1985 Bears Coverage: `Tricks' don't help Bears

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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.

`Tricks’ don’t help Bears

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 18, 1985

If you have a question from Thursday night’s game, call 321-2817 between 9 and 11 p.m. Thursday. Sun-Times Bear writer Kevin Lamb will answer the best ones next Wednesday.

QUESTION: How can the Bears score so easily on the first drive and only wind up with 20 points?

ANSWER: They played it straight on their first drive, letting their linemen simply overpower people. “No tricks,” coach Mike Ditka said. “Then I got real smart and went with the trick plays.”

Ditka knows that has been a problem. It was a problem last season, when the Bears scored on opening drives and wound up with 16, 17 and 13 points. “You’re not going to win games just tricking people,” he says.

With that in mind, Ditka sees a silver lining in having to play on a Thursday. There isn’t time to make the game plan too fancy. “You stay with things you know you can do,” he says. That’s when the Bear offense looks best.

Q: If Jim McMahon was hurting, why did he stay in the game so long?

A: Ditka didn’t think the game was secure enough to change quarterbacks until the Bears made the score 20-0 late in the third quarter. Then he said he decided “the way our defense was playing, I didn’t feel they could come back on us.”

But McMahon played one more possession, and on third down, Ditka had him run a bootleg play. He was clobbered by Andre Tippett, and Ditka said that seemed to be when he was hurt worst.

McMahon said his upper back was in pain after a “jolt in the first quarter.” He said he was replaced because “it just tightened up so bad at the end.”

New England’s decision to play quarterback Tony Eason the entire game also was questionable. He wasn’t hurt, but the game was out of reach and he had to stand dangerously in the teeth of a Bear pass rush.

Q: Why did the Bears use Andy Frederick as a receiver?

A: Frederick wasn’t designed to be a receiver. He was eligible, though, because the Bears’ goal line offense uses three tight ends and Frederick, normally a tackle, is one of them.

Frederick drifted into the end zone after blocking. When primary receiver Emery Moorehead was covered and McMahon threw the ball away, Frederick was the only Bear close to it. “He should have thrown it to Andy,” Ditka said. “He was open.”

Q: Why were the Bears using just five defensive backs in passing situations?

A: Unlike most teams, the Patriots didn’t take out their tight end. So instead of adding a sixth defensive back, the Bears kept Wilber Marshall in to cover the tight end.

That made linebacker Otis Wilson the only player to come out, and he was none too happy about it. “I’ve covered wide receivers before,” he said. “It’s no problem unless the guy’s a world-class sprinter. Before the year’s out, I want to be out there.”

Wilson has been lobbying defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, even on the sideline. “I fuss with him,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t love him. It’s like with your dad. If you tell your dad you want new shoes,

you stay on him until you get some.”

Q: How did Richard Dent intercept a pass more than 40 yards downfield?

A: The Bears were in a rare 3-4 defense, which moves Dent from defensive end to linebacker. He also occasionally covers receivers in the “46” defense, where he’s an end.

Q: Will William Perry keep playing as much as he did Sunday?

A: Probably. Ditka says, “I think it’s essential we get Perry in the game more.”

Against New England, Perry and Mike Hartenstine took turns at defensive right tackle in the “46.” Hartenstine, the oldest Bear at 32, also was spelled by Tyrone Keys at end on some passing downs.

Q: With the Bears’ most difficult schedule in years, can they possibly hope to keep playing and winning as well as they did Sunday?

A: Why not? New England was one of the teams that made their schedule look difficult. So were Washington, San Francisco and Miami, all of which are struggling. On the other hand, the Minnesota game tomorrow night isn’t the breather it looked like when the schedule came out.

The trouble with rating schedule difficulty is it’s always based on last year’s records. By the time teams get around to playing, last month’s records aren’t even relevant. Things change too fast in a game with so many injuries.

Nobody can tell how difficult a schedule is until the season is over – and then, nobody cares. The best teams were the ones that turned out making their schedules look easy.

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