The ghosts of Red Grange, Ernie Nevers, George McAfee and Jim Thorpe moved over in football's Valhalla yesterday to make room for a mercurial rookie from Kansas, who tore up the record book and the sodden turf of Wrigley Field with one of the most spectacular demonstrations of ball carrying in the history of the sport.
Leading a Chicago Bear team that was hellbent on revenge for an opening day humiliation, Gale Sayers staked out squatter's rights on the San Francisco end zone, scoring six touchdowns and contributing 36 points to a 61-20 triumph by which the Bears preserved a mathematical chance of bringing a championship playoff birth to the north side on Jan. 2.
Gale Starts Early
Operating on a field made slick by intermittent showers, and considered more suited to San Francisco's heavy power backs than his twinkle-toed ballet technique, Gallopin' Gale raced 80 yards with a screen pass for the Bears' first touchdown in the third minute of play.
He returned a punt 85 yards in the fourth period, charged 50 yards on a pitchout in the fourth minute of the third quarter, and had other touchdowns of 21 yards, 7 yards and one foot. None was routine. All were spectacular, including the one from one foot out on which he landed on his head with his feet straight up in the air. He inscribed his name in the National league record book with that of Nevers and Dub Jones, an old Cleveland Brown, the only other players who had ever scored six touchdowns in one league contest.
Bears Were Victims
Nevers and Jones, incidentally, did it against the Bears, Nevers on Thanksgiving Day in 1929 in Comiskey Park, where he scored all 40 points in a 40-6 Chicago Cardinal victory, and Jones in Cleveland in 1951.
The six touchdowns gave Sayers a total of 21, one more than Jimmy Brown of Cleveland, who was held scoreless in Los Angeles yesterday, and establishes a new National league record for a season.
Sayers carried the ball only nine times from scrimmage and scored on four. He ran up an overall yardage of 336 yards113 by rushing, 89 on two pass receptions and 134 on punt returns.
Sayers' performance, ranking as it did with nothing most of the 46,278 had ever seen, was in keeping with the rest of the entertainment which featured long runs, long passes and prolonged cheers, eventually, for every Bear in the park.
Down to the Wire
The victory was the Bears' ninth and, coupled with Green Bay's triumph over Baltimore, boiled the western division race down to a dog fight in its final phase next weekend.
A Ram victory over Baltimore in Los Angeles, a 49er triumph over the Packers in San Francisco and another Bear conquest over the Vikings in Wrigley Field would stretch the season for the Chicagoans into a divisional playoff in Green Bay the day after Christmas.
To round out the winning total, the largest ever piled up by a Bear team in a regularly scheduled contest, Mike Ditka made a spectacular one-handed catch on a 29-yard pass for a touchdown; Rookie Jimmy Jones, the receiver on sensational passes of 54 and 51 yards, scored on an 8-yard toss; and John Arnett, who had set up Sayers' second touchdown with a 77-yard kickoff return in the second period, plunged 2 yards off tackle in the fourth period.
Halas Has the Answer
In the final analysis, it was another of the increasingly frequent triumphs o f71-year-old George Halas, the venerable maestro of strategy and psychology, over a Johnny-com-lately in the coaching business.
When the sodden condition of the field watered down pre-game odds on the Bears in deference to the 49ers' bigger and less agile running backs, Halas stripped the rubber cleats off his minions and replaced them with a nylon product which is longer and more penetrating on soft underfooting.
Next, he tossed nothing at the 49ers, offensively or defensively, that they had not seen before, either in that 52-24 fiasco in San Francisco, or in the truckload of movies clubs exchange these days.
Stayed with Old Stuff
He stayed with the old stuff and the old stuff was unassailable. Blocking was superb. Sayers threw the block that got Arnett off on his 77-yard kickoff return. Jones, Ditka and Ronnie Bull threw the blocks on Sayers' 80-yard touchdown run with the pass after Mike Pyle, Jim Cadile and Bob Wetoska had sprung him loose.
