GREEN BAY—Walter Payton could have been a great fighter, too. Fortunately for the Bears, he reminded everyone Sunday that it still takes great players to win football games.
Payton`s 27-yard touchdown run with 10:31 to play beat the Green Bay Packers 16-10 and kept the Bears undefeated.
It was their closest call of the season, and they had to call on Payton to 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 they were 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 Dan Hampton 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 ejected after he ran Payton out of bounds and completely over the Bears' bench eight yards away.
On the second play, Payton fumbled, and when the Packers recovered in a pile-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 aggressive football," said Gregg.