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.
Two top sackers meet
Originally published Sept. 15, 1985
A sack race could determine the game between the New England Patriots and Bears today in Soldier Field.
Two of the best quarterback sackers in the NFL square off, forcing both teams to emphasize protection for quarterbacks Jim McMahon of the Bears and Tony Eason of the Patriots.
Chicago defensive end Richard Dent opened defense of his NFC sack title with two quarterback drops last week. Dent had 17 1/2 sacks last year.
New England linebacker Andre Tippett opened his chase of the AFC title with three sacks. Tippett finished second to the Jets’ Mark Gastineau last year with 18 1/2 sacks.
The Bears protect McMahon better than the Patriots protect Eason and that could make the difference.
Each team has two No.1 draft choices on its roster, so there will be no lack of talent on the field. But the Patriots have been accused of squandering talent for years. The difference might be the rougher style of play the Bears seem to enjoy.
WHEN PATRIOTS HAVE BALL – Quarterback Tony Eason has a flock of outstanding receivers even if stars Stanley Morgan and Irving Fryar are hobbled by injury. If Eason gets enough protection, he will try to exploit the Bear cornerbacks deep. Tony Collins and Craig James are breakaway threats in the backfield, but the key for the Patriots’ offense is the line. Guard John Hannah has missed three games in a row with a calf injury. Left tackle Brian Halloway fractured a little finger last week and right tackle Darryl Haley is out with colitis.
WHEN BEARS HAVE BALL – Walter Payton and Matt Suey will play a big role in nullifying Tippett and right linebacker Don Blackmon, who matched Tippett’s three sacks last week. Payton and Suhey will have to block, run and catch short passes to keep the linebackers from teeing off on McMahon. The Bears are most effective on short passes and ball-control offense.
PATRIOTS ON DEFENSE – New England features an outstanding set of linebackers, led by Tippett and Larry McGraw. “I’ve never seen linebackers fill the gaps so fast,” said Bears coach Mike Ditka. But the Patriots are disappointed with the production of their down linemen. Cornerback Raymond Clayborn has ability to cover Bears’ receiver Willie Gault.
BEARS ON DEFENSE – They looked like they missed holdouts Todd Bell and Al Harris last week when Tampa Bay scored 28 points in the first half. But they came back with shutout football in the second half and again proved they can confuse teams with their variety of formations. The Bears are especially effective against teams that don’t see them often. They will go after Eason with everything they have until the Patriots stop them. The Bears are aided on defense by their offense, which keeps them off the field.
LAST MINUTE FACTORS – The availability of Patriots guard John Hannah and wide receiver Stanley Morgan is questionable.