Then came the kind of play for which Minnesota is famous. The extra-point try by Chicago's Bob Thomas was blocked by 6'5" Linebacker Matt Blair, the star of the Vikings' off-season basketball team. It was the seventh time this season that a Viking had blocked either a field goal or an extra point, with Cornerback Nate Allen—acquired from San Francisco during the preseason in what Grant calls "one of the best trades I ever made"—accounting for three of them. Tackle Alan Page two, End Carl Eller one and now Blair one, too.
The 17-13 score stood only until the beginning of the final quarter, when Cox kicked a 39-yard field goal for a 20-13 Viking lead. But the Bears were still coming on, and suddenly Avellini, the second-year man from Maryland, began to use the air. He had almost no choice; weakened by his recent bout of flu, Payton had been taken out of the game after scoring his second touchdown, and now he was watching dazedly from the sidelines. Avellini steadily moved the Bears through Viking country by mixing passes to Wide Receiver James Scott with runs by Harper, who was doing Payton's work. Harper punched for five, six, five, 11 and then the final seven yards for the touchdown that lifted the Bears to within a point of the Vikings at 20-19.
Well, it might have been nice. All the Bears needed to tie the game at 20 was one measly extra point. But once again the try failed, this time Thomas—wary, no doubt, of the Viking spikers—missing wide to the right of the uprights. The rest of the action was typical Black-and-Blue Division mayhem, but fruitless for both sides. The Bears did have another shot at victory with 3:10 to play, but Thomas' 52-yard field-goal attempt was no good. Payton returned for the last play of the game and collaborated with Avellini on a 34-yard pass completion. Unfortunately for the Bears, it was 48 yards shy of a miracle.
Still, Payton's 141 yards in 19 carries for the day—only seven short of his career best against San Francisco—bode well for Chicago's future. "Payton going out of the game in the fourth quarter made a lot of difference," Grant said afterward. "He's a great football player." Indeed, he is. At 5'10�" by 203 pounds, Payton runs with the fury of a billiard ball gone berserk. His ferocity afoot belies his nickname, which is, oddly enough, "Sweetness." Off the field, it fits. Soft-spoken, painfully shy to the point of introspection, Payton is a young man of deep religious conviction, the kind of man who springs up now and then from the black loam of his native Mississippi—running madly, praying humbly and singing soul music on the side. (Payton once won the U.S. Soul Train Dance Contest.) Though he sings no more in choirs, preferring to let his feet warble for him, he does play the drums to unwind. Especially after Sunday doubleheaders against the Vikings.