 1,207 points as a member of the Bears.

    64 Richard Dent has the team’s career record for sacks, taking down quarterbacks on 124.5 different occasions in his career.

    65 Brian Urlacher has the team record for career tackles, racking up a staggering 1,354 of them.

    66 Jay Cutler has the team records for most passing yards (23,443) and touchdowns (154).

    67 Cutler does NOT have the team record for most passing yards in a single-season. That mark belongs to Erik Kramer, who threw for 3,838 yards in the 1995 season.

    68 Johnny Morris is the Bears’ all-time leader in receiving yards, with 5,059 career yards to his credit.

    69 The tallest players in Bears history, Doug Atkins, Marc Colombo, Dave Hale, and Jimmy Herndon, all stood 6-feet-8 inches tall. The shortest Bear, Pard Pearce, stood just 5-feet-5.

    70 The heaviest Bear of all time was Aaron Gibson, who weighed 375 pounds. The lightest was Chuck Dreesen, who checked in at 147 pounds.

    Sweetness

    71 Walter Payton played his college football at Jackson State, setting school records in touchdowns with 65 and single-season scores with 24.

    72 Payton only rushed for 679 yards in his first NFL season, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the league’s all-time leading rusher in the end, rushing for 16,726 yards.

    73 Payton holds a slew of Bears records, including rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and even receptions.

    74 Only 12 Bears players have rushed for 1,000 or more yards in a season. Payton not only leads that group with 10 such seasons, but he has the top eight single-season rushing performances in team history.

    75 Payton is the only Bears player to win the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award.

    76 Payton not only ran the ball well, but he could pass too, throwing for eight career touchdowns and 331 career passing yards.

    77 Payton has the Bears’ record for career starts, with 184.

    78 Payton does have the Bears’ record for fumbles with 86, but the second-place name on the list might surprise you: it’s Cutler, with 65.

    79 Payton generated his leg strength through legendary workouts, including runs up a hill that now bears his name on an Arlington Heights golf course.

    80 After Payton’s death, his family became outspoken advocates for organ donation, and the NFL’s Man of the Year Award was re-named in his honor.

    ‘We Are The Champions’

    81 The 1985 Bears’ iconic “46” defense was named after the jersey number of Doug Plank, but he wasn’t a member of the team that won the Super Bowl, having retired from the NFL after the 1982 season. 

    82 The Bears’ defense in 1985 ended up producing three Hall of Famers, and put up a point-differential of plus-258.

    83 Jim McMahon made plenty of waves in 1985, playing injured and throwing three touchdowns in the second half of a game against the Vikings. He also mooned reporters during preparations for the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

    84 The Bears went 15-1 during the 1985 regular season, with their only blemish coming in a loss to the Dolphins. That loss was appropriate, since the 1972 Dolphins remain the only undefeated club to win the championship.

    85 Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan nearly came to blows during that loss to the Dolphins, as Ditka wanted to make a strategic change on defense and Ryan refused.

    86 The 1985 Bears produced four NFL head coaches: Leslie Frazier, Mike Singletary, Ron Rivera, and Jeff Fisher (who was on injured reserve during the season). 

    87 The “Super Bowl Shuffle” had one noticeable Bear who was absent from the tune: Dan Hampton, who thought the song was too presumptuous and refused to participate.

    88 The Bears scored four rushing touchdowns in Super Bowl XX, with McMahon, Matt Suhey, and William Perry crossing the goal line. One player didn’t, and that was Walter Payton. Mike Ditka has said he “regrets not giving him that honor.”

    89 Richard Dent became the only Super Bowl MVP in Bears history when he won the prize by registering a sack and a half in the game.

    90 It took 25 years for the 1985 Bears to be honored at the White House. The Challenger explosion in 1986 postponed a planned appearance, but President Barack Obama invited the 1985 squad to the White House in 2011.

    The Rivalry

    91 The Bears and Packers have played in 198 games against one another, with the Packers winning 97 and the Bears taking 95 victories.

    92 The Bears and Packers have only met twice in the playoffs, with each team winning a game. The Bears won in 1941, and the Packers won in 2011.

    93 The Bears and Packers have made the playoffs in the same season just four times in history.

    94 The Bears and Packers have played their season openers against one another 27 times in history and have split the proceedings at 13 wins and one tie apiece.

    95 The Packers have the record for most consecutive wins in the rivalry, winning 10 straight games in the 1990’s.

    96 The Bears have won 19 division titles in their history. The Packers have won 18, falling one short of the Bears’ total.

    97 Jim McMahon went 12-1 in his NFL career against the Packers, including eight wins in nine tries as a member of the Bears.

    98 Walter Payton rushed for 2,484 yards and 19 touchdowns against the Packers, both records against the team. He went 17-7 in 24 career games against Green Bay.

    99 Only one Bears quarterback has thrown for four touchdowns in a game against the Packers, with Jack Concannon doing so in a 1970 game. Meanwhile, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers combined for six such performances against Chicago.

    100 The Bears and the NFL both got their famous monikers on the same day. The Staleys changed their name to the Bears on June 24, 1922, and the American Professional Football Association became the National Football League on the exact same day.

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