Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Super Bowl Moment XI: The Fridge becomes the heaviest man to score a Super Bowl touchdown...

Pure Athleticism...

The very brief disclaimer: this isn’t a list that’s ranked in any order other than chronological…so don’t judge too much. It’s Super Bowl moment number 11 on the list of the top 25.

Sometimes, the best ideas are born in the worst of times. For Bears Coach Mike Ditka, this happened on a chilly day in San Francisco. It was the NFC Championship game for the 1984 season and the 49ers had dominated Ditka’s Bears.

Leading late in the game, legendary 49er Coach Bill Walsh inserted backup lineman Guy McIntyre into the game as a fullback.

Ditka, having already seen his team get shutout and his quarterback sacked eight times, was not amused. It was a violation of the unwritten rules of football in his view. It appeared to Ditka that Walsh was rubbing it in and he didn’t like that.

And say what you want about Mike Ditka, but the man had a long memory. He didn’t forget.

Nine months later, the Bears again found themselves against Walsh and the 49ers in the city by the bay. This time, with Jim McMahon as their quarterback, Chicago found some offense. And some defense called the “46” (which you may or may not have heard of) harried Joe Montana to the tune of a career high seven sacks.

With the lead safe and the Bears running out the clock, Ditka had an epiphany. He would take his revenge, but with who? Which lineman would he choose to execute his middle finger-like gesture to the Niners?

The answer was a rookie defensive tackle that, up till that point, hadn’t cracked the starting lineup.

He was the man they called “the Refrigerator,” William Perry.

Standing at only 6’2” (short for his position), his 380 pound weight (which fluctuated frequently) looked that much more ridiculous.

That’s the guy thought Ditka. And so the massive reserve lineman went in at fullback. But Ditka had thought of a small wrinkle to the original plan. He wasn’t just going to have Perry block for Hall of Famer Walter Payton, he would let “the Fridge” run the ball himself.

It was the most over “Eff You” in the history of football strategy. You weren’t just losing to the Bears, you were losing so bad they were putting in this walking, talking joke of a ball carrier to complete the humiliation.

After that game, the Fridge started to develop his persona (and Ditka famously went onto to a DUI). Perry made it into Buddy Ryan’s starting defense (which was the best defense in NFL history no big deal) and enhanced his offensive reputation.

He scored two rushing touchdowns during the regular season and actually caught a touchdown too.

Reaching the Super Bowl, the Bears were already on one of the most impressive defensive runs in playoff history. They had not allowed a single point on their thunderous run to the championship.

Facing them in the Super Bowl (and serving as sacrificial lamb) were the New England Patriots. The game was never in doubt after the Patriots led briefly 3-0 in the first quarter. The Bears would score 37 unanswered points and the final touchdown of that streak was something like no other touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Late in the third quarter, Chicago was at the Patriots one yard line. And Mike Ditka was itching to use his secret weapon. In went the Fridge.

Pro football would never be the same (ok…slight overstatement but technically it’s true. When else has someone like him been used in that role?)

And William Perry did what any physically gifted 380 pound man would do with the football on the one yard line: he fell forward. Touchdown.

With that, the route was on in Super Bowl XX (Chicago would win 46-10 setting a record for Super Bowl margin of victory).

Fridge became the heaviest man to ever score a touchdown in the Super Bowl (and probably had the margin by more than 150 pounds).

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