100th Season Opener: Packers-Bears renew rivalry at Lambeau Sunday
Nary a day goes by that Chester Marcol isn’t asked about the Packers-Bears game that ranks as one of the greatest finishes in the storied history of the Green Bay franchise.
Overtime. 1980 season opener at Lambeau Field. Score tied 6-6.
A sell-out crowd of 54,381 was poised for victory, as the Green Bay offense’s drive stalled and Marcol lined up for an chip-shot 25-yard, game-winning field goal.
“Well, it sure didn’t turn out that way,” said Lynn Dickey, former Packers quarterback. “It was a shocking, almost unbelievable play. . . with Chester carrying that football like a loaf of bread.”
Dickey didn’t learn until reading the newspaper the next day that Chicago lineman Alan Page told his teammates as they lined up to be ready to recover the football—because he was going to block the kick.
That prophesy came true, but on this day, the football literally bounced Green Bay’s way.
Page penetrated up the middle and Marcol’s kick blasted into his face mask and bounced straight back to Marcol, who snared the ball cleanly in midair and ran untouched 25 yards around left end into the end zone. Game over.
“It was ‘bang, bang’ in my hands,” Marcol said. “Lucky I was a goalie in soccer, so my hands were pretty good. After I caught it, I went around the corner and no one was there. Jim Gueno made a block and I had clear sailing. It happened so quick, I just did it. There wasn’t time to think—it was all athletic instinct.”
It’s a game that lives on in Packers lore, and Marcol never tires in discussing the details.
“It was a special moment, and it gets brought up every day,” said Marcol, who resides in the Green Bay area. “And I think it’s up to two million fans that tell me they were sitting in the front row of that game. Kind of like the Ice Bowl.
“I always seemed to have good games against Chicago. That’s why there was a bounty on me in the Bears locker room. But that finish is a great memory of the rivalry.”
That rivalry is renewed Sunday evening at Lambeau Field to open the 2018 regular season for both teams.
After 196 games, Green Bay leads the all-time series 96-94-6, including a 1-1 record in post-season play.
Green Bay was 4-4 last season at Lambeau Field and must re-establish its home-field advantage to take the division crown from Minnesota. Former Chicago head coach Mike Ditka said the NFC North winner must go 4-2 in division play.
“I see a very competitive division, with the Packers and Vikings as the teams to beat,” Ditka said. “Aaron Rodgers is the best in the businesses and raises the level of play of his teammates. Minnesota is very solid and has a new quarterback. Detroit is hard to figure out, but with Matthew Stafford they are dangerous and Chicago will be better this season. I’d rather have them face the Packers at Lambeau in September—as opposed to December.
“When I played, it was great to play the Packers early in the season—it added to the rivalry to open up against your rival. It’s a great way to kick off the season with these two franchises with all their history and tradition. They’re both 0-0 and I anticipate a close, hard-fought game.”
NFL Week 1 Picks
Packers 27, Bears 20
Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham are the difference-makers in this one. With Vikings invading Lambeau Field next weekend, Green Bay has to take care of business against Bears. Which defense will step up: Pettine’s or Fangio’s with Khalil Mack?