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NFL Classic Rewind: Elway Outduels McMahon for Denver Victory in Monday Night Shootout 31

Posted on December 08, 2011 by A.J. Foss

On a cold Monday night in November of 1987, the Chicago Bears traveled to Denver to face off with the Denver Broncos in a game that featured two teams that had appeared in the previous two Super Bowls.

Entering the game with the league’s best record at 7-1, the Bears seemed poised for a second Super Bowl title in three seasons.

Chicago was still under the leadership of head coach Mike Ditka, but finally had a healthy Jim McMahon at quarterback and running back Walter Payton, who had announced he would retire at the end of the season.

While the Bears were establishing themselves as a Super Bowl favorite, the Broncos were having tough time defending their AFC championship as they entered the Monday night showdown with Chicago with a 4-3-1 record and in third place in the AFC West.

Despite their inconsistency, the Broncos still felt confident about their chances of a second straight Super Bowl as they still had quarterback John Elway at the helm.

But if the Broncos were to make that second straight trip to the Super Bowl, they could not afford to lose against the Bears.

The Bears got the ball to start the game and drove from their 10-yard-line to the 49-yard-line, where they faced a 3rd-and-2.

That is where McMahon faked a handoff to Payton, and fired a pass to Willie Gault, who made the catch at the Denver 40-yard-line, made a spin move, and outraced several Bronco defenders for a 51-yard touchdown that put Chicago ahead 7-0 just over three minutes into the game.

After forcing the Broncos to punt on their opening possession, the Bears got the ball back at their 14-yard-line where it took them eight plays to get back into the end zone, a 6-yard pass from McMahon to tight end Cap Boso to increase the Bears lead to 14-0 with 5:26 left in the opening period.

Following the Bears’ second touchdown, Elway finally got the Denver offense on track as he led them on an eight-play, 84-yard drive, culminating with a bizarre touchdown that brought the Broncos back into the game.

From the Bears’ 22-yard-line, Elway rolled out to the right and fired a pass intended for Steve Sewell, who was in front of the goal line.

However, the ball was tipped by Bears safety Todd Bell, only to be caught by Vance Johnson for the touchdown to make it 14-7 early in the second quarter.

The Bears responded to the touchdown with another long drive, as McMahon completed six of nine passes on a drive that covered 89 yards from the Chicago 10-yard-line to the Broncos’ one-yard line where Chicago faced a third-and-goal.

For the third-and-one, Ditka sent in defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who ran in for two touchdowns during his rookie season in 1985, including one in the Super Bowl.

This time, Perry was sent in as a blocker, but McMahon called an audible on the line of scrimmage, and handed the ball off to “The Fridge”, who had not carried the ball all season, only to have Perry be stripped of the ball by defensive back Mike Harden, short of the goal line. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

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