Packers-Bears: Old Foes Meet Once Again

This week’s Thursday Night Football features one of the oldest and certainly most well known rivalries in the history of the National Football League. The Green Bay Packers hosted the Chicago Bears in the 191st regular season meeting between the two teams who first met in 1921.

Chicago held a slim advantage going into Thursday night’s matchup with a record of 93-91-6 over Green Bay. The history of this rivalry, as the head-to-head record indicates, is a near split. What is even more intriguing is the overall point differential, a mere three points, in the 190 regular season games. As Chicago held a two-game advantage over Green Bay, they have also outscored them in points, 3,247 to 3,244.

Throughout the 95-year history of this rivalry, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have only played twice in the postseason. Not surprisingly, that too is an even split, with both teams earning a playoff victory over the other.

The first of the two postseason meetings between the rivals occurred during the 1941 season. Although the NFL featured a championship game between the winners of the two league divisions since 1933, it wasn’t until 1941 that an actual playoff game was needed. A one-game playoff was only deemed necessary if two teams were to tie for first place in their respective division. As history would have it, the first playoff game (non-championship) was played between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

After a 10-1 regular season record by both the Packers and Bears, with each team’s single loss coming from the other, a one-game playoff was played on Dec. 14, 1941, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Bears ended the Packers championship hopes with a 33-14 victory and a berth to the 1941 NFL Championship. Playing only a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bears went on to beat the New York Giants 37-9 to earn their fifth league title. That particular championship game was noted for having the lowest attendance in the history of NFL title games with a little more than 13,000 spectators.

Sixty-nine years later, the second and latest playoff game between the Packers and Bears was played. On Jan. 23, 2011, the Green Bay Packers headed to Soldier Field in Chicago to play the Bears for a trip to Super Bowl XLV. Green Bay defeated Chicago, 21-14, and went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, to win their 13th NFL Championship.

With the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears combining for 22 NFL championships, both hold a claim in the early foundations of the National Football League. The Decatur Staleys and Chicago Cardinals are the only two original teams from the inaugural 1920 NFL season. The Staleys moved to Chicago and adopted the Bears nickname in 1922 while the Chicago Cardinals have become the current Arizona Cardinals. Although the Green Bay Packers originated in 1919, they did not join the NFL until 1921, but are the oldest NFL franchise in continuous operation with the same team name and location.

Approximately 200 miles separates two of the NFL’s oldest rivals, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Although the Staleys (Bears) and the Cardinals played twice in the 1920 season, few consider it an active rivalry today, but rather a testament to the longevity of their franchises. The Packers and Bears, however, have had frequent encounters in the past 95 years. In fact, aside from the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season, the two teams have played every year since 1923. Pending future playoff matchups, this rivalry will reach game number 200 in the year 2019.

Green Bay and Chicago fans have a storied football history, one that will soon become a century old. Each time these two teams step onto the field, they play not just for the win, but for the pride that comes with this age-old rivalry.

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