In my first season the Chicago Bears roster was like a cast from a Hollywood movie. Payton, McMahon, Perry, Dent, Fencik and Singletary formed the nucleus of a still formidable Chicago team. Our preparations, always intense under Coach Forrest Gregg, took on extra purpose when the Bears were up next.
The home game against the Bears on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1989 will always stand out as one of the greatest games I had the good fortune to play. That was the year I was named starting quarterback. We were on a pretty good roll having already won a big game against New Orleans. I had a little extra incentive for the Bears game; Chicago’s quarterback was Jim Harbaugh, a first-round draft pick out of Michigan who came into the league the same year as me. I had dropped all the way to the 10th round, so I really wanted to do my best.
On the very first drive, we scored on my 24-yard pass to Clint Didier to take an early 7-0 lead. Too bad the rest of the game wasn’t like our first possession as it lapsed into a defensive struggle. Neither offensive unit could sustain any sort of momentum with the kind of hitting that was being delivered by both defenses. The Bears managed to score one touchdown, a 2-yard run by Brad Muster, and a couple of Kevin Butler field goals to go up 13-7.
Late into the fourth quarter we started a drive and things were really clicking. We were looking good up until Bears’ linebacker Ron Rivera, now a coach for Chicago, stepped in front of one of my passes for an interception. My head must have been hanging awfully low because when I came off the field I felt just horrible. Head Coach Lindy Infante thought otherwise. He got right up in my grill and said, “Get your head up. We still need you to win this game for us.”
Our defense picked me up by holding the Bears to just a three-and-out. When we got the ball back we were deep in our own territory – 75 yards to the Bears end zone, and four minutes to go. I was able to find my receivers for five completions that chewed up a lot of yards and left us knocking on the door. On third and goal, as I dropped back to pass, the Bears forced a fumble. Lucky for me, my center, Blair Bush, saved me from being the goat again when he fell on the ball. Now we were faced with a fourth and goal from the Bears’ 14-yard line.
It’s strange how calm we were in the huddle waiting for the play to come in. As I looked around I told my teammates that it was time for somebody to step up. Sterling Sharpe, my All Pro wide receiver, had caught just one pass all day, but he said he was ready to be the man. When the play came in from the sideline I really questioned it; Sterling was to run a six-yard slant left that required him to bull the last few yards into the end zone. As soon as the ball was snapped, I knew the play wouldn't work. Slants don't typically work against a zone defense. I started rolling right to buy my receivers some time to get open. Just as I was about to run out of real estate, Sterling, who had turned heel and streaked all the way back across the end zone, found a little seam. I snuck the ball to him and the comeback was complete. We had driven 75 yards to tie the game at 13-13, but all the way across the field a ref had dropped a flag.
I kind of groaned to myself and hoped it wasn’t a holding call. I approached Referee Tom Dooley to see what was up. He told me – and the Lambeau Field crowd – that I had crossed the line of scrimmage. The penalty was under review by Bill Parkinson, the official in the replay booth upstairs. For four long minutes everyone in the stadium stood and waited. At one point, Mike Singletary of the Bears came up to me to say that I had played a good game, but too bad that I had crossed the line. I usually had a pretty good sense of where the line of scrimmage was. I knew I had come close, but I was positive that I had stayed behind it.
Finally, Tom Dooley was ready to make the call: All I heard was “after further review we have a reversal …” and then the place erupted with the kind of noise I had never heard in my life. I gave Mike Singletary a little wink and celebrated all the way to the sideline. Chris Jacke booted the ball for the go-ahead PAT, and a few seconds later the victory was ours. After four years, and eight straight losses, we had finally beaten the mighty Bears.
That game helped defined me as a Green Bay Packer. Even 16 years later, people still tell me where they were the day we beat the Bears in what's now known as the “Instant Replay Game.”