1985 Bears Coverage: Payback time for Bears

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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.

Payback time for Bears

Gary Fencik

Originally published Nov. 17, 1985

My first thought about Dallas and today’s game is that in the 10 years I’ve been with the Bears, we have never beaten the Cowboys in any pre-season, regular season or postseason game.

I think about all the times we’ve lost against Dallas and about all the teammates I’ve played with who would sure love to have me and the rest of the guys on the team really stick it to Dallas. It would be a great payback.

You know, revenge is an often overused word, but I think it would really erase a lot of memories for a lot of people if we can get over this hurdle and beat what is a very fine football team.

The “America’s Team” thing with the Cowboys is a facet of the grudge that I think most players in the NFL resent. They represent a very fine organization, but there are 27 other members of the NFL who aren’t as arrogant to suggest that they represent “America’s Team.”

Our image as the Bears is very different from the Dallas Cowboys’ image, and I think it reflects our city more accurately than any other image. We’re very tough. We’ve very aggressive and our uniforms get a lot dirtier. We have to play that way in order to be successful in our own right.

In the pre-season game against Dallas this year, there were a lot of fights, there were fines after the game and it was a very physical match. Yet we lost a game that Mike Ditka had put an awful lot of emotion into. If you look at the low-key manner in which he’s pursuing this week’s

game, there’s a strong contrast.

It’s been very, very low key around camp this week – very similar to the way it was before the San Francisco game in that the game for us, from a standings viewpoint, is not nearly as important as it is for the opposing team. Should the Cowboys lose, they would have four losses and would really be fighting against the New York Giants for first place in that division.

For us, we have the opportunity to clinch our division and also keep our record unblemished, and that certainly is something on everyone’s mind. But I don’t think it’s a real focal point, nor is a loss something that would devastate us. That’s an important point. To win this game will enhance our image as a real power in the league. A loss will only serve to strengthen our resolve to clinch the division championship and move on to the playoffs.

This game is also important because Dallas in all likelihood will be in the playoffs and could be a potential foe, so you want to establish something now against teams like the Cowboys that they’ll remember later on.

In all probability, Jim McMahon is not going to play again today, and that changes the attitude around the team a little bit in that while we have confidence in Steve Fuller at quarterback, we realize we’re losing one of the highest-rated passers in the NFC and a player who has given our offense and our team so much confidence this year.

But we’ve won with Steve Fuller last year, and I think last week’s game against Detroit was really a critical test for Steve and the team.

We know now we are capable of winning without McMahon. Now that we’ve moved beyond that hurdle, this game will be a stern test for Steve and for us.

I think it places a greater burden on the offensive line and on every one of us offensively and defensively because we know that we can’t go into Dallas and just play a good game – we have to play a great game.

That can be a positive influence, for it gives us another incentive, another reason to rise above our previous performances. In that sense, I perceive it as an advantage.

We’re going into this game knowing our defense is playing very well. In the last five games, the defense has not allowed more than one touchdown to be scored per game. The Cowboys also have one of the best defenses in the league, with a very strong pass rush and one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

This will be a game where big offensive plays or key turnovers by either team will have a big impact on an otherwise even match.

I don’t think you’ll see scores in the 30s. It’s going to be in the teens or 20s. It’s going to be very hard to stop either one of these offenses from scoring a touchdown for an entire game, but both teams have fine field goal kickers. I think if Rafael Septien gets within a range of 40 to 50 yards, they’re going to use him. Similarly, Kevin Butler, who’s leading the NFC in scoring, has really made people forget we cut Bob Thomas, who in his own right had a great year last year. That’s a tremendous credit to Kevin.

In the last month, too, we’ve really reverted offensively from throwing the ball and making the big plays via the pass to a more controlled ball game emphasizing the run and emphasizing one of the greatest runners in the NFL in Walter Payton.

Both teams, in fact, feature great running backs, although they are more finesse-oriented and like to use a few more trick plays. Ditka implemented the Dallas offensive system, so we are familiar with it. It will be very important for our defense to make them earn every yard and not let a clever screen pass or a trick play beat us.

Going into this game, our team is just very relaxed, and I can’t say that I’m surprised by that. But it is nice to know that we’re still very hungry and that we approach every game, particularly a game like Dallas, with a real chip on our shoulder. That’s something that Mike has always emphasized – to go into a game with the attitude that “hey, we don’t like them and we’re going to be very physical and very clean – and hopefully intelligent – and win the game, then leave town.”

From a fan’s perspective, if they don’t see the Chicago Bears playing one of the most aggressive games of the season, it won’t be the coaches’ fault. Just like the San Francisco game, we didn’t do a lot of talking but the memories run deep and long. We know what we have to do and we look forward to it.

And we’re going to let all the talking take place on the field with our shoulder pads.

Gary Fencik’s column will appear Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times through the Bears season.

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