GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Monsters of the Midway played mostly like men of mush here Monday night but still managed to win a National Football League game.
The Chicago Bears, who lived up to the monster moniker last season when they won the Super Bowl, were more like mere mortals in their 25-12 win over the Green Bay Packers. But then, on this night, and most of the time in recent years, mere mortals are usually much more than the Packers can handle.
The Packers actually led until just over 13 minutes were left in the final quarter. And they were pretty well matching the Bears in incompetence and boring football.
But then Kevin Butler of the Bears, a kicker who had been struggling of late and who entered the game having connected on only 4 of 10 field-goal tries, defied the odds by kicking one of 52 yards in the rain and muck of Lambeau Field.
It was Butler's longest ever and, afterward, Coach Mike Ditka made reference to how badly Butler needed this as a morale boost when he said: "Butler may not miss another one this year."
The Packers came right back, driving to get their kicker, Al Del Greco, into position for a go-ahead boot of 52 yards. But the kick was blocked and the Packers were soon to be buried under a late Bear splurge that pushed the Bears' record to 3-0 and the Packers' to 0-3.
The Bears quickly drove deep into Packer territory and lost the ball when Tom Flynn intercepted a pass that went off the hands of Calvin Thomas. The Packers started at their five. Quarterback Randy Wright ran the wrong play, was trapped in the end zone by the Bears' Steve McMichael, scrambled loose but was whistled to a stop when the officials ruled that he had been in McMichaels' grasp and, thus, the Bears had a safety.
That made it 15-12 and set the stage for the Bears' Steve Fuller to march his team into position for a 42-yard scoring pass play to Keith Ortego. That made it 22-12 and left time only for some rubbing salt in Packer wounds, Butler kicking a 27-yarder for the final score.
But even with that margin of victory, this was hardly a super night for a Super Bowl champion.
The Bears had 296 total yards, including just 113 rushing, and their star, Walter Payton, was held to 57 yards in 13 carries. Last year, that was a first quarter for the man they call "Sweetness."
Even more noticeable was their semi-docile defense, which last year left a trail of bruises around the league. This year, with the departure of Buddy Ryan and the return to more conventional defensive sets, they seem to be more Teddy than bear.
They had four sacks against the Packers Monday night, but nobody has seen anything around here for years that brings back thought of Vince Lombardi.
"They played us tough," said Ditka. "They are the kind of team that sticks its nose in there. But I don't care what some people say. We can play a lot better than that. We've got to play better.
"I don't argue with our aggressiveness. But we've got to play smarter. Now, it's a matter of taking that aggressiveness and concentrating better, channeling it better."
Ditka was most pleased about two areas. One was Butler, the other the play of Fuller. Mike Tomczak started the game in place of injured Jim McMahon, but he stumbled and bumbled and generally brought his team down to the Packers' level.
So Ditka went to Fuller, who has bailed out the Bears during one of McMahon's injuries before and showed clearly that he is ready to do it again. He took over with his team behind, 12-10, and ended up with 8 of 14 for 109 yards and the touchdown to Ortego.
"He's like our forgotten man," Ditka said. "But Steve Fuller's a pro.
The game also featured the following:
--An instant replay of sorts on last year's memorable Monday night game between the Packers and Bears. In that one, William Perry, "The Refrigerator," made his first huge public splash as a running back. In that one, he crashed over Packer linebacker George Cumby twice, leading the way for a touchdown, and also bulled into the end zone to score once himself.
Monday night, he led Payton on the same kind of play for a two-yard touchdown. This time, most of the Packers stayed out of the way. Probably a smart move, considering that Cumby is now in Buffalo, often considered the NFL's Siberia.
--The big, burly Bears suffered the most damage at the hands of Packer wide receiver Phillip Epps, who caught 9 passes for 99 yards. Epps is 5-9 and weighs 155 pounds.
--Ken Stills, Packer defensive back who was fined $500 for a late hit on the Bears' Matt Suhey last year, and then angered Gregg by saying last week that he'd like McMahon to play so he could tear off various limbs, was knocked groggy while making a tackle early in the first period. He returned to the game later but did little limb-tearing.
--Just before Del Greco tried his 52-yarder that was blocked, the Bears had appeared to have the ball back on a fumble recovery by defensive back Mike Richardson. Teammate Reggie Phillips had made a hard hit on the Packers' Walter Stanley as Stanley caught a pass. The officials on the field ruled that it had been a catch and a fumble. But the "Eye in the Sky" referee, putting to use this year's new instant replay option, stopped the action and eventually reversed the call.
--Fuller, the former Ram quarterback who didn't throw a pass in his 1983 season at Anaheim, wasn't the only former Ram quarterback getting in on the fun here. Vince Ferragamo, the veteran of several dozen Ram quarterback controversies, replaced Wright for one series when the Packer starter hurt his wrist. Ferragamo was 1 of 2 for 20 yards.