The Instant Replay Game

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The Instant Replay Game refers to a regular season game played between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on November 5 1989 at the Packers home stadium, the Lambeau Field. The controversial game, which saw a Packers touchdown in the last of minute of play struck off only to be reinstated by the referee after a review of instant replay footage, remains one of the highlights of the 1980s for the Packers. The decision gave the Packers a 14-13 win over the Bears.

Quarterback Don Majkowski was adjudged by line judge Jim Quirk to have made a forward pass to Sterling Sharpe from beyond the line of scrimmage on the touchdown play. For four minutes, the players and fans waited for a call from the instant replay officials, which upheld the play as a touchdown, putting the Packers in the lead. For four minutes, the players and fans waited for a call from the instant replay officials, which upheld the play as a touchdown, putting the Packers in the lead.

Background to the Game

The Green Bay Packers had had a torrid history against the Bears having lost eight consecutive games over the previous four seasons. A win against their fierce rivals was therefore long overdue. Generally, the entire 1980s period for the Packers was a lackluster one but the addition of Majkowski to the roster in 1987 injected some positive impetus into the team.

On this day, the Packers found themselves in a familiar position, trailing the Bears by 13-7 as the game was winding up. Having led 7-3 at halftime, the Packers then forfeited their lead after a field goal by Chicago’s Kevin Butler and Brad Muster’s 2-yard touchdown.

With 41 seconds left in the game they found themselves on the Bears’ 14 yard line. Green Bay went into spread formation on the line with a single pack, with Majkowski back in the shotgun. The anticipation in the stadium was rife, with fans aware of the endless possibilities from this play. At the snap, four Green Bay receivers took off for the end zone with the lone back swinging out to the left flat to act as an outlet receiver.

The Bears quickly rushed at Majkowski forcing him to step back into the pocket while avoiding a sack. At that point, there were no open receivers so he scrambled forward towards the right. Majkowski went along the line of scrimmage for a few yards then with time running out, threw a desperate pass towards the center of the field. The effort despite being thrown with a difficult cross-body motion, found Sterling Sharpe who then went with the flow of play and eked out an opening two yards from the end zone.

Packers fans erupted into cheers believing they had made the game-tying touchdown but their joy was short-lived. The penalty marker on the field brought the cheers to a halt, with Jim Quick having flagged Majkowski for passing forward beyond the line of scrimmage. The Packers fans stood in disbelief at the call before the replay official paused play in order to review the incident on screen. Replays revealed that Majkowski’s right leg had been on the 15-yard line as he made the throw.

Four minutes after the game was paused replay official Bill Parkinson delivered his much awaited ruling, and referee Tom Dooley awarded a touchdown to the Packers. The partisan crowd immediately went into raucous celebration. Rookie Chris Jacke made the extra point to put the Packers in the lead with time winding down. At the final gun, more cheers spread around Lambeau Field, with a fierce enemy finally vanquished for the first time since the 1984 season.

Aftermath of the Instant Replay Game

The victory gave Green Bay a 5-4 record which was their best record since a 5-3-1 finish in 1982. This placed them in second place, one game behind Minnesota in the NFC Central Division. The game that followed was a trip to the San Francisco 49ers, the eventual Super Bowl winners, who had Joe Montana in their ranks.

The Packers won 21-17, becoming the last team to beat the 49ers that season. They finished the season with a 10-6 record for second place but they failed to make the playoffs. They did however leave a mark on NFL history books, being the first team to win four games by a single point in one season.