1985 Bears Coverage: Bears face early test of mettle

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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.

Bears face early test of mettle

Sun-Times Staff

Originally published Sept. 19, 1985

Is that a black-and-blue hue once again in the NFC Central?

The Bears are again exhibiting a well-earned reputation for defensive zeal but the suprising Minnesota Vikings have shown in two games that they may be returning to their Purple People Eater reputation of the past, too.

Not many expected the Vikings to be 2-0 when they collide with the Bears in their showdown tonight under the Metrodome. But game now takes on the mantel of an early-season test of strength in a division which

has been somewhat maligned the past few seasons.

Bears are moseying in same manner they did in winning the NFC Central crown last year. Their game is a rock-ribbed, relentless defense to go with two-pronged offense led by Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

Vikings have used an opportunistic defense in victories over San Francisco and Tampa Bay, using 12 takeaways to good advantage while giving up the ball just three times.

Neither offense has been devastating, although both have had brilliant moments and possess potential for high scoring.

Pro Bowl LB Mike Singletary and DT Dan Hampton are large forces in Bear defense, a unit which largely does not change personnel between passing and running downs.

Bears put a punishing rush on Minnesota QBs last year, making 14 sacks, including 11 in one game, but Vikings feel they have since shored up offensive line.

Minnesota has made things happen with hard-hitting defense. LCB Rufus Bess and FS Joey Browner have ignited Vikings and fans. A raucous home crowd could help Vikings.

WHEN BEARS HAVE BALL – Payton is nursing bruised ribs, but is a likely starter, and, if the Bears need him, will handle the ball 20 times. He has been at his darting best against Vikings before. Bears have won 14 of the last 18 games in which McMahon has started at QB. But McMahon spent Sunday night hospitalized in traction with a neck sprain after being tackled while scrambling late in a victory over New

England. Replacement QB Steve Fuller is no McMahon.

WHEN VIKINGS HAVE BALL – Vikings like to use the run to establish the pass, but haven’t had much success doing it this year. They’ll try to squirt little Darrin Nelson through the line, but their best runner is Alfred Anderson, who is fast developing into a solid all-around back. Tommy Kramer will throw often to his backs and hasn’t yet utilized the game-breaking speed of wide receiver Anthony Carter deep. Against an inexperienced secondary like the Bears’ he might be tempted. The key, however, to any success Kramer has will be Minnesota’s success in picking up Chicago’s blitz.

LAST-MINUTE FACTORS – Two Bears, SS Todd Bell and LB Al Harris, are holdouts, but defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan has covered nicely with Dave Duerson in the secondary and linebacker Wilber Marshall. Harris had two big games vs. Minnesota last year. Game matches the oldest and youngest placekickers in the NFL, Jan Stenerud, 42, and Kevin Butler, 22. Butler is 3-for-5 on FGs, but hasn’t connected in two tries outside 40 yards. Stenerud is 1-for-1, but has kicked seven straight, counting the pre-season.

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Notes: Lefty Justin Steele threw off a mound Thursday.