Chicago's overlooked champions

The Bears trailed 17-14 with five minutes left, and faced a second-and-36 after a tackle for a loss and a penalty. In the huddle, Wade told Ditka to run a corner route. Ditka, out of gas from the stress of the day and from catching six passes, begged off, telling Wade he would run a hook.

Wade threw a short pass to Ditka. Steeler John Reger dove and missed. Then Myron Pottios, Glenn Glass and Clendon Thomas hit him at once and only Ditka emerged from the pile. He ran another 30 yards where Thomas finally caught up with him. Ditka dragged him another five yards to the 15-yard line.

At the end of the 63-yard gain, Ditka lay on the field for several seconds face up and spread eagle.

"Greatest run I ever saw," fullback Rick Casares said. "You had to kill him to get him down."

"I had a great high school coach who said the joy in catching a pass is what you do afterward," Ditka said. "That was one of the first things I ever learned. I loved to run after a catch. They must have been bad tacklers. At the end of it, I was just exhausted. It all got to me."

Three plays later, Roger Leclerc's field goal tied the score, and the game ended 17-17. If not for Ditka's run, the Bears would have likely lost and finished the regular season 1/2 a game behind the Packers — and out of the playoffs.

On Dec. 29, the sun was shining in Chicago for the NFL championship game, and the temperatures were in the single digits. Some of the old Bears said it was the coldest game they ever played in.

Wrigley Field was dressed up in red, white and blue bunting. The field was icy in spots even though hot air had been blown on the grass all week.

The Giants came to town with six future Hall of Famers, including 1963 NFL MVP Y.A. Tittle. The quarterback had the finest season of his career, throwing 36 touchdown passes and leading the Giants to 32 points per game.

The Bears would give Tittle the beating of his life.

Larry Morris hit him in his knee twice, the second time knocking him out of the game. When Morris came to the sidelines, Halas hugged him, prompting an assistant to remark that was the first time he had seen Halas hug anyone.

"We beat the crap out of that bald-headed (guy), but we couldn't put him away," O'Bradovich said.

"Tittle came back for the last seven or eight minutes of the game," Johnson said. "It was the longest seven or eight minutes of my life."

The Bears intercepted Tittle five times, with two of the interceptions setting up 1-yard touchdowns on quarterback sneaks.

After Petitbon's interception in the end zone with 10 seconds left iced the 14-10 victory, Halas was near tears.

"No game has meant this much to me since we beat Washington 73-0," Halas said at the time. "I've waited a long time."

"Lombardi had become big time," Johnny Morris said. "To beat Lombardi in that '63 season and win the championship, that meant a lot to Halas. I think he felt Lombardi was stealing his thunder, and he got him back."

Some of 1963 Bears say the 1965 Bears were more talented. Others thought the talent on the '56 Bears was superior.

But the 1963 Bears were remarkable for the way they came together.

They were a team for reasons that went well beyond the logos on their helmets.