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 squash Pats
Originally published Sept. 16, 1985
All the Bears did yesterday was squat on the New England Patriots until they owned them. The 20-7 score didn’t reflect the domination.
They beat a very good team on a day quarterback Jim McMahon’s upper back needed traction and Walter Payton played painfully and sporadically. The outcome was scarcely in doubt after the first three minutes, when the Bears made it 7-0 on their opening drive.
But if the game had been a fish, the Bears left the impression they would have thrown it back.
They didn’t make the Patriots cry uncle. They didn’t send them whimpering off the field. They didn’t blow any scoreboard fuses.
“We should have scored a whole lot more points,” tackle Keith Van Horne said.
“I thought we had a pretty good day,” defensive end Richard Dent said. “Not a great day. OK.”
Dent was talking about the defensive unit that let the Patriots spend all of 17 seconds in Bear territory. Eight of those seconds were on the 90-yard pass play from Tony Eason to fullback Craig James that ruined a 20-0 shutout in the fourth quarter. Earlier, there had been two snaps from the Bears’ 49-yard line.
Worse yet, the Patriots made 10 first downs. Ten. They even made two in a row once.
“They had a couple of drives,” Dent said. “We like to go three plays and out. That’s all the down marker reads. Three downs.”
The same Patriots who had 208 rushing yards last week racked up 27 against the Bears, on 16 carries. Altogether, they gained 206 yards, including one play for 90. They suffered six sacks, four losses on runs and three interceptions, Eason’s career high.
“Our offense got whipped,” Patriot coach Raymond Berry said.
“We have to get much better,” said linebacker Mike Singletary, who had three sacks and an interception.
Good is no longer good enough for the Bears, who considered it beyond the moon and the stars only two years ago.
That’s a good sign for them. As safety Gary Fencik said, “Our expectations are much higher.”
In the beginning
The way the Bears drove 69 yards on five plays for the opening touchdown, it looked as if they could spend the day twirling Patriot chinstraps like yo-yos. Dennis McKinnon caught McMahon’s 32-yard touchdown pass, scoring on a decoy pass route the second week in a row.
As it turned out, coach Mike Ditka said, “Without that drive, we would have been in for one heck of a day.”
“We didn’t blow anybody off the ball,” tackle Jimbo Covert said. “You get disappointed. You expect to do that every game, but sometimes you don’t. The reason we didn’t was, we just didn’t play very well.”
The Bears played well enough to run for 160 yards with Payton gaining only 39. They did some of it against two Patriot alignments they never had seen.
That’s something they’ll have to keep doing, Ditka said. “People are not going to stay in a straight 34 defense and let us run. We run too well.”
McMahon’s passing was good enough to set up a field goal with a 43-yard pass to Willie Gault and to reach the Patriot 19 on a 49-yard play to Tim Wrightman. He completed 13-of-21 for 232 yards, even though he had to change his delivery to keep every throw from being a scream.
The offense also made Patriot linebackers Andre Tippett and Don Blackmon disappear, one week after they had three sacks apiece. “We stayed out of third-and-eight, third-and-long, which is when they do their damage,” Van Horne said. Fourteen of 28 first-and-10 plays gained at least five yards.
After the Bears led 20-0 with 12:35 to play, they were able to rest McMahon, Payton and McKinnon, still recovering from off-season knee surgery. Their game at Minnesota is only three days away, but Ditka expected McMahon and Payton would play.
It could have been at least 28-0 by then if the Bears had been able to gain single yards when they needed them. They drove inside the Patriots’ 20 four times. But they settled for one touchdown and two field goals because of failures from first-and-goal at the 5, third-and-one, fourth-and-one and third-and-two.
They settled for Kevin Butler’s 21-yard field goal 37 seconds before halftime after Payton tried to pass on third-and-three but the Patriots covered his receiver, Emery Moorehead.
“We called all the trick plays we had for today and got every one of them blown up in our face,” Ditka said, remembering a double reverse for no gain and an flea-flicker intercepted at the goal line.
On the Bears’ first second-half drive, Matt Suhey was stopped on third-and-one, so Ditka had McMahon try to sneak two feet on fourth down. He didn’t make it. Ditka said he probably should have taken the field goal, but “I get hard-headed, and if you can’t make a yard, I get mad.”
The Bears kept the field position and made it 17-0 on their next try, when Suhey gained a yard on third-and-goal. But on that play and on second-and-goal from the 2, Suhey’s running lanes were barely wide enough for a squirrel.
“We just weren’t getting movement off the ball,” Van Horne said. “It’s just a matter of staying down and digging them out, which we’ve got to improve on.”
Butler had to salvage a 28-yard field goal three minutes later, after Dennis Gentry gained only one yard on third-and-two from the Patriot 11. Singletary set up the Bears at the 19 when he cut in front of halfback Anthony Collins for an interception.
“A lot of people might say we played great,” Singletary said. “but it wasn’t exactly like it looks. When you want to be the best, you can’t be satisfied with just controlling a team and hoping your offense scores some points.
“If they had done some different things, we may have been out of position.
We played fair. Pretty decent. But we have a lot of work to do.”
It was a good step up from last week, Singletary conceded. Giving up 28 points in the first half, he said, “We looked foolish. We had to come back and prove we can play pretty decent.”
“We didn’t have to prove anything,” linebacker Otis Wilson said. “We’re the best defense in football. People have to prove things to us.”
One thing the Bears agreed on was that New England’s blot of a running game was no mirage. All three linebackers stopped running plays in the backfield.
“The defensive line played great,” Fencik said. “Taking out blockers and shedding them.”
Fencik also said coordinator Buddy Ryan was more enthusiastic than usual about the defensive game plan.
“They were predictable,” safety Dave Duerson said. “Ninety percent of the time, they ran right into us. Whatever they tried, we shut it down.”