1985 Bears Coverage: Gimpy Hampton likely to start

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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.

Gimpy Hampton likely to start

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Nov. 22, 1985

Coach Mike Ditka seemed resigned that Dan Hampton would start Sunday, even though he would rather Hampton rest his injured shoulder.

Trainer Fred Caito said Hampton could practice today and start against Atlanta, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan said. “He didn’t work all week against San Francisco, and he started and played well,” Ryan said.

“I wouldn’t play him too much,” Ditka said, “but we’ll just see what happens.”

Richard Dent returned to practice after missing a day with a bruised quadricep. “One of the most miraculous recoveries I’ve ever seen in the history of sports,” Ditka said, smiling. “In a 24-hour period, the guy went from a complete invalid to an all-pro defensive end. Amazing.”

POINTLESS: The Bears will set a record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season if they hold their last five opponents to fewer than 68 points.

That would be 13.4 points per game. Opponents have averaged 11.6 for the season, 6.5 in the last six games.

The record is meaningful because the first 16-game season also was the first year of significant rule changes to encourage passing.

League scoring increased 23.5 percent from the last 14-game season, 1977, to 1984. That makes the Steelers’ six shutouts in 1976 only slightly more impressive than the Bears’ holding eight of 11 opponents to 10 points or less.

The Bears have allowed 127 points, 39 fewer than runner-up Cleveland. To illustrate the size of that lead, Cleveland leads the No. 11 team by only 31 points.

Offensively, the Bears’ league-leading 29.4-point average projects to 470, only nine short of the fourth-highest all-time total.

FAINT PRAISE: In case the defensive players are letting their helmet sizes grow, Ryan got a rise out of them this week. He told them, “You’re about on a par with our ’79 defense that took us to the playoffs, as far as production goes. You’ve got a chance to get better, but that’s about where you are at this time.”

DIPPING DOWN: A year ago, middle linebacker Mike Singletary indicated his goal this year would be to win the league’s MVP award. He deserves it, says Ryan.

“Usually that honor goes to offensive people, of course, but I don’t see any burning up the league,” Ryan says. “It’s possible they might have to drop to a defensive guy.”

Ryan says there’s “no question” the league’s best linebacker is Singletary, who shares Sports Illustrated’s cover this week with Dave Duerson and Cowboy Danny White. “He can cover people,” Ryan says. “He can stop the run. He’s smart. He can run.”

Safety Gary Fencik shares signal-calling with Singletary, but he says, “I think that’s just a courtesy to a guy who’s been around awhile. When I’m gone, Mike will do it all.”

NO RESPECT: Ditka was so low-key last week Mike Richardson said some players weren’t even aware the Bears could clinch the division. “He mentioned it right before the game,” Richardson said, “and a lot of guys’ eyes raised up and said, `Oh, OK.’ ”

The night before the game, Ditka showed the players a Rodney Dangerfield tape in lieu of a pep talk.

“It was fun,” Jay Hilgenberg said. “He just did that to show everybody it’s just a game, that whatever happens isn’t life or death. We’ve been real loose all season.”

NO FREE LUNCH: Defensive tackle Steve McMichael wasn’t amused by Richardson’s announcement that he has offered to buy lunch for anyone who knocks an opposing quarterback out of a game.

“It’s a lot of deleted crap,” he said. “I bought lunch for this team one time this year, when we beat New England.” That was when the defense rebounded from a 28-point first half against Tampa Bay and held the Patriots to one touchdown.

AMERICA’S GLEAM: It’s a misconception that the Dallas Cowboys had the arrogance to label themselves “America’s Team.” The name came from NFL Films, which used it to title a highlight film several years ago.

It recognized the Cowboys’ commanding lead in sales of NFL-licensed merchandise. They still outsell the other teams by a wide

margin, and that has been no accident.

“The Cowboys have been very successful selling themselves nationwide for a number of years,” Ditka said last week. “Even though they haven’t been in the Super Bowl for a number of years, I think people would remember them as a Super Bowl team more than anybody, including the Steelers, who won four of them.”

The Bears are a long way from that long-term respect, but Ditka considered the large crowd at their Dallas hotel a good sign. “That’s the way the Cowboys are welcomed all over the country,” he said.

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