On the first Sunday of December in 1993, the nascent greatness of the Packers’ offense and the spitting-into-the-wind futility of the Bears’ offense were on display at Soldier Field.
The visitors had a 29-10 advantage in first downs. They had the ball for a season-high 38:14. They piled up 466 yards — 402 spun off the fingertips of 24-year-old quarterback Brett Favre — to the hosts’ meager 210.
A mismatch? But of course. Three Bears intercepted Favre, two of them — Jeremy Lincoln and Mark Carrier — returning their picks for touchdowns. Dante Jones also scooped up a fumble and scored. The Bears, in their first season under Dave Wannstedt — Year 1 post-Mike Ditka — won 30-17. And though the math within the game was wonky, the sum of the equation was not. Owning the goofballs from Green Bay was just what the Bears did. It was their 14th victory in the last 18 games of the NFL’s most-played, most-celebrated and most commonly one-sided rivalry.
You probably don’t need — or want — to be reminded about how dramatically Favre and the Packers turned things around after that, but we’ll remind you anyway. Former general manager Ron Wolf has admitted he didn’t fully appreciate the size and scope of the rivalry until that appalling 1993 defeat — the fan base blew a gasket — and it became an organizational mission then and there to beat the Bears above all else. The Packers wouldn’t lose again at Soldier Field until 2005. Favre would finish 22-10 against the Bears as a Packer. Aaron Rodgers is 22-5 against them, and the Packers are 42-13 in the last 55 meetings. Owning the schnooks from Chicago is just what they do.
Sometimes it seems the Bears won’t ever regain the upper hand, but they will. Won’t they? When, over 202 games, rivals trade momentum like it’s a Rocky Balboa fight, you just have to learn to wait, no matter how grotesque the action gets. The Bears were 16-4-1 in the 1940s and 14-5-1 in the ’50s. The Packers were 15-5 in the ’60s. Ditka pounded on the Packers. Wannstedt — and every Bears coach since — got pounded on.
Right now, the entire football world is waiting on the disgruntled Rodgers to decide if, among other things, he has enough Bears blood on his knuckles to last a lifetime. If he refuses to continue to play for the Packers and forces a trade, the NFL will be in for another Tom Brady-sized shakeup and the Packers instantly will reek of weakness. If Rodgers, 37, stays put, the Bears — rejuvenated by the drafting of quarterback Justin Fields — might be emboldened enough to pick themselves off the canvas anyway.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter told the ‘‘Dan Patrick Show’’ on Thursday that he doesn’t think Rodgers will ‘‘soften his stance.’’
‘‘Right now, [the Packers] don’t have to make a decision,’’ Schefter said. ‘‘The fact of the matter is, they wouldn’t trade him until after June 1 anyway.’’
For Cheeseheads everywhere — and for Bears fans — it’ll be agonizing to wait that long. Meantime, we can ask which scenario is more reasonable: that Fields will become the proverbial white whale — an actual franchise quarterback for the Bears — or that the Packers eventually will find, in Jordan Love or someone else, their third first-ballot Hall of Famer in a row at the one position in football that can make a rivalry lopsided for an extended period all by itself. We’re cynical here about our Bears, but the latter scenario seems a lot more far-fetched to me.
We could ask, too, by the way, if Bears-Packers is even much of a rivalry. The answer is no. For nearly three decades, it has been more like Jets-Patriots — Tom Brady was 30-8 in that series — than, say, Ravens-Steelers (22-22 against each other from 2000 to 2020) or Cowboys-Eagles (26-25 in favor of the Eagles starting in 1996, the year after the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl victory). Bears-Packers is a shell of its reputed self until the Bears string some victories together.
Like the Packers did in a pair of horrifying games in 1994. They won the first 33-6 on Monday night at Soldier Field and the second 40-3 at Lambeau Field — the first two of 24 Packers victories by double digits against the Bears since 1993. The average score over all 55 meetings: Packers 25.4, Bears 17.3.
But it can’t just go on like that, defying logic and reason in perpetuity. Can it?
It can’t. Give any cheese enough time, and it’ll dry up and crumble.