7:03 PM CDT, October 19, 2012
The template for dirty play between the Bears and Lions was set more than a half-century ago. So anticipation of over-the-top aggression in Monday night's prime-time game is warranted.
My father took me to my first Bears game at Wrigley Field when I was a child, and I witnessed just how violent the NFL game can be.
Bobby Layne was the Lions' quarterback in 1956 when Bears defensive end Ed "Country" Meadows delivered a vicious, belated blindside hit.
The Bears entered that game with an 8-2-1 record; the Lions were 9-2. The winner of this season finale would face the New York Giants in the NFL championship game.
Three fights broke out on the field, and several times fans had to be escorted off the field by security.
As a child, I found this chaotic, near-riot scene fascinating.
Meadows had tackled Layne from behind after Layne pitched out to halfback Gene Gedman. Meadows lifted Layne off his feet and buried him into the ground, sending the future Hall of Fame quarterback to the locker room with a concussion. Layne's teammates were enraged.
A few plays later, Meadows was ejected for punching Lions fullback Bill Bowman. Perhaps Meadows wanted to be ejected because he feared retaliation for his hit on Layne.
The violence continued as Lions coach Buddy Parker sent defensive end Gil Mains into the game when the Bears lined up for an extra point. Quarterback Ed Brown knelt to hold for kicker George Blanda. Mains jumped on Brown's leg and then punched Blanda in the mouth. Mains was immediately ejected.
It was learned later that Mains feared that Bears players would swarm him after the game. So he reportedly had his teammates surround him on the sideline as he changed out of his jersey No. 72 to create confusion. The Bears won 38-21, and fans stormed the field before the final gun.
I thought every NFL game would be this dramatic.
A famous picture of Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus leaning over Lions receiver Chuck Hughes at Tiger Stadium in 1971 is often mistakenly thought to be the result of a vicious hit by Butkus. In fact, Hughes died on the field of a heart attack at 28. Hughes had jogged back toward the huddle before collapsing. Butkus leaned over to get a closer look at Hughes before signaling for medical attention.
We all witnessed the extracurricular activity last November when the Bears beat the Lions 37-13 at Soldier Field.
Jay Cutler had his helmet ripped off by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with no penalty called. And defensive lineman Nick Fairley, who was penalized for roughing the quarterback, later was fined $15,000 for the late hit and driving Cutler into the ground unnecessarily.
Cutler says he hopes the officials will do their best to make sure this game is played cleanly.
"It's always on the officials to do a good job of keeping things fair," Cutler said. "Since the (regular officials) have come back, they have done a great job of cutting things out early and often and making sure we play clean games."
The Lions were whistled for an NFL-high 16 penalties last weekend yet emerged with a comeback victory over the Eagles.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants his players to perform with measured caution.
"We want to play smart football, and we don't want to do anything dumb that could hurt our football team," Tice said. "We want to make sure that we're up to the challenge of their intensity and match that intensity, but at the same time we want to be smart and we want to play our football before the whistle blows."
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