Classic Moments in Bears-Packers Rivalry: Don Majkowski Replay Game

This is one of the most memorable game in the Bears-Packers rivalry, and not for a good reason if you’re a Bears fan.

Before there was Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre, there was Don Majkowski.  On November 5, 1989 with the Bears up 13-7 late in the 4th quarter and the Packers down to a 4th and goal from the 14 yard line, Don Majkowski fired a pass to Sterling Sharpe for an apparent touchdown.  Referees on the field threw a penalty flag for an illegal forward pass for throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.  In the first year of instant replay, the booth reviewed the call.  See how it turned out after the jump. 

The abooth overturned the call, handing the Packers a gift touchdown and a victory.  The Lambeau crowd went nuts as that snapped the Packers’ losing streak against the Bears going back to 1984.  It also sent the teams in opposite directions, as the Ditka-led Bears finished the season 1-6 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 1983.

The overturned call so outraged Coach Ditka that the Chicago Bears media guide had that games marked as * Instant Replay Game.


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  • Chris Sauer

    Not sure why you call this a ‘gift’ touchdown. Even a Bears fan can appreciate a great play from an opposing team.

    • Nick

      Thanks from Packerland for acknowledging that. I’ve always thought it was pretty obviously good, although I understand why Beardom hates losing on a “technicality” – which replay was still considered by many at the time. I recall an argument that the rule was about the position of the ball at release, not where the foot was, but that seems even more parsing and legalistic than the actual ruling.

      Oh, and the Pack rules, Bears suck, and all that stuff, too.

  • chicagoirish5

    It’s a “gift” TD because back in ’89 no part of the QB or the ball (witin the throwing motion) could go past the line in order to be called a legal pass. Although there is no clear angle it is/was safe to assume the throwing motion and ball went past the 14 yard line. That’s why this was a bad call back then – the focuse on the Magic Man’s foot on the 15 yard line and not the ball/throwing motion. With no clear angle, this call should not have been overturned.

    • Nick

      That’s kinda what I meant above about “parsing and legalistic”.

  • deez

    A few days ago the magic man himself was talking to some of the guys on espn (waddle and silvey?) and he holds true to this day that he wasn’t over the line.

    However, he said that if the bears win this sunday, he will admit that he was actually over the line and the bears should have won that game. Not that it will change anything that happened but if don is willing to flip flip maybe the call isn’t as “obvious” as you think.

  • Adam


    The rule is that the passer’s entire body has to be past the line of scrimmage for it to be illegal, which clearly Majkowski was not entirely past the line.

    Do you have any actual evidence that the rule was different in 1989, or are you just saying that because you can’t win the argument without it?