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1985 Bears Coverage: Bears blast Buffalo

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 blast Buffalo

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 1, 1985

The Bears’ offense arrived fashionably late this year, but early enough to avoid a winless exhibition season.

Their 45-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills last night gave them a 1-3 exhibition record with the season opener against Tampa Bay one week away.

The game was the first for wide receiver Dennis McKinnon, who had arthroscopic knee surgery July 5. Playing the first half, McKinnon caught passes of 11 and 21 yards, bursting past a defender on the latter one.

Another player making his first start was Cliff Thrift, the ex-San Diego middle linebacker subbing at left linebacker for injured Otis Wilson. Thrift had a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception.

The placekicking battle between veteran Bob Thomas and rookie Kevin Butler remained close, with neither giving coach Mike Ditka a reason to cut him. It will be the most interesting of the four cutdown decisions Ditka must make tomorrow.

The Bears dominated the first half, when their starting backfield played, by more than the 24-14 score suggested. They had 19 first downs to the Bills’ eight. But they continued to have trouble turning scoring opportunities into points.

The ball was in Bills’ territory for the first 9 1/2 minutes. In the first half, it was in the Bears’ control for 19:59 and 43 plays to the Bills’ 29. The Bills’ nine first-half penalties included two that

extended drives. The Bears had two altogether.

Quarterback Vince Ferragamo and wide receiver Andre Reed kept the Bills in the game with two long touchdown passes. Reed beat right cornerback Reggie Phillips for 57 yards on the first score, then left cornerback Mike Richardson for 40.

Former Notre Dame halfback Greg Bell rounded out the Bills’ offense with 83 yards on seven carries.

Jim McMahon completed 13-of-20 passes for 149 yards and ran for a touchdown, but he threw two interceptions. Walter Payton ran 13 times for 60 yards and a touchdown but fumbled twice.

The Bears scored less than two minutes into the game after defensive end Richard Dent forced and recovered a fumble at Buffalo’s 15-yard line. Dent stripped the ball from Ferragamo as his arm was cocked to pass on the Bills’ second play.

Matt Suhey scored on a two-yard run over left tackle to make the score 7-0 with 13:09 left in the first quarter. Walter Payton’s runs of six and seven yards set him up.

It was the Bears’ first pre-season touchdown with McMahon at quarterback, and only their third of any kind.

Fake punt

The Bills set the Bears up on their next possession by trying a fake punt from their own 41. Upback Booker Moore plunged into the middle for no gain on fourth-and-four, and the Bears had their second touchdown eight plays later.

McMahon scrambled 11 yards along the right sideline and dived for the touchdown that made the score 14-0 with 6:40 left in the first quarter. He escaped the Bills’ Don Smith in the backfield and chose to stay in bounds after making a first down at the 6. Behind him, Payton’s block flattened defensive end Ben Williams.

On the drive, McMahon completed 4-of-5 passes for 24 yards.

The Bears drove past or near midfield the next three times they had the ball, but McMahon’s two interceptions and Payton’s fumble stopped them. McMahon’s interceptions were wild throws toward Suhey,

first to Rodney Bellinger at the Bills’ 40 and then to Donald Wilson atthe goal line. But the Bears’ defense was getting the ball back. Wilber Marshall forced Chris Burkett to fumble two plays after

Bellinger’s interception, and Thrift recovered. Dave Duerson, replacing unsigned Todd Bell at strong safety, made his third pre-season interception four plays after Wilson’s interception.

Payton fumbles

That Bear possession ended five plays later when the ball squirted from Payton to Bellinger at the Bills’ 43. Reed’s first touchdown two plays later made the score 14-7 with 9:05 to play in the first half.

The Bears matched that quick score with an 88-yard drive in eight plays, going up 21-7 on Payton’s six-yard run. McMahon was 3-for-4 for 61 yards, including 31 to Emery Moorehead.

But Reed’s second touchdown, less than two minutes later, made it 21-14 with 3:41 left in the half.

There was time for a touchdown after the Bears took over at their 25, but once again their passing game fizzled inside the 20, where they have worked so much to improve it. They had first-and-10 at the Bills’

11 with a minute and a half left before Payton ran into linebacker Darryl Talley and fumbled. Center Jay Hilgenberg salvaged the field goal by outhustling Smith for the ball.

Ken Margerum’s leaping catch in traffic put the ball at the 4, but McMahon overthrew Margerum in the end zone on third down. Butler’s 21-yard field goal 34 seconds before halftime made it 24-14.

Chance for Bills

The Bills had a chance to score early in the second half when Bear rookie Thomas Sanders’ 32-yard run ended with a fumble at the Bear 38. Steve Freeman forced it, Charles Romes recovered.

Tackle Jimbo Covert was clipped by Williams on the return and had to be helped off the field. Near the sideline, though, he went into a slow jog. He stood on the sideline but did not return.

Buffalo apparently scored when rookie quarterback Frank Reich ran 32 yards to the end zone. But the play was nullified by guard Jim Richter’s holding penalty, and Richardson’s second interception ended the drive.

Thrift’s interception snuffed an even better opportunity for Buffalo. It was one play after Martin Bayless recovered punt returner Ken Taylor’s fumble.

Calvin Thomas’ one-yard touchdown run 50 seconds into the fourth quarter put the Bears ahead 31-14. The 68-yard drive took 10 plays. Thomas had a 20-yard run and caught a 19-yard pass from Steve Fuller.

Fuller’s scrambling, 41-yard pass to Brad Anderson at Buffalo’s 2 set up the next touchdown, Thomas’ one-yard run with 7:50 to play. Anthony Hutchison added 16-yard touchdown run with 5:30 to play.