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1985 Bears Coverage: Ditka forgives Gault's errors

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.

Ditka forgives Gault’s errors

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 10, 1985

Willie Gault waited all off-season for that pass. But when it finally came Sunday, he couldn’t wait the last split second.

He dropped it. On the 5-yard line. A good five yards beyond the nearest Tampa Bay player.

“I relaxed too much,” Gault said yesterday. “I saw the ball come. I knew I had beaten the defender. I was thinking, `Oh, I’ve got a touchdown.’ But I didn’t run through the ball.”

The Bears went on to score after that blown 45-yard touchdown pass, and they beat Tampa Bay 38-28. That helped, Gault said. But his heart still stung from the smack on his hands.

“You’ve got to take full advantage of those opportunities,” he said. He knew they didn’t come often on the Bears.

Last year, he complained about their lack of long passes. This year, he decided to quit worrying about things out of his control, like play selection.

“I have to be able to control the things I can control,” he said. “Like being there on time and catching the ball.”

Gault also missed a more difficult over-the-shoulder catch that could have been a 58-yard touchdown. On his last play, he missed a sideline pass that was slightly behind him. Gault and coach Mike Ditka called it catchable.

Ken Margerum replaced Gault for the last 20 minutes, but Ditka said it was because he wanted to alternate receivers in the heat, not because of anything Gault had done.

“He did darn well, except the only thing you really see is the big pass,” Ditka said. “His routes were good. He blocked well. He hustled.” He caught four for 60 yards, too.

“The only thing is, he has a tendency to pull away from the ball,” Ditka said. “We’re going to concentrate on that in practice. He has a tendency to go upfield with the ball before he has it instead of making sure of the catch and then going.”

“I learned a valuable lesson,” Gault said. “The unfortunate thing is, I could have learned that lesson in practice. But now, I’ll make that catch 10 times out of 10.”