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1985 Bears Coverage: Sack lack a worry to Bears' Ryan

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.

Sack lack a worry to Bears’ Ryan

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 12, 1985

Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan hardly recognized the Bears’ opposing quarterback Sunday. He was standing up.

That worries Ryan. It’s one game into the season, too early to throw dirt on the pass rush that set the NFL sack record last year, but early enough to point out it isn’t burying the quarterback.

To make matters worse, Ryan says the Bears’ best quarterback sacker, defensive end Richard Dent, isn’t playing well otherwise.

“Kind of like last year when we had to set him down,” Ryan said.

“We might have to set him down again this year.”

Dent made both sacks against Tampa Bay Sunday. But the Bears were blitzing both times.

“We don’t like to have to blitz to rush the quarterback. But that’s something we’ve had to do all exhibition season. We haven’t gotten pressure on the quarterback like we should with a four-man rush.

“Tampa’s offensive line did a good job, but we didn’t have pressure on anybody. It’s not that they’re throwing the ball so fast and all that bull. We’re just not getting pressure.”

One reason was that James Wilder ran so well and the Buccaneers led for so long, the Bears rarely knew the Bucs had to pass.

“We never got them in our kind of game,” said defensive tackle Dan Hampton. “They used a lot of bootleg and rollout plays and we like to attack the passer in the pocket.

“It seems like we’re not getting that quarterback on the ground, but we’ve only played one regular season game. All four of us are healthy. I don’t see why we should slow down after one year.”

The rollouts and bootlegs were one of Dent’s problems. He’s supposed to keep the quarterback from going toward his sideline, and Ryan said he didn’t. He has made big plays but not little plays.

That was Dent’s problem last year when he didn’t start the first six games. He wasn’t always in position.

But as the season went on, coach Mike Ditka said, “He played the defense very well and still led the NFC in sacks. I think that was the surprise. This year, he’ll do the same thing.”

Dent has been distracted by a pulled hamstring and negotiations for a contract extension, which kept him out of training camp for a week and still are going on. He says he’s still catching up.

“It’s hard enough to play football when you’re really concentrating on it,” Ditka said. “If you’ve got anything that bothers you, it’s really hard.”

Ditka compared Dent to ex-Bear Doug Atkins in the sense that both made big plays and “Doug didn’t always practice very hard.”

Dent doesn’t think contract talks have been a big problem. He said he is satisfied with them “so far.” He doesn’t blame the hamstring injury, either, but he said, “There’s times I can’t play like myself, get the explosiveness with my leg.”

This would seem to be a good week for the Bears’ pass rushers to break through. They’re playing New England, which gave up 66 sacks last year, including 35 in the last four games.

The Patriots have corrected many of last year’s problems by using shorter pass routes and simpler blocking schemes, but their offensive line is battered.

They said yesterday perennial all-pro guard John Hannah won’t play because of a leg injury and left tackle Brian Holloway is questionable with a broken finger that will undergo surgery Monday. They also picked up two veteran linemen: guard Tom Condon, who was cut by Kansas City, and tackle Art Plunkett, who was cut by St. Louis.