1985 Bears Coverage: Payton eyes catch record

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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.

Payton eyes catch record

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Nov. 8, 1985

At his current pace, Walter Payton will finish the season with another NFL record – catches by a running back. He has 405, 11 behind record-holder Tony Galbreath.

Galbreath still plays for the New York Giants, but only on passing downs. He has 15 catches this year, compared to Payton’s 32. Payton is on a 57-catch pace, which would beat his previous career high of 53 two years ago.

The Bears’ game against Detroit Sunday shapes up as a game in which a running back can catch in double figures. The Lions’ defense is extremely cautious about big plays, which leaves lots of openings for short passes.

“That’s what they give you,” coach Mike Ditka said yesterday. “If you can’t take them, you’re going to have problems.”

On paper, the Bears should have no problem running against Detroit. The Lions rank 28th against the rush, and the Bears rank second in rushing. The Lions have allowed 100-yard runners in six games and have given up 4.9 yards per carry.

HE SAID IT: Center Jay Hilgenberg picked up last week’s Sports Illustrated to find something he said two years ago attributed to his brother, Joel, New Orleans’ center. Jay had been talking about his two brothers and his father – all centers – when he said, “We’re the only family I know that plays catch not facing each other.”

Joel must have borrowed it, right? “No. He didn’t even say it,” Jay said. Worst of all, the quote appeared in “They Said It.”

“It’s been my lifetime goal to make that,” Jay said. “My whole family, whenever we used to get Sports Illustrated, we fought over it to see who could read `They Said It’ first. Then they use it and they credit my brother.

“I’m used to that stuff by now. I’m an offensive lineman.”

NOW HE’S MOE: Life in the passing lane has not been smooth for Eric Hipple since he threw for four touchdowns and ran for two in his NFL debut four years ago.

“On defense, we feel we helped make Hipple’s career,” Bear safety Gary Fencik said of that 48-17 loss to Hipple and the Lions on national TV.

Hipple has been in and out of the lineup and the Lions’ doghouse since then. Former Lion coach Monte Clark was quoted as saying Hipple had as much maturity and leadership ability as Curly of “The Three Stooges.”

In training camp, Ditka said he thought the Lions traded the wrong quarterback when they dealt Gary Danielson and kept Hipple. But now, Ditka said, “He’s doing what the coaches are asking much better. He’s not freelancing as much as he used to. He’s not taking too many chances.”

Hipple has thrown for nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has never finished a season with more touchdowns than interceptions.

“He’s a quarterback that can go hot and cold,” Fencik said. “We just have to be very wary of him.

“At least he must feel more settled. The last several years, Detroit has been playing the quarterback game. Once they got rid of Danielson, I’m sure that was mentally less taxing for him.”

TAPE DELAY: Tackle Keith Van Horne has so much tape put on his ankles for games he writes his name three times on the signup sheet.

Why so much tape? “Because I don’t have any ankles,” Van Horne said. A player fell on his left ankle at San Francisco, and somebody else fell on his right ankle the next week.

“Somebody’s always falling on you somewhere,” Van Horne said. “But you’ve got to play. That’s part of being a lineman.”

NO HOLDS BANNED: The most common reason for fighting among linemen is holding. There’s so much of it, Dan Hampton said, “If they’re going to take defensive linemen completely out of it, why don’t they just make us tape our hands together?”

Hampton has said opponents are so fearful of the Bears’ pass rush, they’ll throw interceptions to avoid sacks.

If they get caught holding, the worst that happens is they’ll lose 10 yards and get the same down. A sack costs a down and usually seven or eight yards, plus it can hurt the quarterback.

“They’ll hold on every play,” Hampton said. “Maybe they’re thinking, I can get in a fight with some of those guys and get them thrown out of the game.”

Has it gotten any better at end, where Hampton played a dozen or so downs Sunday? “No. It’s just that there’s only one guy to hold you instead of two.”

THE BIG BEAT: The Bears’ nine victims have a 32-36 record against the rest of the league. Aside from their two victories against Tampa Bay, the other seven are 32-22.

They have beaten five teams with winning records. Five of the their seven remaining opponents also are above .500 – the New York Jets (7-2), Dallas (6-3), Miami (5-4) and Detroit (5-4) twice.

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