A 308-Pound Receiver Is More Than Packers Can Bear in 16-10 Loss
He’s no longer the media star of the Chicago Bears’ backfield, but Walter Payton still has his moments.
In a supporting role Sunday at Lambeau Field, Payton ran 28 times for 192 yards, tied for his third-most-productive game ever, and scored the winning touchdown on a 27-yard fourth-quarter run to give the Bears a 16-10 victory over Green Bay.
“Payton’s exhibition today may be as good as I’ve ever seen a guy with a football play,” said Chicago Coach Mike Ditka, whose team won for the ninth time in nine games this season and has a four-game lead in the NFC Central Division.
That’s all well and good, the media told Ditka, but what about the Refrigerator?
The Bears’ William Perry, all 308 pounds of him, also had his moment, becoming a show-stopper in the most literal sense of the term.
With time running out in the first half and the Bears facing second and goal at the Green Bay four, Ditka sent Perry into the game as a slot back. This development so excited the 55,343 fans in attendance that they wouldn’t be quiet until after the referee suspended the 30-second clock.
The Bears couldn’t begin their play for almost three minutes, but it proved to be worth the wait.
After some last-minute coaching by Payton, Perry lined up on the left side, a yard or so behind the tight end, and then went in motion. Slow motion.
Green Bay linebacker George Cumby was supposed to have the man-to-Fridge coverage, but he either didn’t take Perry seriously as a pass receiver or lost him.
On second thought, Cumby probably didn’t lose him.
“What would you do if Perry was coming at you?” Ditka asked reporters afterward. “You’d get the hell out of the way. That’s what he (Cumby) did. He got the hell out of the way.”
Whatever, Perry was by himself in the end zone, and Bear quarterback Jim McMahon, even on an off day, couldn’t possibly miss him. Perry caught the ball as if he’d been doing this sort of thing all his life, even though it was his first reception ever.
It was his second NFL touchdown, his first coming on a one-yard run against the Packers two weeks ago, when Cumby tried to get in Perry’s way and found himself having to look up to see the bottom of a pile. It’s no wonder Cumby bailed out this time.
Perry rated the touchdown pass as a greater thrill.
“Running the ball is wonderful, too,” he said. “But this is unusual.”
Nevertheless, Perry didn’t spike the ball.
“It was too cold,” he said. “My hands were freezing.”
Perry also made his first start at defensive tackle, establishing himself as a triple threat at least, and played until the middle of the third quarter, when Chicago defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan decided the Refrigerator needed a rest.
“No, I don’t,” Perry told him.
By that time, the fans had gotten their money’s worth. Most of them hadn’t come to see the Packers, who who entered this game with a 3-5 record, or even the irrepressible Payton. They’ve seen too much of Payton over the years. In 20 games against the Packers, he’s rushed for 100 yards 13 times.
Make no mistake about it; they came to see Perry.
That was the subject of discussion last week at Martha’s Coffee Club, where 40 die-hard Packer fans in Green Bay meet every Monday through Friday from 9-9:30 a.m. to discuss the team’s fortunes and misfortunes.
“We’re demoralized practically,” one of the members, Paul Mazzoleni, told a Chicago newspaper. “They’re all coming out to see the Refrigerator Sunday instead of the Packers.”
Milwaukee radio station WQFM urged listeners last week to bring refrigerator magnets to its broadcast headquarters, hoping, in the words of disc jockey Fred Mudd to “slow (Perry) down by putting extra weight on him.”
There were good causes. When fans arrived in the parking lot Sunday, they found a refrigerator waiting for them. For $1 dollar, they could smash it with a sledge hammer. Proceeds went to United Cerebral Palsy.
There were dubious causes. A Chicago gossip columnist has enlisted the aid of an orthodontist to fix the gap between Perry’s teeth so he will look more presentable in television appearances. Perry was a guest on the Today Show last week and soon will join David Letterman on NBC’s Late Night.
Whether Perry is a big tub of goo became irrelevant when the Bears arrived in their dressing room Sunday morning and discovered a big tub of something else.
Actually, it was a bag of fertilizer.
The message read: “Here’s what you guys are full of.”
Both teams had been talking fertilizer all week.
“I wouldn’t give you two cents for the whole Green Bay Packer team,” Chicago defensive end Dan Hampton said.
“Have his shock treatments taken effect yet?” responded Green Bay offensive tackle Greg Koch.
“They don’t like us, and we don’t like them,” Ditka said.
Their animosity for each other is nothing new, covering 64 years and 131 games, and often carries over onto the field, as it did Sunday.
There were numerous incidents, the most destructive coming on Payton’s third carry in the first quarter, when Green Bay cornerback Mark Lee drove him out of bounds and then stepped on the accelerator.
In explaining his reasoning for ejecting Lee, referee Bob McElwee said: “No. 22 (Lee) tackled the runner across the sideline through the six-foot white border, beyond the six-foot white border and the bench area, and shoved the runner across the bench. That is an ejection foul. No question.”
A newcomer to this black-and-blue division rivalry was the Packers’ new starting quarterback, Jim Zorn. After being waived by Seattle during training camp, Zorn came to the Packers as their third-team quarterback but has been forced into action because of injuries to Lynn Dickey and Randy Wright.
Zorn’s first action for the Packers was against the Bears two weeks ago, when he was sacked in the end zone late in the game for an inconsequential safety in Green Bay’s 23-7 loss.
It happened again Sunday, but this time it wasn’t so inconsequential.
Despite Zorn’s so-so performance, 11 for 26 for 179 yards, it was his 55-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jessie Clark that gave the Packers a 10-7 lead after three quarters.
But on the Packers’ first possession of the fourth quarter, Zorn was trapped in the end zone by defensive tackle Steve McMichael to cut Green Bay’s lead to 10-9.
After the free kick, Chicago started its next possession from the Green Bay 49. Two plays later, Payton ran off right tackle for 27 yards and the touchdown that gave the Bears the points they needed to win.
“He had that look in his eye, didn’t he?” Chicago backup quarterback Steve Fuller said of Payton. “I think he senses when he’s really needed, and he puts it into another gear.”
Bear fullback Matt Suhey said Payton is “31 going on 23.”
That’s the same old song.
The new song was the one McMichael was singing as television cameramen fought for position in the locker room next to Perry.
“They always call him Mr. Touchdown . . . “