Warner Bros. // 2010 // 375 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // October 9th, 2010
"You can feel the energy here and it goes with the great tradition. Lovie Smith said no special speech needed for a match-up like this on opening Sunday, but he did show his team a specially edited video of the history of this great rivalry -- the most recent history, even Brett Favre admits, dominated by the Bears." -- Chris Myers, Fox Sports Broadcaster, September 10, 2006
Sports rivalries are a dime a dozen, but really great sports rivalries are rarer than one might think. They require teams that are evenly matched (or close to it) and have the same stubborn resolve to win, yet employ contrasting styles of play. Perhaps most important, the teams must have equally impassioned fan bases. As far as I'm concerned (and, granted, I say this as a die-hard Bears fan), there is no greater NFL rivalry than that between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. I realize that many would make the case for the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry being the greatest in the league, but the Bears and Packers have been at each other's throats for nearly twice as long, the deep-seated dislike between the teams originating in 1921, a mere year after the NFL was born. No other NFL rivals have faced off as many times as the Bears and Packers (180 at the time of this writing). No other NFL rivals are as passionate about beating each other to a pulp (in the past, both teams have relished the opportunity to dash the other's playoff chances, even when they themselves had been mathematically eliminated from a playoff berth). Part of what makes the Bears-Packers rivalry so potent is how similar the teams are. Both are classic Midwestern clubs -- vicious, hard-hitters known for playing in open air stadiums in all manner of inclement weather. Both made their names under the leadership of two of the greatest coaches the NFL has ever seen -- the Bears under George Halas, and Green Bay under Vince Lombardi (two grizzled old coots the likes of which the NFL will never see again). Yet the two teams are also opposite numbers to a certain extent. If the Packers are known for their offensive prowess under the leadership of a line of great quarterbacks that includes Arnie Herber, Bart Starr, and Brett Favre, then the Bears are known for crushing defensive units that have included the talents of Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher.
For both the Bears and the Packers (and their fans), there are no more meaningful games each season than the two they play against each other. The Bears can suffer a painful-to-watch sub-.500 season, but if their handful of wins includes two humiliating defeats of the Packers, that's enough succor to keep me going until the next season. As a Bears fan, any Packers loss carries a measure of satisfaction -- even if it's not to the Bears. A Packers fan would say the same thing about a Bears loss. It is that intensity of emotion to which NFL Films and the NFL Network is pandering with NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers, a three-disc set featuring a trio of memorable games, unexpurgated, from this greatest of NFL rivalries. (Fear not, Packers fans, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Packers Defeat Bears is out there to cater to your tastes, too, however depraved and wrong-headed they may be.)
Disc One (11/7/99, 14-13)
Touted on the back of the DVD case as the "Walter Payton Game" -- the first game the Bears played after the Hall of Fame running back's death -- the footage on the disc contains none of the pre-game honors for Payton. That said, it was played at Green Bay's Lambeau Field and the number of Packers fans hoisting signs honoring Sweetness is touching (though it doesn't change the fact that anyone wearing yellow and green isn't welcome in my house). The game itself is a hard-fought, tightly played, low-scoring affair that doesn't exactly make for exciting DVD replay. It's notable among the many Bears-Packers face-offs because the underachieving Bears kept the game tight, manufactured a miniscule lead, and then prevented a Packers win when defensive tackle Bryan Robinson blocked a field goal attempt in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. It was the Bears' first win against the Packers since 1993.
Disc Two (9/10/06, 26-0)
The second disc in the set improves on the first by offering a truly memorable game in the rivalry. Played in Lambeau Field on opening day of the 2006 season, the game marks the first time in Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's career that he was shut out. Granted, Bears defensive back Danieal Manning gets away with blatant pass interference in the red zone at one point, but that doesn't change the fact that the Bears outplayed the Packers on every level throughout the game. The contest is also notable for a fine performance (despite a pick) by uneven Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, and an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie Devin Hester -- a harbinger of things to come in this bizarre Bears season that found them eventually clawing their way into the Super Bowl, only to lose badly to Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts.
Disc Three (12/22/08, 20-17)
The only game in this set played in Chicago, this contest is remembered as the coldest game in Bears history -- it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and a teeth-chattering -13 with the wind chill. The Bears were fighting for a playoff berth, while the Packers were out of the running and chomping at the bit to play the spoiler to their arch-rival. Play by the Bears is ugly throughout, with Green Bay dominating (the Packers had won that season's first matchup between the two teams, 37-3). As is often the case with the Bears, special teams and defense pulled off the win. Stepping into Devin Hester's punt-return shoes, Danieal Manning ran one back 71 years for a crucial score. The Bears sent the game into overtime when defensive end Alex Brown blocked a Mason Crosby field goal attempt, then took the win on a Robbie Gould field goal.
Honestly, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is one weird DVD release. Each game is presented in its entirety (sans commercial breaks and between-play banter), but there's zero context provided by John Facenda-style voice-over narration or even snippets from the pre-game coverage -- and, let's face it, context is everything in sports, the source of most of the drama. The first two games are derived from Fox's coverage, while the third is from ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast. As far as DVD presentation goes, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is about as low-rent as it gets. Each of the three discs has a fairly static menu that presents the date, location, and final score of the game, a slideshow of stills from the game, and options to jump to the beginning of each quarter (the 2008 game also lets you go straight to overtime). Each game is presented in full frame (which is a drag for the 2006 and 2008 games, which were both broadcast in high definition). Image quality for the 1999 game is surprisingly rough. Colors are decent, but detail is lousy, especially in long and aerial shots which are hazy at best. The entire presentation looks very much like an old videotape. The transfer for the 2006 game is considerably better, though nothing to write home about. The 2008 game delivers a crisp, clean video image that looks exactly like any standard definition broadcast you'd watch on a Sunday afternoon. Audio for all three games is presented in Dolby stereo. The mixes are in keeping with stereo broadcast quality, which is to say a step down from the 5.1 surround audio you get with high def presentations of games.
There are no extras.
NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is pigskin porn for die-hard Bears fans. Unless you really, really enjoy watching the Bears beat the Packers, the raw unexpurgated game footage, sans any sort of context whatsoever, might make for a solid insomnia remedy, but that's about it. I am a Bears fan, yet I'm still not quite sure what to make of this release. Owning these games on DVD and watching them again and again? That way madness lies.
Screw the Packers.
Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 375 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Chicago Bears
* Green Bay Packers