Sept. 7, 1980: Chester Marcol's touchdown run vs. Bears
Marcol! Marcol! Packers stun Bears on bizarre play in OT
Note: This story was published Sept. 7, 1980.
Green Bay - The Green Bay Packers finally scored a touchdown Sunday.
And they did it in a most improbable fashion. Chester Marcol returned his own blocked field goal attempt 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Green Bay Packers a dramatic, 12-6 sudden-death overtime win over the favored Chicago Bears.
Through their last three preseason games and four quarters of Sunday's regular season opener, the Packers had failed to score a touchdown.
Marcol's electrifying run came with six minutes elapsed in the overtime period to send 54,381 Lambeau Field fans home happy and get the Packers off to a 1-0 start in the regular season.
Marcol's field goal attempt was blocked by Alan Page, but the ball bounced right back into Chester's hands. He caught the ball in mid-air and there were no Bear defenders between him and the goal line as he raced around his own left end for the score.
Marcol's teammates and Coach Bart Starr mobbed him in the end zone after he completed his run.
"It's a dream come true," said Marcol afterward. "It was a very fortunate thing. This is probably the biggest moment in my life.
"They loaded up the middle and the ball bounced right at me. Once I caught it and saw the opening, nobody was going to catch me."
It was the first career touchdown for Marcol, who accounted for all the Packer points.
Asked if he was disappointed that his field goal attempt was blocked, Marcol replied:
"How can I be upset when the ball bounced right back into my hands. I've been waiting for this for nine years. As many times as our defense stopped 'em today, there was no reason we should have lost. So many guys jumped on me and hit me after I scored, that I still got a headache."
The blocked field goal didn't come as any surprise to the Bears.
"Page told us, 'I'm going to block it, watch for me on the outside,'" Bear coach Neill Armstrong said. "But you would hope somebody would pick it up."
Starr, whose job was reportedly in jeopardy after his Packers went winless in the preseason, admitted that luck was on his team's side.
"We got a break to win it, we didn't earn it," said Starr.
"A win like this is great for the spirit because when you are constantly being suppressed you have to have something like this.
"I've never seen a game won like this before," he continued. "It's the most dramatic win I've ever been part of. It was a heart-stopper. I was very angry when the attempt was blocked, there was no excuse for it."
Starr said he had a call from Sam Rutigliano, the Cleveland Brown coach, Saturday before practice.
"He just called to wish us luck and I really appreciated that," said Starr. "He said something about what Harry Truman once said and it went like this: 'It's not what you endure, but how you endure what you have to endure.'
"With all of the injuries and bad bounces, lackadaisical play and bad things that happened to us during the preseason, everything got evened up by one magnificent play."
The Packers would have had no chance to pull off their magnificent play had it not been for their unsung defense.
The Packers completely shut down Walter Payton, Chicago's all-pro running back, limiting him to just 65 yards rushing in 31 attempts.
The Bears won the toss in the overtime period and elected to receive. But the Packer defense rose up to stop the Bears as it had done all day.
The Bears picked up one first down, but then Bob Parsons had to punt it away.
Starting on the 50 after a clipping nullified a 16-yard return by Fred Nixon, the Packers then moved to the Bear 17-yard line in four plays.
The big play in the series was a 32-yard Lynn Dickey pass to James Lofton that gave Green Bay a first down at the Chicago 18.
"They had a blitz and James just ran a corner pattern and caught them in single coverage," Dickey explained.
In contrast to last week when many disgruntled Lambeau Field fans booed the Packers repeatedly in a 38-0 preseason loss to the Denver Broncos, there were few boos for the Packers Sunday.
That fact was not lost on Starr.
"Those were our fans today," said Starr. "I don't know who the guy was last week who poured beer on me and spit on me, but I don't think it was one of our fans."
Packers fans had plenty to cheer about Sunday. And most of their cheers were for a dogged, determined defensive unit that five times stopped Chicago drives in Packer territory.
Early in the period, linebacker Michael Hunt, who had been sidelined with headaches and dizzy spells during the preseason, sacked Bear quarterback Mike Phipps. In the process, Hunt stripped Phipps of the ball and teammate Mike Douglass recovered at the Packer 41.
Later in the period, Packer reserve defensive back Wylie Turner picked off a Phipps pass intended for James Scott in the end zone.
And then just before the end of the first half, cornerback Mike McCoy fouled up a Chicago fourth-and-one attempt at the Green Bay 14-yard line. McCoy roared through to dump Payton for a 10-yard loss.
Early in the third period, McCoy picked off another Phipps' pass at the Packer 19-yard line. And then safety Johnnie Gray rounded out a very good day's work by the Packer defense when he picked off another Phipps' pass and returned it 15 yards to midfield.
"Our defense played magnificently today," said Starr. "This marks the third straight game we've held Chicago without a touchdown."
The Bears did score one touchdown in their two wins over the Packers in 1979, but their lone touchdown was the result of an intercepted Dickey pass that Tom Hicks returned 66 yards.
Defensive leaders for Green Bay were Gray, McCoy, safety Steve Luke, Douglass, Hunt, and cornerback Estus Hood. Gray got six solo tackles and one interception; McCoy six solo tackles, three assists and one interception; Luke 10 solo tackles and one assist; Douglass seven solo tackles, three assists and one fumble recovery; Hunt four solo tackles, two assists and one sack; and Hood, six solo tackles and one assist.
While Payton was having his problems, fullback Eddie Lee Ivery of Green Bay had a productive afternoon.
Ivery emerged as the game's leading rusher, gaining 73 yards in just 15 attempts. That gave him an impressive 4.9 per carry average, compared to Payton's modest 2.1 mark.
Ivery, who missed most of the 1979 season after undergoing surgery on his left knee, gave the fans a scare midway in the third period.
Just as he was getting set to line up in the backfield, Ivery collapsed and had to be helped off the field. He was taken to the locker room, but returned to play in the fourth quarter.
"Somebody hit me on the brace on my left knee on an outside play," said Ivery. "As I was getting ready to take my stance, I fell to the ground. I didn't feel any pain, my knee just buckled. But it feels fine now."
His teammates are also feeling fine, especially after reports earlier in the week, that there was a black-white split on the team and that the Packers were torn by dissension.
End Mike Butler, who is black, said, "I don't think there's any rift between blacks and whites on this team. We're all going out tonight and have a party."
"I read all those things about us in the paper last week," said Dickey. "I never heard any players talk about things like that in the locker room. I don't think we have any morale problems."
The Packers don't figure to have any morale problems in the future - not if they keep playing as they did against the Bears, Sunday.