Five Things That Make the Packers-Bears Rivalry So Special

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears are set to renew the NFL’s oldest rivalry on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. These two teams first met on the football field back in 1921 when Warren G. Harding was president of the United States and the Bears were still called the Chicago Staleys.

The Packers and Bears have met more often than any two teams in NFL history with the Packers holding 98-94-6 edge all-time during the regular season and the two teams splitting their two postseason matchups.

Here is a look at five things that make the Packers-Bears rivalry so special:

1. Geography and Contrasts

The distance between Green Bay and Chicago is a mere 207.3 miles according to Google Maps which makes the trip about three hours by car if there’s not a lot of traffic.

The closeness between the two markets has meant that there is a battle for fans along the border between Illinois and Wisconsin and that the two teams have been in the same division every year since 1933 when the NFL first introduced the divisional format. The Packers and the Bears have played each other twice a year almost every year since 1925 with the strike-shortened season of 1982 being the only time the teams didn’t meet at all.

You also have the contrast between Chicago, the largest city in the Midwest, and Green Bay, the smallest city to have a major league sports team in North America.

2. Competitive Fire

The Packers and Bears are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history. The Packers have won 13 NFL titles including four Super Bowls, more than any other team in the league. The Bears have won nine which gives them the second most.

The Packers and Bears have both won 19 division titles in their history with Chicago winning their first in 1933 and their last in 2018. The Packers first won a division crown in 1936 and won the NFC North last season. A win over the Bears this Sunday would make Green Bay the prohibitive favorite to win their 20th division title and break this tie.

While the rivalry has usually been intense but respectful, there was a time in the 1980s that the tensions between Forrest Gregg’s Packers and Mike Ditka’s Bears crossed the line, but that only added to the intensity of the rivalry.

3. Incredible Founders and Coaches

It’s tough to find two more celebrated franchise founders than Chicago’s George Halas and Green Bay’s Curley Lambeau. Heck, Halas was one of the founders of the entire league back in 1920 while Lambeau helped found the Packers in 1919 and they joined the NFL in 1921. Halas coached the Bears to eight NFL championships while Lambeau coached the Packers to six titles.

The Packers of course later had the legendary Vince Lombardi who led them to five NFL titles in seven years including wins in the first two Super Bowls. The Packers also won three straight NFL titles from 1965-1967.

The Bears later dominated the NFC Central Division in the mid-to-late 1980s under Mike Ditka and won one Super Bowl after the 1985 season.

Amazingly enough, while the Bears and Packers were rivals on the field, off the field Halas and Lambeau helped each other and had a great deal of respect for one another. Halas even helped the Packers raise money a few times when they needed it to save the franchise.

4. The Hall of Famers

The Packers have 25 primary players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, second only to the Bears who have 30.

Names like Bronko Nagurski, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Sid Luckman, Red Grange and Mike Singletary are prominent Bears stars while the Packers have Don Hutson, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Brett Favre, James Lofton, Reggie White and Herb Adderley.

These players have created so many memorable moments for fans of both franchises.

5. The Memorable Games

If you include playoffs, the Packers and Bears have met a total of 200 times not including preseason. There have been so many memorable games played between these two franchises.

From a Packers standpoint, some of the classics include:

1. Don Hutson’s first NFL touchdown in a 7-0 Packers win over the Bears on September 22, 1935. It was the first of a record-setting 99 career touchdown passes for “The Alabama Antelope.”

2. Vince Lombardi’s first win as Packers head coach as the Pack beat the Bears 9-6, September 27, 1959. The victory matched the Packers win total for all of the previous season and got the Lombardi Era off to a good start.

3. Kicker Chester Marcol scoring his only career NFL touchdown by returning his own blocked field goal attempt in overtime as the Packers beat the Bears 12-6 on September 7, 1980.

4. “The Instant Replay Game” which saw the Pack end an eight-game losing streak to the Bears on Don Majkowski’s fourth down touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe in the final minute to give the Packers a 14-13 win over the Bears. The play was originally nullified by a penalty but it was overturned on replay and the Packers eked out the win.

5. Brett Favre’s 99-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brooks as part of Green Bay’s 27-24 win over the Bears on Monday Night Football, September 11, 1995.

6. Favre threw five touchdown passes against the Bears despite playing with an injured ankle as the Packers down Chicago 35-28 on November 12, 1995.

7. B.J. Raji’s interception return for a touchdown helped clinch the Packers win in Chicago in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, 21-14 on January 23, 2011.

8. Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb for a 48-yard touchdown pass in the final minute with the division title and a playoff berth on the line. Both Rodgers and Cobb had just returned to the lineup after missing time due to injuries. The game-winning touchdown came on 4th-and-8 with 38 seconds left back on December 29, 2013.

9. Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in the first half as the Packers led 42-0 at the break en route to a 55-14 win. The six first half TD passes tied a record set by Daryle Lamonica of the Raiders back in 1969. The touchdown passes went to Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless, Jordy Nelson (two), Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb on November 9, 2014.

10. The Packers overcame a 20-0 halftime deficit and an injury to Rodgers who returned in the third quarter to lead the Packers to a 24-23 comeback win in the 2018 season opener on September 9. Rodgers found Cobb on a 75-yard scoring strike to win the game after throwing earlier touchdowns to Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams.

There’s nothing quite like the Packers and the Bears rivalry. That’s the reason the NFL chose it to kickoff their 100th anniversary season in 2019. This rivalry has seen it all with plenty more exciting matchups still to come.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (33)

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Archie's picture

November 28, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Fun read. Thanks.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Glad you enjoyed it, Archie. Thanks for commenting.

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porupack's picture

November 28, 2020 at 01:47 pm

Nice Gil. What other rivalry would come anywhere close? Minnepo and.....uh...., No. Cleveland/Baltimore, brown ravens, uh, colts...and the cardinals of St. louis/Arizo...all betrayed their fans and cities. The only other teams worthy of such legacy rivalry could be steelers, 49ers, giants....but they don't have a rival as equals.

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porupack's picture

November 28, 2020 at 01:47 pm

Nice Gil. What other rivalry would come anywhere close? Minnepo and.....uh...., No. Cleveland/Baltimore, brown ravens, uh, colts...and the cardinals of St. louis/Arizo...all betrayed their fans and cities. The only other teams worthy of such legacy rivalry could be steelers, 49ers, giants....but they don't have a rival as equals.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:36 pm

Thanks for commenting porupack. I agree, this is the ultimate rivalry if you have to pick just one in the NFL's history. So glad you enjoyed the article.

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splitpea1's picture

November 28, 2020 at 02:06 pm

Speaking of the 2010 NGCCG, the play I remember most is AR's shoestring tackle of Urlacher after that interception. If he doesn't hustle and make that tackle, Urlacher is likely going to the house--and the whole complexion of the game changes. It's sort of like a baseball pitcher helping his own cause with a great fielding play or timely hit.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:45 pm

That was a huge play and it's sometimes overlooked. How much better can it get? Game-saving tackle made by the QB against your biggest rival and it sends your team to the Super Bowl. Thanks for the comment, splitpea1.

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Cheesey51's picture

November 28, 2020 at 02:40 pm

Memories growing up out east and transplanting to WI: Overall, It doesn't matter their records, mostly clean ,hard fought ,"refs let'em play"/edge of seat games. The best rivarly in the NFL, better than KC/Oakland games.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:47 pm

Absolutely classic. KC-Oakland was great in the late 60s and early 70s when they were battling for AFL/AFC supremacy. This rivalry has lasted longer and involves more HOFers than any other. Thanks for the comment, Cheesey51.

