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1985 Bears Coverage: `Swiss cheese defense' gets rap from Ryan

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.

`Swiss cheese defense’ gets rap from Ryan

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 26, 1985

The first thing Bear defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan told his players this week was to fix their “Swiss cheese defense.”

“It’s got holes in it and it stinks,” he said.

It’s tempting for Ryan and the defensive players to look at the Bears’ newly explosive offense as an excuse not to shut the other team down. But they don’t want that. They want to seize it as an opportunity to play even better than last year, when they allowed the fewest yards in the NFL.

“I think it’ll give us more big play capability,” defensive tackle Dan Hampton said. “We don’t have to play as close to the vest. We can take chances and go for the ball. Even if we do mess up and let them score a field goal or a touchdown, now we know we can always come back and score ourselves.

“A lot of teams have done very well on turnover ratio. We haven’t been so good at that. But I think if we score more points, we’ll get more turnovers.”

The Bears will be playing a Washington team with a lot to prove, when it brings a 1-2 record into the noon game Sunday at Soldier Field. Washington’s biggest problems have been on offense.

But the Bears’ defense has cast doubts that it’s not what it used to be, even if the team is 3-0. “Tommy Kramer had a great game Thursday night at Minnesota,” middle linebacker Mike Singletary said, “but I don’t care how hot a guy is. Letting him throw for 400 yards is ridiculous.”

`Total package’

Singletary isn’t happy winning games 38-28 and 33-24. He doesn’t want to go back to the old 17-6 scores, but what’s wrong with 38-10 or 33-6?

“They can score points,” he said of the offense. “If we can do our job, we’ll have the total package.”

The threat of quick points removes the tension Bear defenders have played with for so long.

“We don’t have to hang our heads quite so far if we get down three or four points,” safety Gary Fencik said.

Besides, the Bears’ offense is fun to watch. The players don’t have to wait until halftime Monday night to see big scoring plays. Jim McMahon can throw for three touchdowns in seven minutes.

“It’s really tremendous knowing we can score points in a matter of seconds, let alone quarters, like it used to be,” Hampton said.

Patience pays off

“I was just giddy after Minnesota,” Fencik said. “I just can’t believe it happened to us. I felt like Job being rewarded for my patience.

“I have so much confidence in McMahon, I don’t even sit down on the bench anymore. I get up like a fan and watch from the sideline. I have confidence he’s going to make something happen.”

Fencik has been with the Bears nine seasons, and they’ve ranked among the bottom three NFL passing teams in six. They’ve been in the bottom three 10 of the last 13 years.

If the Bears stay at the other end of the rankings, it takes two loads off the defensive players’ minds.

Not only do they know their best efforts won’t be wasted, but they know their best efforts won’t always be necessary. It’s becoming increasingly risky to count on shutting down the other team.

Defensive players do keep their team’s scoring potential in mind. Last year, said linebacker Otis Wilson, “We had to go out and either try to score or get in good field position to make it easier for the offense to score. Now all we have to do is get them the ball.

“We do our job. They do their job. That’s all we have to do.”

Or, as Washington coach Joe Gibbs said: “I’m sure they’ve got a great feeling over there. They’re playing great. They’ve got everything going for them.”