Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.
Bears disdain trouble
Originally published Nov. 10, 1985
The Bears used to be more interested in settling scores than scoring points. They lost a lot of games that way, but they made sure their opponents hurt too much to laugh.
They didn’t know any better. Like a family without a video recorder, they didn’t know what they were missing. They had heard winning was nice, but they hadn’t done it often enough to appreciate how nice.
In this 9-0 season, the Bears appreciate winning a little more each week. They have learned it’s worth taking some late hits or giving up some stats for it.
The question is whether they’ll remember it while people are pounding their helmets. For the rest of the season, tackle Jimbo Covert says, “People will be gunning for us. I think maybe people will say, `We’re going to rough the Bears up a little bit.’ ”
The Packers said it last week. They took shots at the Bears and the Bears took shots back. “We did enough of that stuff to hurt us,” safety Gary Fencik said, “but not enough to keep us from winning.”
After the game, a Packer player said in hollow triumph, “We played their kind of game. Now who’s crying?”
The Bears used to say things like that in losing locker rooms. That was before they had won often enough to know winners don’t cry.
“I think this team recognizes in past years, we wouldn’t have won games like that,” safety Gary Fencik says. “Our goal now is to win. We can overlook certain things like cheap shots because the bottom line is winning.
“In the past, we had to look at those things as moral victories. That was all we could pull out of games. No one here is talking about moral victories now.”
The Bears are 9-0 because they have focused nine times on winning.
It is that simple, and it is that difficult.
It means not looking ahead and not looking for trouble.
Even coach Mike Ditka has to smack himself sometimes to keep from looking ahead. He has been eager all season for the game at Dallas next week.
“I fantasize,” he says. “I’ll be in the car and start thinking about situations down the road. I have to stop myself. I think about going back to Dallas. It’s hard not to think about. But you can’t think about those things. It doesn’t do any good.”
It would be especially easy to look one week past the Bears’ game against Detroit today. The Lions have the NFL’s worst team against the rush, which has produced more than 200 yards for the Bears two straight weeks. The only punch their last-ranked offense has shown is on the ground, where the Bears have the league-leading defense.
It also will be easy to find trouble, especially the next two weeks. The Bears-Lions rivalry has left a trail of gouged eyes and bloodstains. The Bears and Cowboys exchanged plenty of late hits in their exhibition game three months ago.
Once again, Ditka will preach how it’s more important to beat teams than to beat them up. After the Green Bay game, he said that was “the last thing we talked about before the game and the first thing we talked about in meetings.”
“A lot of people are going to try to go out of bounds, get late shots, diving at the pile, those types of tactics to get us out of our game,” defensive lineman Dan Hampton says. “If we’re stupid enough to fall into that trap, we’ll get beat. But I don’t think we will.”
They probably will be tempted the rest of the season. They have three ingredients that practically beg opponents to take aim at their chinstraps.
They’re winners. Last year, the Bears were excited to prove they could play with the Raiders. This year, teams feel that way about them.
“You take a team that’s not doing so well,” Ditka says. “They could really turn their season around or have a heck of a thing for their highlight film by knocking off a 9-0 team.”
In the case of the Packers or other losing teams, tight end Tim Wrightman said, “The only way they could have kept in the game with us for so long was to play the way they did. They really didn’t have that much to lose.”
That was a way to distract the Bears, “to take you out of your game plan,” as tackle Keith Van Horne said. The better teams, Wrightman said, such as the Cowboys or
Dolphins or Jets, would be more apt to play it straight.
They play aggressively. Teams aren’t satisfied showing they can play as well as the Bears or the Raiders. They want to show they can hit as hard, too. They don’t care whether they show it before the whistle or after it.
On one hand, Van Horne says, “We have to let people know nobody can intimidate us.” On the other hand, they can’t be distracted from winning the game. “It’s a fine line,” Van Horne says, “so you try to do it during the play.”
They say what they think. From Ditka to defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan to Jim McMahon on offense and Hampton on defense, the Bears don’t sugar-coat their words enough to blow anyone’s diet. From many viewpoints, they’ve swaggered across the thin line from fear to loathing.
“When you start winning,” Ditka says, “all of a sudden you’re not quite as nice a guy. Last year I noticed we had people pulling for us who didn’t really feel one way or the other, but the Bears had never been there so they kind of pulled for the Bears.
“Not so much anymore. Now it’s, `The Bears are playing pretty good, so let’s root for the other guys.’ That’s fine.”
They’re not trying to make friends. They’re trying to influence the Super Bowl.
“We’re the bad guys,” Hampton says. “We’re the Monsters of the Midway or the Mouths of the Midway or whatever they want to call us.
“It doesn’t matter. They’ve got to do their talking on the football field. Up to now, no one has stopped us.”