Payton rescues a sorry show

SportsFootballChicago BearsForrest GreggRadio IndustryMike DitkaDeath

Walter Payton could have been a great fighter, too. Fortunately for theBears, he reminded everyone Sunday that it still takes great players to winfootball games.

Payton`s 27-yard touchdown run with 10:31 to play beat the Green BayPackers 16-10 and kept the Bears undefeated.

It was their closest call of the season, and they had to call on Paytonto pull it out. He obliged with 192 yards on 28 carries in a performance that awed his teammates and kept 55,343 fans in Lambeau Field from thinking theywere watching pro wrestling.

"I thought Payton`s exhibition was maybe as good as I`ve ever seen a guy with a football under his arm play," said coach Mike Ditka.

Not even William "the Refrigerator" Perry could upstage Payton on a day when Perry caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Jim McMahon to put the Bears ahead 7-3 in the first half.

It was Payton who told Perry where to line up before the defensive tackle put his 308 pounds into slow motion toward the flat.

"I got too close to the line, and Walter told me to step back a half step," said Perry. "I had to keep a straight face when I got on the line."

Perry`s touchdown forced many of the most ardent Packer backers to crack smiles. Only two weeks ago, Perry had burst onto the national scene against the Packers on Monday night television by blasting Green Bay linebacker George Cumby into the end zone in a 23-7 Bears' victory.

This time, Cumby again was victimized by Perry, who became the P-formation-with-man-in-motion--yet another spinoff from the T-formation playbook popularized by the late George Halas.

"We ran against that same play in practice," said disappointed Packers` coach Forrest Gregg.

"They saw him coming and got out of the way," said Ditka.

They saw Payton coming, too, and could do nothing about it. The 192 yards tied his third best pro game. It was his 13th 100-yard performance in 20 games against the Packers. It was his 68th 100-yard game and fourth in a row.

He was the perfume in a game that was nasty before it started. When the Bears arrived at Lambeau Field, a bag of fertilizer awaited them in the locker room with a signed note from a Wisconsin radio station: "Here`s what you guys are full of."

If it didn`t serve to rile up the Bears' players, defensive tackle DanHampton said, "It ticked off Ditka."

"They played about as hard as I was excited," said Ditka.

On the ninth play of the game, Packers' cornerback Mark Lee was ejectedafter he ran Payton out of bounds and completely over the Bears' bench eightyards away.

On the second play, Payton fumbled, and when the Packers recovered in apile-up, new Green Bay safety Ken Stills leveled McMahon with a block.

There were six personal fouls in the first half, four by the Packers. One was a particularly cheap late hit by Stills on Bears` fullback Matt Suhey that Gregg endorsed.

"I don't mind that. He took a crack at somebody. That's aggressivefootball," said Gregg.

The Bears congratulated themselves for keeping relatively cool.

"Tempers flare," said Ditka. "They had some new kids. You don't liketo see it, especially when they cheap-shot a guy like Payton, who has given as much to the game as anyone. I`m sure the kid didn`t mean it."

"We knew if we played our game, we've got better personnel," saidtackle Keith Van Horne.

"It was totally ridiculous. The refs let it get out of hand," saidreceiver Dennis McKinnon.

"By the end, there was something going on every play," said safety Dave Duerson. "Let's face it, it wasn't clean on either side."

It remained for Payton to lift it out of the gutter. He even wrapped itup with nice words by absolving the Packers of intent to maim.

"I don't think so. Forrest Gregg was a class player," said Payton.

The 9-0 record put the Bears four games ahead of the 5-4 Lions andVikings in the NFC Central Division with seven games to play.

The Packers sacked McMahon four times and held the Bears to a season-low58 yards passing despite using three new players in their secondary. McMahon's pass to Perry was one of the better throws of his 9-for-20 day.

Ditka called it "by far our toughest game. They played us right to theteeth." Hampton called it "the only one I was afraid of in going 16-0."

For Payton, it was one of his finest days at the office.

"I think he senses when he`s needed and turns it up another gear," said back-up quarterback Steve Fuller.

"I knocked the crap out of Payton. He's such a good athlete that he just kept on going," said Packers' linebacker Brian Noble.

"Unbelievable. Incredible," said Suhey. "He's 31 years old and I think he stopped aging at 23. He's running so efficiently. Making all the right cuts. Early on, he said: 'Listen, they're trying to string us out. If you see a hole, take it'"

The Packers had taken a 10-7 lead on a 55-yard pass from quarterback JimZorn to running back Jessie Clark against a blitz late in the third quarter.

The Bears had closed to 10-9 when defensive tackle Steve McMichael sacked Zorn for a safety, the most common way for defensive tackles to score before Perry.

The safety was set up when Packer receiver Phillip Epps unwisely made afair catch of a high 45-yard punt by the Bears` Maury Buford at the Green Bay 4-yard line instead of giving it a chance to bounce into the end zone.

When Packer punter Joe Prokop followed the safety with a short free kickand McKinnon returned it 16 yards to the Green Bay 49, the Packers were set up for the kill.

Payton went left for 7 yards. Then McMahon saw linebacker Mike Douglassblitzing and audibled to a pass over the middle to tight end Tim Wrightman,who took it 17 yards to the 27.

Ditka called for a toss to Payton to the left, but the Packers werestacked and McMahon audibled to a "power lead play" behind tackle Keith Van Horne on the right.

Payton cut it up, bounced off Noble at the 20-yard line and outran thePackers' secondary to the end zone.

With 7:38 left, Gregg warmed up quarterback Lynn Dickey on the sideline,but he never put him in. Zorn finished the game by consistently underthrowing open receivers. James Lofton caught only one pass for 9 yards, even though the Bears were playing rookie Ken Taylor at one cornerback.

"We were surprised Dickey didn't come in," said safety Gary Fencik. "Obviously, they needed something."

"I don`t remember them going to Lofton much," said Taylor. "I don't know why they don`t utilize him more."

Perry played on defense, too, but after the Packers broke some runningplays in the third quarter, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan replaced him with Mike Hartenstine.

Perry now has as many touchdown catches for the Bears this year as widereceiver Willie Gault.

"I'm not trying to compete with nobody," said Perry. "Just trying tohelp the team win any way I can."

"The only thing that upset me is he said he would do a 360-degree dunkover the goal post," said center Jay Hilgenberg.

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