1985 Bears Coverage: Winning almost kid’s play 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.

Winning almost kid’s play for Bears

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Nov. 22, 1985

They’re like 11 children. The Bears love them all. And each one of their victories has its own reason for being special.

“It seems like every week there’s a new wrinkle, a new challenge,” Gary Fencik says. “Some problem forces us to really focus on that game.”

When the players look back, though, some victories stand out. The San Francisco and Dallas games are obvious. To some players, the opener against Tampa Bay and the games at Green Bay and Minnesota were even more meaningful.

“The opening game will probably be the most important game we’ll play until the playoffs,” Richard Dent says. “If we’d have lost that, there’s no telling where we’d be right now. We talked so much about what we wanted to do this year, and to start off with a loss would have been ridiculous.”

Tampa Bay led that game 28-17 at halftime. “They took it to us like no offense took it to us all last year,” Fencik says. “But then our offense scored points like no one had ever seen them score points before.”

The Bears won 38-28. It was the first of six times they would come from behind to win.

“That really set the tone for this team,” Fencik says. “Winning in that type of fashion sent a message to a lot of people. Since then, we’ve consistently showed there are a lot of ways we can win.

“I think maybe it’s been a positive thing that the defense really didn’t play well at the beginning of the year and the offense took over. We’ve had times where there were people pointing fingers over who got the credit. Now the whole team’s getting it. We’re much closer because of it.”

Green Bay game

The game at Green Bay, week nine, was the only time an opponent came within a touchdown of the Bears. Dan Hampton called it the biggest hurdle to an undefeated season. Coach Mike Ditka has called it the most “satisfying,” but he wouldn’t single out one game for significance.

Matt Suhey did. He picked Green Bay.

“We played up there. We played horrible. They played the best they’ve ever played against us,” Suhey says. “They used all kinds of tactics that were against the rules. Fighting, cheap shots. And they still didn’t beat us.”

Payton likes Vikes

“No,” says Walter Payton, listening to Suhey. “I think the pivotal point in the season was the Minnesota game up there. It showed we had the ability to beat a very tough foe in our division away from home.”

It was the first one billed as significant. Both teams were 2-0. The Vikings led 17-9 before Jim McMahon dragged his injured neck and leg off the bench in the third quarter. He threw three touchdown passes in seven minutes.

“The play that sticks out was McMahon throwing that touchdown pass on his first play,” Fencik says. “That’s a game people will talk about for years.”

For sustained impact, though, nothing compares with the convincing victories at San Francisco and Dallas, playoff contenders that have been in seven Super Bowls between them.

The Bears went to San Francisco with a 5-0 record, but it was only their second road game. The 49ers qualified for the Super Bowl by beating them last season.

“It was like, `OK, let’s see how good you really are,'” Mike Singletary says. “We had beaten some teams. We were looking great. `OK, let’s see how good you are against the best.’

Defense vs. 49ers

“The offense had a great day. The defense held the 49ers to the fewest yards they’ve had in years.” The game was not as close as the 26-10 score.

“I think losing there last year has really enabled us to come back and have the kind of year we had this year,” Jay Hilgenberg says. “It was really a terrible feeling to get that close and not play well at all. I thought about that game a lot in the offseason.”

On the field before the game, Fencik says, “You could feel how much everyone wanted to prove last year was a fluke.”

Dallas was a team none of the Bears had beaten. Worse, it was a team Ditka had held up as an example of the way things should be done.

He was right. He had come from Dallas’ staff to upgrade the Bears. But still, “When you hear that much about another team, it kind of bothers you,” Hilgenberg says.

“I don’t care if we’d have gone 15-1 this year,” Singletary said after the Bears’ rout of Dallas. “It would have been, `Man, you guys are real good, but you couldn’t beat those Cowboys.’ ”

Division clincher

The victory clinched the division. Every player got a game ball. “It’s something everyone’s going to remember with pride for a long time,” Fencik says.

It’s something the Bears hope to overshadow in a short time.

For starters, they could be the first 16-0 team in NFL history for the regular season. But that’s only for starters.

“Our goals are higher than that,” Fencik says. “I don’t get a ring for 16-0.”

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