Memory of 1988 Fog Bowl still clear in Bears-Eagles lore

Bears won that playoff game 20-12 on New Year's Eve and this season's game could be in a haze as well

My memory may be a little foggy, but the Bears and Eagles have a rare history of playing critical late-December games under eerie weather circumstances.

Nearly 25 years ago, they met in what later would be dubbed the "Fog Bowl" at Soldier Field. I covered that playoff game and saw (at least partially) the Bears escape with a 20-12 victory on New Year's Eve.

The weather in Philadelphia for Sunday night's critical Bears-Eagles game portends to be quite unseasonable as well, with forecasts of temperatures near 70 degrees during the day with the possibility of severe thunderstorms, high winds and perhaps — who knows, fog? — by kickoff.

"It sounds like the pregame weather report from the Fog Bowl," said former Bears guard Tom Thayer, who played in that misty game and now is the radio analyst for Bears games.

"The funny thing about the old Soldier Field (game) is that when I first saw the smoke (fog) hanging over the edge of the stadium, I thought one of the hot dog stands was on fire, right on the concourse outside. Then, within minutes, it just overtook the stadium and you kind of knew what the situation was."

It's not like this year's Bears players already haven't experienced a weather extreme. The Nov. 17 Bears-Ravens game at Soldier Field had a two-hour delay because of high winds, rain and the threat of a tornado. The stands were evacuated before play was resumed and the Bears eventually escaped with a 23-20 victory in overtime.

The Eagles played in a weather-challenging contest against the Lions a couple of weeks ago when a blizzard blanketed the field with snow. The Eagles prevailed 34-20 as LeSean McCoy ran for a franchise-record 217 yards.

"It's one thing to kind of run the ball in bad weather," McCoy said this week. "It's another thing when the snow is past your ankles and you have to stomp over so much snow. That's probably the biggest thing I will remember — just the conditions and how bad it was. I mean you couldn't even see the goal line for God's sake. It was an amazing day, man."

Sunday's weather would have to be quite extreme to top the Dec. 31, 1988, NFC divisional championship game.

"(The fog) changed the game," Thayer said. "There was so much less of a threat downfield because of the conditions. And to think about how one-dimensional that can make you with (defensive end) Reggie White and that whole crew. … We gained the advantage with Mike Tomczak's early (64-yard) touchdown pass (to Dennis McKinnon in the first quarter)."

Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, who was 5 when the Bears and Eagles played in the Fog Bowl, says he and his teammates will be ready to go Sunday — rain, snow, sleet or fog.

"It's just another element we have to get ready to play in," Jennings said. "The best thing we can do is make sure we prepare and make sure we have the right cleats and make sure we have the proper gear."

Jennings said he considers the possibility of unusual weather as an opportunity to create a turnover.

"If there is a thunderstorm, the ball is going to be slippery and there are going to be opportunities for both teams … try to create turnovers, takeaways," he said. "Whoever can take the ball away better probably will have the better chance to win."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34

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