At Kansas, where he set a Big Eight rushing record, Sayers was both a brilliant runner and pass receiver, and the Bears took him and Butkus as their two top draft choices. Some scouts were less than ecstatic about Sayers because they felt he was not much of a blocker. With the Bears, he blocks. He is no Forrest Evashevski, but he does ram his helmet into people, particularly when the other deep back is on a kick return. Some scouts also said Sayers does not run inside, but the Bears do not believe that and, as it has turned out, Sayers runs inside very well. Going into the Green Bay game, Sayers had rushed for 236 yards, was leading the league in kickoff returns and was tied in scoring with nine touchdowns, including four in one game. A television announcer asked Sayers if scoring four touchdowns was his greatest thrill, and he replied, simply and beautifully, "No."
Last Sunday conditions were perfect for the Bear fans. Green Bay was unbeaten, but Chicago was on the way up. A ticket scalper, interviewed on television, admitted he was selling his tickets for $35 each and expected the price to rise. The day arrived cool and bright, and the Bear fans—cloth hats, jackets over sweatshirts, black leather shoes, many of them carrying paper sacks—squeezed themselves three-deep in aisles that a fashion model could barely walk down. Wrigley Field holds only 46,000, and the people were jammed in so tight that they could not be certain whose mouth they were sticking their hot dogs into. "They all think this is the championship game," said Bear Publicist Dan Desmond. "Everybody in the Midwest is trying to get in."
The Packers had flirted with trouble the previous two weeks. They got behind Detroit by 21-3 before winning, and they could gain just 63 yards in total offense against Dallas. Their big backs—Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung—did not seem to be running as well as in the past, and Quarterback Bart Starr had not been releasing the ball as quickly as he once did. But the Packers were undefeated and appeared unperturbed as they received the opening kickoff and marched it 69 yards for a touchdown, even though Starr was belted hard twice and temporarily left the game.
By the end of the first quarter, however, Sayers had made himself felt. Trying to kick away from Sayers, Don Chandler got off a short punt and the Bears moved quickly to the Green Bay 18, where an outstanding play by Packer Linebacker Dave Robinson in a one-on-one situation stopped Sayers from scoring with a pass. The Bears got a field goal and started another drive that was halted by Livingston's fumble. Then, in less than three minutes, the Bears had two touchdowns off two interceptions. One was a grab of a batted ball by Atkins, followed by a pass to rookie Jim Jones on a flag pattern. The next was an interception by Bennie McRae, and Sayers turned it into a touchdown by outrunning Packer Backs Herb Adderley and Willie Wood into the end zone on a sweep to the right. A field goal by Chandler left Chicago ahead 17-10 at the half.
Early in the third quarter Sayers escaped on a 62-yard punt return, swerving through several Green Bay tacklers to the Packer 15, and Jon Arnett scored for Chicago from the one. Sayers and Livingston were running hard, but so were Arnett and Ronnie Bull. Bukich, with a 14-point lead, played it cautious with traps and influence blocking, and the Bear ground game kept going. Starr was having problems.
The Bears were not blitzing as much as usual but they were getting a heavy rush from their front four, and Starr had to keep his backs in to block, sending only two or three receivers downfield. He had some success in beating Right Safety Dave Whitsell to the outside, usually with Max McGee, but even that went sour. Whitsell, waiting and watching, cut inside McGee for another interception that carried to the Green Bay six. Although the Bears did not score that time because of an interception by Doug Hart in the end zone on the same flag pattern to Jones, they got the ball again and hammered it 62 yards on the ground. Bull scored on a sweep from the four to make it 31-10, and that was that.
The Packers, now 6-1, still appear to be headed toward the championship of the Western Division, but their offense has been inept lately and they need a resurgence by Taylor, Hornung and Starr. Green Bay has always relied on execution and pure force to move the ball, rather than on cuteness or speed. Now that their execution and force are sputtering, they need a back with the outside speed of a Sayers.
"Sayers outran us," Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi said after he had walked through a barrage of insults from delirious Bear fans. "We misjudged him at least half the time. He's a great back. This is a better Bear club than the one that won the championship in 1963. Far better." Next week the Bears will have to prove it against the Colts, the Western Division champions of 1964, and the Packers will try their faltering offense against the tough defense of Detroit. But as far as Bear fans are concerned, plenty was proved last Sunday. Beating the Packers, for them, was worth declaring a holiday. Maybe they could call it Halloween.