As we prepare for the Chicago Bears’ season opener against the Green Bay Packers, we are providing fans with a list of 100 interesting facts, records and tidbits to help you get in the football mood.
We are continuing that list today with 10 facts we’re nicknaming “Bears in the Record Books,” a look back at some of the remarkable feats achieved by Bears players over the first 100 years of the iconic franchise.
Hope you like math
Fans walking into Soldier Field are greeted by a lot of sights and sounds, but one of the more intriguing installations is the collection of 14 jersey numbers that the team has retired throughout its history, a number unmatched in the NFL.
No team has retired more numbers than the Chicago Bears, and they’ve retired so many in fact that they are no longer going to honor players with jersey retirements. Mike Ditka was the last Bears player to receive the honor when his number 89 jersey was taken out of circulation in 2013.
Their own wing of the Hall of Fame
The Bears, understandably, have a huge number of Hall of Fame players in their history, and according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the team has 27 players enshrined in Canton whose primary career contributions came with the squad.
That 27 number is an NFL record, and doesn’t include six other players who spent at least part of their career with the Bears.
The team had three honorees in the charter class of 1963, including team founder George Halas, Red Grange, and Bronko Nagurski, and their most recent inductee was Brian Urlacher, who was honored in 2018.
Excuse me, the score was WHAT?
The Bears have had some big losses in their history (a 52-0 drubbing at the hands of the Colts in 1964 is their worst-ever loss), but none were as amazing as their triumph over the Washington Redskins in a Dec. 1940 contest.
That game, which just so happened to be the NFL Championship game, saw the Bears clobber the Redskins by a score of 73-0, the most lopsided win not just in the history of the Bears, but in the history of the entire National Football League.
Devin Hester, you ARE ridiculous!
Bears return ace Devin Hester thrilled the world when he returned the opening kick-off of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown, and in the process he made some NFL history.
Hester’s touchdown run took a total of 14 seconds to complete, making it the fastest scoring play in the history of the Super Bowl. The record would stand for nine years, but was broken when the Seattle Seahawks registered a safety in the first 12 seconds of Super Bowl 50.
But wait, there’s more
Ironically, Hester did Bears fans a favor, because he broke a record for fastest Super Bowl score that had actually been set against the Bears all the way back in 1986.
When the Bears beat the pants off the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, the Patriots had actually held the lead briefly in the game. Just 1:19 into the contest the Patriots kicked a field goal against the Bears, and until 2007 that had been the fastest scoring play in the history of the big game.
Speaking of weird returns
According to the Pro Football Almanac, the Bears also hold a record that can only be described as being on the strange side.
That’s because the record is for the shortest punt return touchdown in NFL history. During the team’s iconic Super Bowl-winning season, the Bears played the New York Giants in the NFC semifinals at a cold and blustery Soldier Field. During the first quarter, Giants punter Sean Landeta stood in the back of the end zone and hit a punt, only to watch the wind push the ball all the way back to the 5-yard line in front of him.
Bears star Shaun Gayle picked up the ball and returned it five yards for a touchdown, setting an NFL record and helping the Bears to advance to the NFC title game.
The luck of the Irish
The Bears have drafted hundreds of players during their franchise’s history, but no school has provided more players for the team than Notre Dame.
The Bears have drafted a total of 41 players from South Bend, their highest-mark from any school in the nation. Other schools like Northwestern and Illinois have also been instrumental in the formation of the team over the years, but no institution has had a more direct impact on the team’s fortunes than Notre Dame.
Matt Forte’s brief hold of an NFL record
While Walter Payton rewrote the record books as a member of the Bears, Matt Forte held an NFL record of his own, albeit for a brief time.
In 2014, Forte caught 102 passes for 808 yards and four touchdowns. That reception total was the best single-season mark for a running back in NFL history, and illustrated Forte’s commitment to being a running back that could also catch the football.
Unfortunately for Forte, his record at the top was short-lived, as Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey eclipsed that total last season.
In a story full of firsts, here is a last
The Bears have set plenty of records in their history, but there is one noteworthy instance in which the team has come in last, and that was enough to etch their name into the record books.
Most football fans are aware that players used to take the field wearing leather helmets, but they weren’t mandatory in the early days of the league. In fact, the last player to take the field without head protection did so in that 1940 NFL Championship Game that saw the Bears demolish the Redskins.
Dick Plasman holds the distinction as being the last player in NFL history to suit up and play a game without a helmet, doing so in that contest. Helmets became mandatory in the following year.
One more iconic number
In the NFL today, a running back is considered pretty accomplished if he rushes for 1,000 yards in a season, and the player that set that benchmark for excellence was actually a member of the Chicago Bears.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Beattie Feathers became the first man in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards when he ascended that plateau during the 1934 NFL season.
For more Bears facts:
Part 1: The Bear Necessities: 10 basic facts about the team, and the players now patrolling Soldier Field.
Part 2: In The Beginning: 10 facts about the team’s founding, original owner George Halas, and the first big star the team was able to sign in the 1920s.
Part 3: There's No Place Like Home: 10 facts about the places where the Bears have played football.
Part 4: Weathering the Storms: 10 facts about the Bears' relationship with Mother Nature.
Part 5: DA BEARS: 10 facts about the Bears through the eyes of American pop culture.