LAKE FOREST – There’s no other way to look at this Wild Card playoff game if you’re on the side of the Bears.
They are the underdog, and it’s easy to understand why.
The seventh-seeded Bears snuck into the playoffs at 8-8, doing so only after a Cardinals’ loss to the Rams. They’re facing a Saints team that’s full of veteran players and will have reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas back in the fold.
On top of that, the Bears will be missing starters Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson, and Darnell Mooney, making their task of pulling off the upset even harder.
But if you are looking for hope for the Bears, perhaps there is one thing that might be able to make you feel better as the Bears enter the Superdome as a major underdog. The team has been in a position similar to this, and actually came out with a victory.
On January 1. 1995, the Wild Card Bears traveled to NFC Central champion Minnesota for their first playoff game in three years. Dave Wannstedt’s team was a bit up-and-down just like the 2020 squad, as they lost three of their last four games to sneak into the playoffs.
In fact, they lost to the Patriots in the final game of the season when they could have clinched a playoff spot. Yet they were saved when the Giants lost to the Cowboys, and were the third and final Wild Card team in the NFC.
Incredibly, the other two were division rivals Green Bay and Detroit, but it was the Bears that got the sixth seed and the trip to the Metrodome.
It would be a rematch of a memorable Thursday night game between the teams on December 1st of that year. The Bears missed a chance to win in overtime when Kevin Butler missed a field goal, and the Vikings got the victory soon after when Warren Moon hit Cris Carter for a 65-yard touchdown.
This New Year’s Day game figured to be another Minnesota victory, and it seemed that way when the Bears turned the ball on each of their first two possessions. But the Vikings couldn’t built a big lead, and slowly the underdog visitors started to build a lead.
Lewis Tillman’s one-yard run and Steve Walsh’s pass to tight end Keith Jennings gave the Bears a lead they’d never give up. Rookie Raymont Harris extended the lead to 12 with a touchdown run early in the third that was part of his 67-yard rushing day.
After that, the Bears had an answer for every score the Vikings had as they sealed an upset. A Minnesota field goal in the third quarter was followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Walsh to Jeff Graham. The Bears responded to a Moon fourth quarter touchdown to Amp Lee with a defensive score, as Kevin Miniefield picked up a fumble and returned it 48-yards for a score.
Bears 35 Vikings 18. One of the team’s biggest upsets in their history came very unexpectedly from a team that backed in the playoffs.
The run would end the next week as the Bears were crushed by the eventual champion 49ers in San Francisco 44-15. But that New Year’s moment in the Metrodome is a reminder to skeptical Bears’ fans on Sunday that anything’s possible in the playoffs.