1985 Bears Coverage: Bears are still an attraction without their big sideshow

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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.

Bears are still an attraction without their big sideshow

Ron Rapoport

Originally published Nov. 11, 1985

With Jim McMahon remaining on the sideline and William Perry’s offensive contribution restricted to use as the world’s largest decoy, the Chicago Bear sideshow came to an end yesterday.

There was no need for McMahon to gallop to the rescue as he did so memorably against Minnesota two months ago, the last time injuries prevented him from starting. McMahon kept his hands in his pockets this time and his various aches and pains away from the potential for further damage.

There was no need for Perry to run for a touchdown, or catch a pass for one, or even to block for one. When Perry was a man in motion this time, he wound up a dozen refrigerator lengths from the point of attack as reserve quarterback Steve Fuller sneaked across the goal line for the Bears’ first score.

There will be no film clips to enhance the Perry phenomenon on the CBS Evening News tonight. There was nothing for David Letterman to crack wise over when Perry visits him later in the evening.

All there was was football, and with it the growing sense that the real story of the Bears is beginning to emerge from the circus that surrounds it.

“You have fun when you can,” said linebacker Mike Singletary, “but when all that stuff stops, you focus on what’s real. William Perry comes out and the fans go wild and that’s fun. But then the fog lifts, you see what you have and that’s a football team that’s winning.”

Winning despite the fact the Bears were not at their best when they beat Detroit 24-3 at Soldier Field yesterday. Winning despite being hampered by a wet field, icy limbs, missing personnel and a limited playbook.

None of this could keep the Bears from making the Lions look bad. Look awful, as a matter of fact. Look as though they hardly could wait for the game to end.

“We don’t want to embarrass anybody,” said Bear linebacker Otis Wilson. “But better them than us.”

“Nobody ever thought about embarrassing us when we were getting kicked,” said offensive tackle Keith Van Horne. “Why should we worry about embarrassing them?”

Whatever the intent, the Lions will have to look long and hard to find anything to be happy about. Their offense was offensive, their defense was defenseless and their mistakes were unmistakable as the Bears extended their unbeaten streak to 10.

It seems to be getting to the point where the Bears don’t need their best performance to win anymore. The mere sight of them seems to scare other teams half to death.

Take Detroit quarterback Eric Hipple, for instance. Please. On the Lions’ first possession, Hipple no sooner had recovered one fumbled snap than the ball fell free again. This time, Singletary was there to dive on it.

In the second period, Hipple was at it again. Saved from a fumble when one of his own men jumped offside and the play was nullified, he promptly threw an interception on the next play.

The Lions were just as helpful when it came to helping the Bears cross the goal line. In the first period, when the Bears couldn’t score on three plays inside the Detroit 4, the Lions thoughtfully committed a holding penalty and gave them four more chances.

Then, in the second period, Detroit committed a roughing-the-kicker infraction to keep Chicago’s second touchdown drive alive.

The Lions also came up with such delights as using up all their first-half timeouts in the first period, having a pass receiver knocked down by his own blocker short of a first down deep in Bear territory and, as the game wore down, allowing themselves to be used as fodder for turnover drills.

It is tempting to say it just wasn’t Detroit’s day, but that would be overlooking the Bears’ role in all of this, and that would be a mistake.

Offensively, they did the only thing they really had to do, which was hold onto the ball.

“Our concern was to control the line of scrimmage, to control the clock, to control the football and not make any turnovers,” said Jim Covert. Except for a fumble by Fuller the Lions turned into their lone field goal, the Bears accomplished this tall order, keeping the ball for more than 41 minutes.

As for defense, they showed that less can be more by cramming four sacks, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions into fewer than 19 minutes.

“You looked out there a couple of times and it looked like a jail break,” said Wilson. “Their offensive line didn’t know who to pick up.”

“Our goal today was keeping them to 150 yards of total offense,” said safety Dave Duerson. They exceeded that goal by 46 yards.

All this success has led to a heady confidence as the Bears approach the last really important game on their schedule before the playoffs, against the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday. This is not a feeling that can be overestimated.

“If you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to get anywhere in anything,” said defensive tackle Steve McMichael.

“If we go out and execute the way we normally do, we know we can dominate,” said Wilson.

As for the sideshow, well, it was there once and it will be there again, as soon as McMahon is able and Perry is needed to join the offense. In the meantime, however, it should not be overlooked that Perry had his best day on defense. Five tackles and two sacks will not add to his legend, but that’s what he was hired for.

And, besides, he kind of enjoyed it.

“Today was a great day for defense,” Perry said of the cold and the rain. “You could hit somebody and the ball would come loose. Anything will happen.”

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