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1985 Bears Coverage: Equality is key to Ditka thinking

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.

Equality is key to Ditka thinking

Herb Gould

Originally published Sept. 10, 1985

At a team meeting on the eve of Sunday’s opener, Bear coach Mike Ditka campaigned for equal representation.

“Mike stressed that it’s not the defense, and it’s not the offense. It’s the Chicago Bears,” defensive tackle Dan Hampton said.

The Bears’ 38-28 victory proved his assessment accurate, as the offense picked up a defense that suffered from first-half lapses.

Ditka continued to stump yesterday for the offense as an equal partner, not just a running mate.

“People look at the Bears as a one-sided team,” Ditka said. “We’re two-sided, we’re very versatile. We were the only team in the top 25 percent the top seven NFL clubs in both offense seventh and defense first.”

Relying on that confidence in one another, the Bears rallied from a 21-7 secondquarter deficit to catch Tampa Bay.

“A monumental game for us to start with,” Hampton said. “It seems like all our openers have been blowouts one way or the other. I can’t remember an opening day when we came from behind and won.”

Comeback

Once the Bears fell behind fired-up Tampa, Ditka said, “We could have said, `This is not our day.’ But we didn’t do that. We came back and played pretty good.”

Balance wasn’t struck only by offense and defense. Within the offense, the Bears relied equally on rushing and passing, using 34 running plays and 34 passing plays.

“That’s the kind of balance we need,” quarterback Jim McMahon said. “I don’t know how many times Walter carried the ball 17 times for 120 yards, but he had a good average run 7.1 yards and he got over 100 yards. If we can save him like that and not give him the ball 30 times, it’s going to help us in the long run. He won’t get as banged up.”

He’ll also be more effective when he does carry the ball.

“I’m not saying we want to pass to set up the run, but that’s the way it worked out, and it certainly helped,” Ditka said.

Mr. Who?

Added McMahon, “I was surprised I had only handed off to Walter eight times in the first half, but you get so involved in the game. In the third quarter, Walter came up and said, `Have you

forgotten who I am?’ I said no. But we threw on third-and-four, and we ran on third-and-four. If everything goes right, that’s what I would like to see happen.”

Eight Bears had catches. “That’s what happens when you run good routes,” McMahon said.

Working toward even greater balance, Ditka said he planned to spread the playing time around even more.

“I’d like for us to play all our people,” he said. “If you play them, you keep them involved. That’s the way to do it. We’ve got a lot of capable people.”

Ditka singled out rookie defensive tackle William Perry, who played only in a few short-yardage situations Sunday, for more playing time.

McMahon was pleased with completing 23-of-34 passes (67.6 percent) for 274 yards and two touchdowns, but said he saw room for improvement.

“I had some guys wide open that I casually flipped the ball to, and it went way over their heads,” McMahon said. “It upset me. A guy is five yards away and I throw it 30 yards over his head. But over all, I threw pretty well.”

Reminded that he had correctly said the Bears would need 28 to 31 points to win, McMahon smiled and said, “It must be that schooling I got at BYU.”

But you don’t need to be a scholar to recall that dark age last fall when a carnivorous Bear defense carried the load for an injury-decimated offense.

That may be when the idea of the Big D, No O Bears was last in vogue. It’s OK to remember it, as far as Ditka is concerned. Just remember it’s history now.