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Swisch's picture

November 28, 2020 at 04:12 pm

For better or worse, I am the only person in human history to root for the Packers and the Bears.
However, I always put the Packers first!
Going to high school in Wheaton, Illinois (the same one as Red Grange, who visited while I was there in 1978), both the Packers and the Bears were lousy -- so I mostly hated on the Vikings, with the exasperatingly slippery Fran Tarkenton, as well as the Cowboys.
In the early 1980s was my first real test of Packers loyalty when I went to Northwestern University on a golf caddy scholarship with a bunch of guys from blue-collar backgrounds in and around Chicago. I was all alone in being teased with gusto when Vince Evans at quarterback, and the great Walter Payton, helped the Bears to thump the Packers 61-7.
After college, the testing heightened as a reporter at a couple of small suburban newspapers west of Chicago, and the Bears becoming a dominant team in the NFL -- with a couple of lowlights being when hefty defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry not only ran for a touchdown in one game, but then caught a pass for a touchdown in the second meeting of the year. I had one ally in the newsroom in Naperville for some support.
Still, I gladly admit to grandly enjoying the Bears do the "Super Bowl Shuffle" all the way to a victory in the Super Bowl, with huge wins along the way over the Vikings, Cowboys and 49ers.
What became especially hard was when the Packers became not only dismal in performance but dirty in sportsmanship -- with I think more than one infamous incident by the Packers, the most notable being a defender acting like a despised pro wrestler in slamming Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to the ground on his injured shoulder.
In 1989, I was actually visiting my late aunt and her family in Wauwatosa when I celebrated the winning pass from Don Majkowski to Sterling Sharpe. By the way, the Pack beat the eventual Super-Bowl champs in the 49ers that season, but even at 10-6 overall we missed the playoffs.
Thanks be to God for Brett Favre and Reggie White, things finally started going well for the Packers in the early 1990s, with one of the many memorable games being in the rain on Monday Night Football, Halloween of 1994, that was a win against the Bears.
In 2010, we beat the Bears in the last game of the regular season just to make the playoffs, then faced them a few weeks later in the NFC Championship. Besides the amazing shoestring tackle in the open field by Aaron Rodgers (after his deflating interception at the goal line) against a rambling Brian Urlacher (as fortunately remembered by a fan in a comment above), and the remarkable Raji interception for a touchdown for our side, I fondly recall Sam Shields having a big pick to seal the game on the frigid field to secure our trip to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps the best example of the overall excellence of Randall Cobb in big situations was his 4th-down catch for a winning touchdown against the Bears to put us in the playoffs in the season Rodgers came back from a broken collar bone.
Finally, the big comeback against the Bears in the season opener a couple of years ago was a great illustration of what can happen when Rodgers gets the ball out of his hands quickly -- in this case by necessity due to a bum leg.
As a huge fan of Rodgers going back even to his growing pains in his first full season as a starter, I've been hard on him at times in recent years for not taking more of the shorter throws that move the chains.
As still a huge fan, I like most of what he's doing this season in his outstanding output of MVP proportions , but still wonder if he may have some room for this kind of improvement in his decisions.
I do like the long throws a lot, and I also like him running at times (carefully) for first downs, including off of rollouts.
It's in the right mix of these things with patient selectiveness -- especially in difficult situations such as the Buccaneers game this season when things go astray -- that Rodgers may lead us to a Super Bowl as early as this season!
The ability to be disciplined -- while still going for the big score at times -- is exceedingly difficult. Being patient with a young team -- and calmly encouraging -- when mistakes are made, the momentum turns, and panic is setting in, is extremely demanding.
I'm confident that our great quarterback is up to the challenge for a rousing and rewarding finish as a Packer over the next couple of years or more.
This Sunday night against a hungry Bears team with a mauling defense may be a good test along the way.
Please excuse the length. I'm hoping that on a leisurely Saturday night/Sunday morning the ramblings of an old-timer may be more acceptable, and my fellow fans more forgiving.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:50 pm

Thanks for sharing your memories Swisch. I certainly remember that horrible 61-7 debacle on Pearl Harbor Day in 1980. The same year as the Marcol TD. I remember the 70s well when both teams were mediocre at best but then Walter Payton came and the Bears got better.

Looking forward to the next chapter in this storied rivalry. Thanks for the comment.

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Savage57's picture

November 29, 2020 at 07:04 am

Were you what was referred to as an Evans Scholar, named for Chick Evans and funded by the Western Open?

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Swisch's picture

November 29, 2020 at 10:02 am

Hi Savage57. Yes, I was fortunate enough to be selected as an Evans Scholar, named after the 1916 winner of the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur, Chick Evans -- who as an amateur, directed some of the money he would have earned to start a scholarship program for golf caddies who were in financial need to pay for college.
Not only is there a house for Evans Scholars at Northwestern, but at Wisconsin and Marquette, plus many other colleges (mostly in the Midwest).

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PatrickGB's picture

November 29, 2020 at 08:36 am

Thanks for sharing your memories! Memories are what make us fans.

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Fans do have shared memories and moments. I love hearing people share theirs. Thanks for the comment, PatrickGB.

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Lphill's picture

November 28, 2020 at 04:49 pm

My first game at Lambeau was Packers , Bears Brian Urlacher broke his wrist, and the Packers won with a late TD to Greg Jennings I think.

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:51 pm

Sweet memory. Thanks for sharing Lphill.

