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’ golden rule
Originally published Nov. 25, 1985
It’s beginning to look like the only people who can stop the Bears are the NFL’s rule makers.
They’ll have several months to consider their options. A weight limit for running backs? No moving on defense before the snap? Shackles and gags?
Until then, the Bears will treat the football world to such gruesome sights as their 36-0 victory over Atlanta yesterday, a
game that recalled feeding time at the shark tank. If the Bears are a team for the ages, those ages are 18 and over.
“They must have felt like it was Sherman’s army marching through them,” coach Mike Ditka said of Atlanta’s offense. “Our defense just ripped them apart.”
The Bears have scored 90 points in 10 shutout quarters.
“It’s really sad. You almost take those guys on defense for granted,” said quarterback Steve Fuller, who blamed himself for the last points they gave up. If his fumble hadn’t set up a field goal, the shutout streak would be 13 quarters.
The defense has given up three touchdowns in the last seven games. Its back-to-back shutouts are the Bears’ first double since 1942. “Yeah, but they lost the championship in ’42,” Ditka said.
“Nobody peaks until they win the Super Bowl,” defensive tackle Steve McMichael said.
Even linebacker Otis Wilson can go higher, and he was so pumped up he ran onto the field without his helmet in the fourth quarter. “He’s a catalyst,” Ditka said. “When he gets excited, the other guys get excited.”
The players won’t nod off from those boring scores. They’re pinching themselves for a dream come true.
The Bears’ 12-0 record has been exceeded twice in NFL history – by the 1934 Bears and the 1972 Dolphins. They put 2-10 Atlanta to sleep by scoring four straight times for a 20-0 halftime lead.
That let the second-stringers play the fourth quarter, when they scored nine points. By then, the Bears had their goal of Walter Payton’s seventh straight 100-yard game, tying a record. They also moved within one win of clinching the home field throughout the playoffs.
Atlanta realized some goals, too. Gerald Riggs had his fifth straight 100-yard game, no one had to be shoveled off the turf and the team plane landed safely.
“It’s amazing how good this team is,” wide receiver Dennis McKinnon said. “At the same time, you haven’t seen how good we can be. We’re going to annihilate somebody.”
Even after their 44-0 and 36-0 squeakers, it’s reasonable to ask if the Bears have a weakness.
They mentioned a few. Ditka said the kicking teams made too many penalties. Fuller groused about the big plays he could have made.
Middle linebacker Mike Singletary again was inconsolable. He rated the defense a 7 on a scale of 10.
“I wouldn’t say we don’t have weaknesses,” Fuller said. “That sounds a bit arrogant. Not a glaring weakness. We do some things better than others, but I’m sure when a team watches film on Monday, something doesn’t pop into their heads like, `Oh, here’s where we’re going to attack the Bears.'”
One of their strengths is admitting slight weaknesses. Ditka truly expected a hard game, although he had to say afterward, “The way our defense is playing, nothing’s too hard.”
“Any time you start patting yourself on the back, you’ve only got one hand to play with,” defensive lineman Dan Hampton said. “That’s when you’ve got problems. We’ll just take a shutout here, a sack there, and do what we have to do.
“We’ll talk about how good we are when it’s all over. Any time you worry about looking in the rear-view mirror more than looking in the windshield, that’s when you’re going to run off the road.”
As for the pressure of staying undefeated, Ditka looked no tighter than a gymnast’s back. “I think the pressure goes on the people playing us,” he said. “They’ve got to beat us.”
The Bears had problems against Atlanta. But they found a way to compensate for them all.
When two straight drives died inside the Falcon 20, Kevin Butler’s field goals put them ahead 6-0. He is 15 for his last 16.
Once the scoreboard lights were operating, Payton made his longest run of the season for a 40-yard touchdown. Willie Gault’s 50-yard catch set up William Perry’s third touchdown. It was a one-yard leap that alarmed both air traffic controllers and earthquake monitors.
When Dave Duerson’s fumbled punt set the Falcons up in Bear territory before halftime, the defense squelched it with a sack and an interception.
When the Falcon defense held on fourth down at the 3, the Bear defense held and squeezed back. Richard Dent used one hand to sack Bob Holly and his other to knock the ball loose. Mike Hartenstine recovered at the 2. Calvin Thomas scored without resistance on the next play.
The Bears’ low point was a Falcon drive in the third quarter. It produced three first downs and 39 rushing yards, to the Bear 19.
“That one drive lets us know we’ve got room for improvement,” Duerson said. “You can’t let up.”
Singletary was furious when he found out Riggs had the first 100-yard game against the Bears since the opener. “Some of the guys were teasing me about that,” he said. “They said, `Well, we got ’em beat on the scoreboard.’ But still!”
Riggs needed 30 carries for his 110 yards. Even way behind, the Falcons gave up passing. David Archer was 1-for-14 with one yard and two interceptions when Holly entered in the third quarter.
Before the third-quarter drive, the Falcons had made four first downs. One was for running into the kicker. Their deepest penetration, aside from the fumble, was their own 36. The Bears’ shallowest penetration all game was their 45.
Their second-stringers did them proud. Henry Waechter’s fourth-quarter safety put the Bears within one of the NFL record, four in a season. It was one of his three sacks.
On offense, back-up backs Perry, Thomas and Thomas Sanders ran for TDs, Dennis Gentry had a 22-yard run and Mike Tomczak hit Tim Wrightman for 24 yards.
“You look at all the great teams in the past, they go two or three deep,” said Fuller, who’s replacing Jim McMahon. “If the first people can’t go, they go with someone else.”
Most teams can’t do that. Even Miami’s box-office offense had its windows boarded up for the eight weeks wideout Mark Duper was injured. Duper is back, though, and the Dolphins are next for the Bears.
“No question they’ve got the best passing in the league,” Ditka said. “They’ll go up against the best defense.”
“We can shut ’em down,” Wilson said. “We’re capable of shutting any offense down. Shutting them out? I don’t see why not.”