Walter Payton shattered O. J. Simpson's single-game National Football League rushing record and scored a touchdown today to lead the Chicago Bears to a 10-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Payton gained 275 yards in 40 carries to wipe out Simpson's mark of 273 yards set last Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions. Payton scored on a one-yard run in the second period and Bob Thomas booted a 37-yard field goal that stood up for the margin of victory.
"The holes were there and I just ran," said Payton. "I haven't had time to think about the record. All I can say is that this was a day when everything went right and we got a big win.
"I had no idea I was anywhere near a record," because we tightened the playoff race."
"Walter Payton's achievements were outstanding," said Viking coach Bud Grant. "I can't say anything that hasn't been said before. If I were better with words, maybe I could."
Bear coach Jack Pardee said, "I didn't know Walter was approaching a record. But I'll say this, it was against a good team with a good defense and came when we needed it most."
The triumph lifted the Bears (5-5) to within one game of the 6-4 Vikings, who lead the Central Division of the National Football Conference. The Vikings had won the first meeting in overtime, 22-16.
Minnesota was unable to generate much offense behind quarterback Bob Lee, who started the game in place of Fran Tarkenton, out for the season with broken leg. The Vikings avoided a shutout when Matt Blair blocked a Bob Parsons punt at the 31, picked up the ball at the 10 and ran for a touchdown. It was Blair's fourth blocked kick this season.
Payton gained 144 yards in 26 carries in the first half, including a seven-yard loss when he fumbled a handoff from quarterback Bob Avellini, and added 131 yards in the second half, including a 58-yard run late in the game.
The Bear defense shut out the Vikings in the first half and limited them to a total of 52 yards as Chicago took a 10-0 lead.
The Vikings drove to the Chicago one-yard line in search of the lead late in the third quarter only to have Tom Hicks intercept a Lee jump pass.
In erasing Simpson's record, Payton also wiped out the Bear record of 205 yards set by Gale Sayers in 1968 and equaled by Payton earlier this season. Payton now has 1,404 yards for the year and has gone over 100 yards in seven of the Bears' 10 games.
His 58-yard run gave him 263 yards. He then gained three to move the Bears to the Minnesota five-yard line. Avellini then lost a yard and on fourth down and goal-to-go from the six. Payton gained four yards to set the record, however, the Bears had to tutrn the ball ofer to the Vikings.
Minnesota marched from its two to its own 45 before Terry Kramer replaced Lee, who left the field with an apparent knee injury. Kramer's first pass was intercepted by Allan Ellis and the Bears ran out the clock.
Lee's injury was not believed serious and he is expected to play next week.
The Bears broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter. After they recovered a fumble by punt returner Bob Grim on the Minnesota six, but were stopped on fourth down as Avellini fumbled at the goal line. Minnesota punted against a 30-mile-per-hour wind from its own end zone and the Bears then drove 23 yards in eight plays before Payton bolted over from the one for his touchdown.
Moments later, Virgil Livers intercepted a Lee pass on the Chicago 27. With Payton leading the way, the Bears moved to the Minnesota 13 before Payton was thrown for his seven yard loss. Thomas then booted his 37-yard field goal.
The Bears limited the Vikings to 86 yards rushing and 183 overall while intercepting three passes. Aided by Payton's record, the Bears rushed for 343 yards and tried only seven passes, gaining 33 yards.
"I've been in this game 21 years," Grant said. "Maybe I could think of a time when an offense has been stopped like this, but it might take some time."
Foreman said the game hinged on the line play.
They controlled all day," he said.
"Our defense played well but we can't let the defense stay out there 40 minutes and expect them to control the game. We could have revved it up today. Now we've given them new life."