In a year that was arguably the greatest single season by a running back, what Gale Sayers did on Dec. 12, 1965 was nothing short of the stuff of legend. Take a jaw-dropping rushing day, add then top it off with a performance that would rank among Devin Hester’s best.
That was the soggy Sunday on which Sayers scored six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers in Wrigley Field, tying an NFL record. Comcast SportsNet will take you inside that moment as part of our "Bears Classics" series, debuting on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m.
The Bears didn’t even load up on Sayers. Against the 49ers that day, Sayers wasn’t even the first rushing option; Jon Arnet had 10 carries, one more than Sayers, and Ronnie Bull had six.
Sayers touched the ball 16 times. Six of those touches went for touchdowns.
Sayers averaged 12.6 yards on his nine carries. He scored on four of those nine carries.
He caught two passes, one of those for a touchdown. He ran back five punts for 134 total yards. One of the returns was for a touchdown.
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How did he do all that? It was more than just the muddy field.
“I had great peripheral vision, there’s no doubt about that,” Sayers said by way of explanation. “I could see everybody on the field. So I knew where to run or cut. I had a feel for where people were. I know that many times, many runs, I would watch the film and there’d be a fellow coming from my blind side.
“No way I could see him but I could feel him.”
You have to view this in total context, because it simply increases in magnitude the more you really look at it. Sayers was on his way to a rookie season of 2,272 total yards (rushing, receiving, returning); 14 rushing touchdowns, six receiving, two returning.
The context? This was in a 14-game season. And that Dec. 12 game was the apex of that year.
If there was a sad irony in all of this, it was that Sayers’ career took its worst hit, literally and figuratively, in 1968 against: the San Francisco 49ers.