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1985 Bears Coverage: Bears using imagination

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 using imagination

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 25, 1985

If you have a question after Sunday’s game, call 321-2817 between 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday. Sun-Times Bear writer Kevin Lamb will answer the best ones next Wednesday morning.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t the Bears’ offense have more imagination?

ANSWER: It has plenty. New England coach Raymond Berry said the Bears “one of the best conceived offenses in the league.” He specifically praised their gimmick plays, the tricks most often associated with imagination.

The Bears’ offense is imaginative by other yardsticks, too. It has a wide variety of plays and formations. It has blocking schemes few other teams use. It passes on first down. If anything, the Bears use too many plays and don’t concentrate enough on perfecting the ones they do best.

But O.J. Simpson told a national television audience he thought a screen pass near halftime Thursday was the most imaginative Bear play he had seen in two games this year. It was a cheap shot that indicated Simpson hasn’t been paying close attention.

“If people don’t know anything about the game,” Ditka said, “then I don’t respond to them.”

Q: With Walter Payton hurting, why didn’t the Bears run a single-back offense?

A: That seems to be a natural alternative, if Payton is hurting too much to play. He played Thursday night because even in considerable pain, he is better than almost all running backs.

Ditka has said he wouldn’t use single backs exclusively if Payton couldn’t play. He says he prefers a multiple offense, meaning a variety of formations.

But it’s difficult to be more multiple than the Redskins, who rarely use more than one back but use well above 100 formations. More formations are available with one back than with two because the second tight end – the Bears call him their rover – can move to more places than a fullback.

Besides, fullbacks Matt Suhey and Calvin Thomas run better from single-back formations than Dennis Gentry does from halfback, and either Suhey or Thomas can play rover.

Q: On third-and-goal, why didn’t the Bears run a sweep?

A: Ditka asked himself the same question. “Our whole thinking going into the game was going outside at the goal line,” he said. “And then we went inside. We had no chance.”

Q: Why doesn’t Ditka look for a better backup quarterback?

A: He did last year, and he found Steve Fuller. Fuller led the Bears to the championship game last year, and he’s better this year because he didn’t miss most of training camp with an injury.

It’s no disgrace that Fuller was overshadowed by McMahon’s performance Thursday night. Most quarterbacks would have been. But it had to be embarrassing to be yanked in mid-game for a quarterack Ditka had said was too hurt to play. It’s too soon to tell whether that will affect Fuller’s self-confidence or his teammates’ confidence in him.

Q: Where is the Bears’ mascot? Will he ever come back?

A: “The Bears have decided to go without a mascot,” president Michael McCaskey said. “We have decided to concentrate on the game on the field.”

Q: Why do the Bears or any other NFL team have to be in the city they are playing in 24 hours in advance, or guarantee the gate?

A: They don’t have to guarantee the gate. Ditka was being facetious when he said that last week. The NFL hasn’t had to worry about gate receipts for a long time. Ditka’s point was that it’s an antiquated rule to make teams arrive 24 hours before a night game.

Q: What’s wrong with the Redskins?

A: Their defense is fine, Ditka says. No one has run well against them. They’ve given up some big plays, but Ditka says, “Even in the past, when they’ve given up points or plays on defense, their offense has offset it. But they’re not offsetting the defensive mistakes, if there are any.”

Their biggest problem seems to be pass protection. They’ve given up uncharacteristically high totals of sacks and interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.