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mnbadger's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:44 pm

Great article. I'll offer up the KC Chiefs vs OAKLAND Raiders from the late sixties to the early 80s as a possible comparison for best rivalry. Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, Otis Taylor, Buck Buchanan, Ed Podalak, Jan Stenerud, George Blanda, Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch, Fred Bilitnekoff, Phil Villipiano, Dave Casper, Ray Guy, etc. John Madden and Hank Stram. Too many to name them all but as a young boy, those were the games I looked for every year. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:53 pm

That was intense and great but probably lasted about 7-8 years at its height. This rivalry (GB-Chi) has had more chapters with different groups of talented players but yes, Chiefs-Raiders was a very good one. Thanks for the comment, mnbadger, always good to hear from you.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 10:24 pm

The rivalry currently stands at 99 - 95 - 6. If your going to write about it maybe a fact check is in order.

In addition, in the nearly 30 yrs the Packers have been blessed with Favre and Rodger they have made up nearly 30 games in the Win column. The bears held a commanding 23 game edge in the rivalry at the time before Favre became the starter. 27 win turnaround in about 28 yrs is pretty impressive.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 28, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Apparently you cannot read far enough to notice that Mr. Martin referenced two additional games further down in his article. Either that, or you are too daft to understand that the initial record reference included only regular season games.

Perhaps you should have the reading comprehension needed to know what you are talking about before criticizing someone's writing.

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Stroh's picture

November 29, 2020 at 08:45 am

Well then those 2 games should have been counted in what he, himself said was the All Time series record. Why would you exclude any games once you've stated All Time?!

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 29, 2020 at 09:30 am

"Why would you exclude any games once you've stated All Time?!"

Wrong question. You should be asking yourself why you feel it necessary to prop up your fragile ego by criticizing a professional writer over such a trivial issue. Especially when you are obviously incorrect. All time records are ALWAYS based on regular season games.

Perhaps you should concentrate on positive self-esteem methods to improve your life.

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fastmoving's picture

November 29, 2020 at 03:27 am

Fact checking can bring you only so far if the reader cannot read...

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Stroh I separated the regular season and postseason but I did spell it out. Yes, the Packers have made up a lot of ground since Favre arrived in 1992 and it's been great to see. Always sweet to beat the Bears. Thanks for commenting.

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egbertsouse's picture

November 29, 2020 at 07:37 am

A very “meh” rivalry in my opinion. There were some good games back in the olden days but mostly it has been Packers good/Bears lame or Bears good/Packers lame or both teams lame. Of course, I grew up in Wisconsin and now live in MN so I am biased but GB/ Vikings is the real rivalry.

Now we know that both Bears fans and Vikings fans are totally obnoxious and come flooding across the borders to WI every weekend like a plague of locusts but at least the rich Chicagoans spend some money here. The tight-fisted Minnesotans bring sack lunches and their own horrible beer.

And, Bears fans have nothing as annoying as that stupid horn and that goofy SKOL chant, which appears to be Norwegian for “we wish we could win something.”

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Guam's picture

November 29, 2020 at 08:13 am

I think the Bears/Packers rivalry is a more respectful rivalry than the Vikings/Packers, but I wouldn't call it "meh". After all, the Bears have won nine championships which is something to respect. The Vikings have won zero championships and they deserve our scorn for winning nothing.

I do agree that the Vikings/Packers games have carried more juice recently and that creates stronger feelings, but I still love watching the Packers beat da Bears.

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:39 pm

They are both great rivalries and each have their advantages. Vikings have had more juice lately because they've been consistently better in recent years. Heck, if the Packers and Bears both came into the game 0-10 we'd still want to crush them. Same with the Vikings. Thanks for the comment, Guam.

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mnbadger's picture

November 29, 2020 at 10:49 am

As long as we're piling on Minnesota fans, let's not forget about the goofers. Their big cheer has the student body spelling out the name of the state. I did some research trying to find the origin of this simple mindedness. I found out that the graduate students started the cheer to teach undergrads correct spelling! Look it up! Bottom line, 'queens and bear cubs suck. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:40 pm

LOL. Love it, mnbadger.

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:36 pm

That horn drives me crazy, too. I love the Vikings rivalry as well and I grew up with a sibling who is a Vikings fan so I know it only too well. Thanks for commenting, egbertsouse.

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Slim11's picture

November 29, 2020 at 09:20 am

While growing up in Virginia, and becoming a Packers' fan thanks to my grandfather, I read a story about new parents in Green Bay. They knew their children were off to a good start in life when the child's first words were "damn Bears!"

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GilMartin's picture

November 29, 2020 at 12:37 pm

I love it. You can always count on Packers fans to teach their children well. Thanks for the comment, Slim11.

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