Even little Johnny Morris, who gathered in a 58-yard pass to set up Jones' touchdown, was launching his watchfob physique at burly opponents who could have put him in their pockets to clear the way for ball carriers.
Dave Parks, who caught nine of quarterback John Brodie's 17 completions, got San Francisco's first touchdown in the second period on a 9-yard pass that wound up a 10-play, 78-yard advance. It made the score 13-7.
49ers Cut Margin
John David Crow, the old Cardinal, cut the Bears' margin to a touchdown again later in the period when he took a short pass from Brodie on the 10-yard line and bowled over Rosey Taylor.
A low pass from center on the extra point attempt snapped Tommy Davis' string of 234 conversions, adding another record to the unusual afternoon. It was the first time Davis, a former Louisiana State star, had missed since he came into the league in 1959.
He started another string in the fourth quarter when halfback Dave Kopay wound up an 80-yard march by cracking into a traffic jam at tackle and staggering around the pile into the end zone from the 2-yard line.
Although passes were dropped on both quarterbacks, especially early in the game, because of the slippery condition of the ball, there were, surprisingly enough, only three fumbles in the entire game. The Bears had one, the 49ers two, and in no instances did the ball change hands.
Bear fumbles undoubtedly were cut down from last week's hot-potato ratio in Baltimore by special exercises the last week for Bukich and centers Mike Pyle and Roger Leclerc, who were held "after school" every day by Halas to rehearse snaps.
San Francisco showed only flashes of the offensive might that brought it the league lead in 13 statistical departments. Its highly touted running attack gained only 58 yards. Brodie completed 19-of-37 passes and George Mira, who finally relieved the golfing quarterback, connected on 4-of-7.
The fact that the Bears' famous rushers were unable to trap either passer for losses was a tribute to the 49ers' offensive line, a unit the Bears fervently hope will be at its best next week against Green Bay.
Bull Completes Pass
Bukich, meanwhile, was not trapped for a loss on pass attempts, either, and Bull, who substituted for Sayers on a pass off a sweep, completed his only attempt for 54 yards to Jones.
There were four touchdowns scoredtwo apiecein the last 5½ minutes of the first half in this gridiron rodeo and three times Bukich took the Bears from the kickoff to a touchdown. Two were uninterrupted marches of 66 and 76 yards. The other one took only a 21-yard sprint by Sayers after Arnett had carried the kick back three-fourths of the length of the field. Two Bear touchdowns were set up by the only interceptions of the day.
Brodie had his moments, too. He hung together scoring marches after kickoffs on two occasions. Once he took the 49ers 61 yards to a touchdown and the other time they went 80.
Although I t took some time to establish it beyond a doubt, Bears supremacy was evident early. Bukich started out by picking on the left side of the 49ers' secondary, where Jimmy Johnson, Elbert Kimbrough and Dave Wilcox were charged with major responsibilities.
Johnson and Kimbrough were the victims on Sayers' 80-yard touchdown pass. Ditka got behind Johnson for his score. Johnson had a shot at Sayers when the Comet went racing to the corner off a triple-left formation for his second touchdown. He lunged at Sayers and got a hand on him at the three, but Sayers leaped over the tackle and went flying through the air to slide through the mud into the end zone.
Races through Hole
Johnny Morris belted the left linebacker, Ditka took 285-pound Roland Lakes out, Bob Wetoska took 267-pound Charlie Krueger in and Bull raced through the hole on the 49ers' left side to police the route on Sayers' fourth touchdown, a 50-yard charge early in the third period.
After that, it was largely a matter of how often Halas turned Sayers loose. At times in the fourth quarter, the 46,278 fans attempted to assist Halas, but the patriarch of all pro football merely listened to their entreaties of "We want Sayers" and shot a glance a the scoreboard. It was difficult to tell which he enjoyed more, the Green Bay score there or the plea for Gallopin' Gale.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times