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Classic Rewind: After Further Review, the Packers Edge the Bears

Posted on December 29, 2010 by A.J. Foss

From 1986 until 1991, the National Football League used an instant replay system in which an official in the booth would buzz the referees on the field, indicating that they were reviewing the previous play and then the replay official would determine whether or not the play needed to be reversed.

The most memorable moment under this replay system came in 1989 during a week nine matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, in which the replay official determined if the potential game-winning touchdown was legal.

The Bears entered the game with a 5-3 record after starting the season with a 4-0 start.

The Bears were led by head coach Mike Ditka, who had taken control of the NFC Central Division as they won the division each year since 1984, including a Super Bowl title in 1985.

But the 1989 season was a year of transition as the team traded quarterback Jim McMahon during training camp and replaced him with quarterback Mike Tomczak, until he was replaced by third-year quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

The Packers entered the game with a 4-4 record under second-year head coach Lindy Infante.

The Packers had been stuck in mediocrity for the past two decades as the team made only two playoff appearances ever since head coach Vince Lombardi retired back in 1967.

The Packers’ starting quarterback was Don Majkowski, a 10th round selection out of the University of Virginia in 1987.

Majkowski split time with fellow quarterback Randy Wright for his first two seasons before being given the starting job for the 1989 season.

Nicknamed the “Majik Man” , Majkowski had led the Packers to three last-minute wins before their meeting with the Bears in Lambeau Field, a team Green Bay had not beaten  in their last eight tries dating back to 1984.

Don Majkowski tossed two touchdown passes as the Packers defeated the Bears for the first time in five years.

The Packers opened the game with a six-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Majkowski to tight end Clint Didier to put Green Bay ahead 7-0.

With 3:32 left in the opening quarter, the Bears got on the scoreboard when Kevin Butler kicked his 19th consecutive field goal, a 25-yarder that cut the Packers’ lead to 7-3.

The score would remain that way until 9:32 remained in the third quarter when Butler made his 20th straight field goal, a 37-yarder that made it a one-point game, 7-6 in favor of Green Bay.

Later in the third quarter, the Bears drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, a 2-yard touchdown run by Brad Muster that gave Chicago their first lead of the game at 13-7 with 3:03 left in third quarter.

Harbaugh hit two big passes on the drive, one for 22 yards to James Thornton and another for 46 yards to Dennis Gentry.

On their ensuing possession, the Packers drove to the Bears’ 20-yard-line until the first play of the fourth quarter when Majkowski was hit by linebacker John Roper, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow Bears linebacker Ron Rivera, ending a chance for Green Bay to retake the lead.

The Packers had another chance to grab the lead on their next drive when Majkowski completed a 67-yard screen pass to running back Brent Fullwood to the Bears’ 23-yard-line, only to have Majkowski be intercepted by Rivera three plays later.

The Packers forced the Bears to punt and got the ball back at their own 27-yard-line with 4:44 remaining in the game.

Majkowski lead the Packers to the Bears’ 10-yard-line where they faced 4th-and-inches that was converted by Vince Workman on a three-yard run that gave Green Bay a 1st-and-goal at the seven-yard-line with 1:26 to go.

But disaster nearly struck again for the Packers when Majkowski was sacked by Roper, jarring the ball loose.

However, center Blair Bush recovered the ball for the Packers at the Bears’ 14-yard-line for a seven-yard-loss.

Majkowski would throw two straight incomplete passes, leading to a 4th-and-goal with 41 seconds left.

On the fourth down play, Majkowski dropped back to pass but could not find an open receiver as the Bears’ zone coverage was stifling the Packers’ receivers.

Jim Harbaugh's 203 passing yards weren't enough to lead the Bears to victory.

Majkowski then scrambled to his right in hopes of buying time for his receivers.

Then, Majkowski found Sterling Sharpe open in the end zone and fired a pass across his body that was caught by Sharpe for an apparent touchdown.

But as the Packers started to celebrate, a penalty flag was found on the field.

Line judge Jim Quirk had thrown the flag saying that Majkowski’s foot was across the line of scrimmage, thus making it an illegal forward pass which led to a loss of down. Since it was 4th down, the Packers would turn it over on downs, giving the Bears possession at their own 14 with only needing to run out the remaining 32 seconds.

But before the Bears could take the snap, referee Tom Dooley was buzzed by replay official Bill Parkinson, who wanted to review the play.

Both teams and the fans at Lambeau Field waited nervously as Parkinson tried to determine whether or not Majkowski had been beyond the line of scrimmage as he threw the pass to Sharpe in the end zone.

Finally after nearly five minutes, Dooley went to the middle of the field, turned on his microphone and announced: “After further review, we have a reversal….touchdown!”

Packers kicker Chris Jacke came on to kick the extra point which was good, and after the Bears could not do anything on their last possession of the game, the Packers came away with a 14-13 victory, their first win over the Bears since 1984.

After the game, Parkinson stated his reason for the reversal was that even though Majkowski was beyond the line of scrimmage, the ball was not beyond the line of scrimmage before Majkowski fired his pass toward the end zone, thus making it a legal pass.

The following season, the NFL made a rule change that a passer must be behind the line of scrimmage when he throws a forward pass.

The impact of the “Instant Replay Game” sent both teams in opposite directions for the rest of the 1989 seasons.

The Packers would win five of their last seven games, including a 21-17 win against the eventual Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers, to finish with a 10-6 record, but missed the playoffs as the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC Central Division based on a better conference record.

Majkowski would finish the season as the league’s leader in passing yards but was unable to live up to his reputation as the “Majik Man” as injuries would derail his career as starting quarterback of the Packers.  Those injuries included an ankle injury in the third game of the 1992 season that led to Majkowski being replaced by quarterback Brett Favre, who did not miss a game as the Packers’ starting quarterback for the next 15 years.

The Bears never recovered from their reversal of fortune as they won only one more game in the 1989 season to finish with a 6-10 record and out of the playoffs for the first time since 1983.

Ditka would lead the Bears to two more playoff appearances before being fired after the 1992 season.

For years afterward, the Bears marked an asterisk next to the loss in Green Bay in their media guide


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