1985 Bears Coverage: Bears must bite Bullets to win

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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 must bite Bullets to win

Herb Gould

Originally published Nov. 20, 1985

“Bullets” is what the Atlanta Falcons call their rendition of the “46,” the Bears’ hit defense, which is being used by more and more NFL copycats.

“Bullets is the same defense the Bears use when they want to blitz. Only we use it on every snap – run, pass, prevent, everything,” said middle linebacker Buddy Curry, who will help demonstrate Bullets in Soldier Field Sunday.

“The way we play our defense, we have to stop the run,” Curry said. “If we can stop the run, I think that, somehow, we can come out with a win.”

The Falcons, who began relying on Bullets in the third game of the season, plan to leave their 2-9 record in the locker room when they face the 11-0 Bears. And they’ve got last Sunday’s 30-14 victory over the Rams, who have lost three of four since a 7-0 start, to convince them they can win.

“It’s a game of mistakes – interceptions and fumbles,” Curry said, and the Falcons showed their ability to take advantage against the Rams, when they built an early lead and then held Eric Dickerson to 41 yards on 11 carries while L.A. played a catch-up passing game.

“We were blown out by the Redskins, but other than that, if we’d had a big play or two, we might have won a lot more games,” said center Jeff Van Note. “When you’re 2-9, it’s a great opportunity to play an undefeated team.”

The Falcons’ offensive linemen figure that dodging Bullets in practice since training camp began will help them do a number on the 46 in Soldier Field.

But the truth is, they aren’t counting on it. They respect the Bears.

“It will help because we run against Bullets in practice. I think we’ll have an advantage as far as seeing some of the looks,” Eric Sanders said. “But you still have to block the personnel,” he said with a nervous chuckle. “And that’s the big thing.”

The other big thing is that the Falcons have been playing musical linemen because of injuries. In the last three weeks, three starters (tackles Mike Kenn and Brett Miller, and guard John Scully) have gone down.

Only 17-year Falcon Van Note has remained in the same position.

Sanders, on the other hand, moved to his third position in three weeks against the Rams. He has gone from left guard to right tackle to left tackle, while outstanding rookie Bill Fralic has moved from right guard to right tackle.

It hasn’t hurt the Falcons’ running game, though. Running back Gerald Riggs, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,138 yards, will be gunning for his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.

“Wherever Fralic goes on the offensive line, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said Riggs, who admitted, “I work harder when the guys go down in front of me, because I know the new guys are working harder to get the job done.”

Asked to compare Riggs and Payton, Falcon coach Dan Henning said, “I’d need one of your telecopiers and a court stenographer. There’s a size difference Riggs is 6-1, 232 to Payton’s 5-10, 202. There’s age Riggs, in his third year is 25; 11-year vet Payton is 31 and probably some speed.

“Walter’s more of an in-and-out type,” Henning said. “Gerald’s more of a Wild Bull of the Pampas. He’s gonna get two yards just by falling forward. If he gets three yards first, he’s going to get five.”

Riggs also is the reason the Falcons are big winners in the time-of-possession battle that the Bears covet. If the 2-9 Falcons were playing “Beat the Clock,” they would be 10-1, including Sunday, when they had the ball a whopping 43 1/2 minutes to the Rams’ 16 1/2.

Pass blocking, however, is a trickier proposition when everybody’s playing out of position. “We had a little trouble on stunt pickups against the Rams,” Sanders said.

But second-year quarterback David Archer said he wasn’t taking out any extra insurance before facing the Bear blitzes that sidelined the Cowboys’ Danny White with a concussion Sunday. “My offensive line will be my insurance,” Archer said.

Fralic suggested another way to preserve Archer’s health. “What’d the Bears win by, 44-0? They should let the starters stay home, and play the backups,” he said.

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