1985 Bears Coverage: Hilgenberg’s joy: a can’t-miss ploy

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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.

Hilgenberg’s joy: a can’t-miss ploy

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Nov. 11, 1985

Center Jay Hilgenberg was the Bears’ key blocker on their best running play yesterday. Sometimes, his job was to miss his block.

There were other ways he could carry out the “slant influence” play, which quarterback Steve Fuller said produced “probably 70 to 80 yards for Matt Suhey. We used it for Walter Payton, too, out of different formations, and he probably got 40 or 50 yards.”

Payton and Suhey each ran for more than 100 yards in the Bears’ 24-3 victory over Detroit. It was the third time Payton and a running mate both had 100 yards rushing. The other doubles were with Roland Harper in 1978 and with Suhey in 1983.

“Hilgenberg does a great job,” Suhey said. “He’s as good a center as there is in the game. So’s tackle Jimbo Covert. He’s a bona fide All-Pro. So’s tackle Keith Van Horne.

“They haven’t gotten much recognition.”

On the influence play, one of a few the Bears used repeatedly, Hilgenberg said, “The guards really threw the big blocks.” They were Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer.

But Hilgenberg had the hardest job. He had to persuade nose tackle Doug English, a former All-Pro, to run away from the ball carrier.

“There are two ways you can do it,” Hilgenberg said. “You can go the wrong way off the ball or you can set up for a pass block away from the hole. I tried both today.

“If the play’s supposed to go off my right hip, I’ll step to the left. The nose guard reads your head and moves with you. It’s a good play when the nose guard reads your head a lot.

“But the running backs really made it work. They hit the hole so quickly, they were gone right away.”

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