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Bears Tie Steelers, Maintain Hold on First Place

Nov. 25, 1963 - Roger Leclerc’s 18-yard field goal with 4½ minutes remaining enabled the Chicago Bears to tie the Steelers, 17-17, yesterday and maintain their hold on first place in the Western Division. Coach Buddy Parker’s Steelers moved to within a game of the three teams tied for the Eastern lead: the New York Giants, the Cleveland Browns, and the St. Louis Cardinals. The result was a happy one for most of the 36,465 fans at Forbes Field, who came to watch their Steelers face a favored Chicago team. When Lou Michaels booted an 11-yard field goal early in the fourth period, the Steelers moved to a 17-14 advantage after battling most of the afternoon to catch the Bears. This seemed, for a time, enough for the Steelers to turn in a major upset and force the Bears into a first-place tie with the Packers in the Western Conference. But a pass play with Billy Wade throwing and Mike Ditka receiving put the ball within range for Leclerc to tie the game. There’s no question but that the Bears would have gone down to an upset loss but for Ditka. The husky ex-Panther played a tremendous game at his right end position, where he hauled down seven passes for a total of 146 yards. 
In the wake of one of their most grueling battles of this or any recent season, the Bears had mixed emotions. On the one hand, they felt they should have won. On the other, they considered themselves fortunate in being able to return home still on top of the NFL’s Western Division. “We’ll settle for the tie,” said coach George Halas. “Needless to say, we would have rather won. But we’re still ahead of Green Bay. Our future is still in our hands. We know what we have to do now — win our next three games, all of them. I’m glad we’re going home to finish out the season in Wrigley Field.” Most of the players were talking about Ditka’s spectacular 63-yard romp through almost the entire Steeler defensive platoon to set up the Bears’ tying field goal. Ditka was talking about it too. “I lost my legs,” said the burly Bear, by way of apologizing for his failure to go all the way. “They were completely dead. I had just run pass patterns on the three previous plays, and suddenly I found myself in the clear with the ball. But my legs felt paralyzed. I never had a feeling like that before. I kept looking for someone to lateral to, but nobody showed up.” Halas called Ditka’s caper “one of the greatest individual efforts I have seen in 40 years of football. They had him stopped a half dozen times, but his feet never stopped churning.”


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