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.
Bear aim: plunder with style
Originally published Nov. 12, 1985
What we have coming up Sunday in Dallas is more than a football game matching Cowboys and Bears. It is a collision of images.
On one side of the phony grass: America’s Team, the Galahads with the stars on their silver hats and nary a speck of dirt on their shiny blue pants, a coach who looks like God’s deputy and an angel chorus of cheerleaders who convey the idea there could be a hell of a good time in heaven.
On the other side, those upstart rowdies from Chicago, snot-nose kids who need their diapers changed. When they grow up, you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one. Their keeper has cleaned up his act, but still holds the league record for the clipboard throw. Instead of knights on white chargers, you get a team with a rookie so fat he couldn’t mount a Clydesdale without giving the horse a hernia.
This is not the way the Bears want to be perceived, mind you. Now that they are 10-0 and dreaming of a Super Bowl, they are striving for a loftier image.
Mike Ditka said yesterday he will caution his team daily against a repeat of the beastliness that marred their pre-season meeting in Dallas, won by the Cowboys 15-13.
“You gotta put hard feelings aside,” he said righteously. “Retaliate with good football, not by getting into a pushing or slapping contest.”
Mike Singletary, as nice a middle linebacker as ever knocked the giblets out of a running back, hoped there would be no gouging and biting: “I hope we can knock each other out, without all that other stuff.”
Singletary spoke somewhat wistfully of the contrast between images: “It’s pretty tough for the Bears to be America’s Team. Our suits are blue and orange. To a lot of people, they look black and red. It appears we’re always fighting. Dallas has always been just good ol’ guys, stars on their helmets. Kids like to be Cowboys. Maybe, in a little while, we can be America’s Team. Hopefully, we’ll get away from the overaggressiveness, the Los Angeles Raider-type thing. . .We want to be known as clean guys that will knock your block off.”
For just that moment, Singletary sounded ready to be Little Lord Fauntleroy and wear lace in Dallas. But the real Bear in him came through when he talked about his love for the wet, cold, windy, miserable weather in which the Bears had made Detroit their 10th victim Sunday.
“Bear weather,” he called it. The only fault he found with it was that it wasn’t dirty enough because the turf was artificial. “Playing on a day like yesterday, with mud all over you, that’s fun,” he gushed. “Snow, sleet, that’s our kind of weather.”
Odd talk from a guy who grew up in hot, humid Houston and who blames his imperfect vision on too much viewing of Cowboy games while sitting
12 inches from the TV set. Singletary explained that he also watched Central Division games and Dick Butkus was one of his heroes. “Every time I watched the old Bears, Vikings or Packers, the middle linebacker was standing there with snow blowing everywhere. That was great. Mud and blood flying all over the place!”
If the Bears are ever going to supplant the Cowboys as football’s gentry, Singletary will have to quit talking that way.
Indeed, the team wouldn’t be 11-0 if it were not for its violent style, especially on defense.
It is difficult for a team to win a passing grade in deportment when its whole defensive philosophy is built on treating opponents so rudely they surrender the football.
Some teams play a bend-but-don’t-break defense, allowing opponents to gain yards while denying touchdowns.
Buddy Ryan, the Bears’ defensive coordinator, doesn’t have the patience for that. He calls his defense “a take-the-sumbitch-away-from-them-in-a-hurry type.” His team has prompted 19 enemy fumbles by assault or intimidation, recovered 10 of them, and intercepted 24 passes. That’s almost 3 1/2 turnovers a game.
Ryan’s defense has held the last five opponents to an average of less than eight points a game.
“We’re getting better every week,” he says. “We’re playing together more.” The defense was hindered early by the holdouts of Singletary and Richard Dent, who reported late to training camp, injuries to Otis Wilson and Gary Fencik, and the training under fire of Dave Duerson and Wilber Marshall to replace Todd Bell and Al Harris, who remain unsigned. “Looks like we’ve about overcome those things,” Buddy says. “I’m pretty proud of this bunch for that.”
How does the Bear defense produce more turnovers?
“We’re going for the ball more,” says Singletary, “putting our heads on the ball when the guy is running with it, trying to hit the hand the quarterback is throwing with.” As for the interceptions, the Bears are zeroing in on the ball. In other years, especially Doug Plank’s heyday, they were content to knock the wheels off the
There is finesse involved, but the fans see mostly the violence that has given the team its rowdy image.
Ditka grants the Cowboys are still America’s Team, but he sees a growing appreciation of the Bears in some quarters:
“I think we fit well in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Birmingham – the good work areas. All we need to be is Chicago’s Team.”
They are a team for lunch-pail America, working on phony grass and wishing it was mud. There are no stars on their helmets, but they make a lot of guys see stars.