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It’s been nearly 40 years, but former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka is still kicking himself for not giving the ball to Walter Payton in Super Bowl XX.
Speaking with Dan Dakich on Monday’s Don’t @ Me, Ditka revealed that not giving Payton the chance to score a touchdown in the 46-10 blowout over the New England Patriots is “the worst thing” he’s ever done.
“I didn’t think about it,” Ditka added. “It did not even cross my mind. It’s the biggest thing I regret in my life.”
Mike Ditka doesn’t let Walter Payton score Super Bowl touchdown
Ditka and the 1985 Chicago Bears were an absolute wagon, and Payton was the heart and soul of the offense. The future Hall of Famer was in the 11th season of a 13-year career and ran for over 1,500 yards during the team’s nearly perfect regular season.
Of course, Ditka also liked to experiment with 335-pound William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry in goal-line situations, handing him the ball at the 1 and letting him plow his way into the end zone.
Perry scored twice during the regular season, and then again during the playoffs.
Ditka went back to the well in the Super Bowl, calling Perry’s number on the goal line with a 37-3 lead. The big man would score, and Payton would ultimately never find the end zone.
“I apologized to him,” Ditka said of the post-game locker room. “I didn’t think it was that important. I really was worried about winning the football game, winning the Super Bowl. It never came to my mind. I made a gross mistake.”
Payton admitted after the game he wanted the ball (duh), and said a few weeks later it was “a little hardening for me.”
”I was upset, a little hurt,” Payton said during Pro Bowl practice the following week. ”Was. Not now. I got over it right away. You know how it is. You work all these years, you want to do well in a big game, and then, something like that takes away from the moment.”