1985 Bears Coverage: Bears thick-Skinned, 31-point 2nd quarter boosts record to 4-0

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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 thick-Skinned, 31-point 2nd quarter boosts record to 4-0

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 30, 1985

After Willie Gault woke the Bears up in the second quarter, they didn’t even stop for their morning cup of coffee. Boy, were they ugly.

They bit the Washington Redskins’ heads off yesterday for every little mistake. They abused the Redskins and confused them, turned them inside out and upside down. They grabbed them by the collar and threw them out on their ear.

They won 45-10, the Red skins’ worst defeat in 24 years.

Gault’s 99-yard kickoff return was the Bears’ first of four second-quarter touchdowns. But they couldn’t control the ball. They scored too quickly.

It took the Bears 10:25 to dismantle a 10-0 deficit and throw together a 28-10 lead. They actually controlled the ball for only 4:46 of that stretch, but it was ample time for touchdown drives of 14, 22 and 36 yards. They ran farther than that from the bench to the huddle.

“Every time we got the ball, Jim McMahon got it in the end zone and the defense got it back for us,” coach Mike Ditka said.

The Bears’ 31-point second quarter set a team record. The comeback was their third of the season by more than a touchdown. It broke the Redskins’ 22-game winning streak in games when they scored first.

“Mike’s always talking about ball control,” McMahon said. “When we came in, he told us, `I don’t know what happened out there.’ I guess if you keep making big plays, you don’t need to worry about stats.”

The Bears didn’t need a running game, certainly. Walter Payton ran seven times for six yards behind an offensive line that was missing two injured starters. It was his third-worst rushing total since he was a rookie, in 1975, and it was only the third time the Bears have won with Payton running for less than 40 yards.

But McMahon threw three touchdown passes for the second straight game. He also caught one from Payton, who scored on one of McMahon’s passes and made the key block on another.

“He mentioned to me on the sideline, `If you see the blitz, keep throwing the ball,’” McMahon said.

McMahon saw the blitz all game. That’s how NFL defenses have decided they won’t let Payton beat them. They put eight men on the line.

So McMahon called audibles, “probably the most this year,” he said. His first two touchdown passes were audibles from running plays.

Last year, the Bears ran into those stacked defenses. And why not? They ran through them better than they passed over them.

This year, McMahon leads the NFL in passing.

“We’ve gotten a lot more freedom to call audibles because we’ve been making plays,” he said.

When a team dares the Bears to pass this year, it is choosing its poison.

Deceiving stats

The Bears had the ball for only 25:35, the first time in two years they had it less than half the game. The Redskins’ offense had 32 more plays and 126 more yards.

“I guess you’d call it winning ugly,” Ditka said. He also called it “a good picture” of winning as a team. That was what encouraged him about the Bears’ 4-0 record, not the history lesson that the last 4-0 Bear team won the 1963 NFL title.

“We made big plays on offense, big plays on defense and big plays in the kicking game,” Ditka said.

The Bears saved most of them for the last three quarters. In the first quarter, Washington outgained them 141 yards to 2 and had seven first downs to the Bears’ none. It could have been worse, but 188-pound Mike Richardson stopped 240-pound John Riggins on fourth-and-one at the Bear 33.

“I was 0-for-4 with an interception,” McMahon said. “We needed a spark.”

Gault provided it. He caught Jeff Hayes’s kickoff at the right corner of the field, started toward the inside, burst through a narrow seam and turned back to the right sideline. By then, the only Redskins ahead of him were cornerback Barry Wilburn and Hayes, who had pulled a thigh muscle kicking the ball. Gault juked and dashed past them both, and it was 10-7.

“That was the biggest play of the game,” McMahon said.

“I think it turned on everybody,” Ditka said. “Even the fans. There were a couple of curse words going through the crowd.”

Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann called it “a rotten play. They get a big runback and we lose a kicker.”

Hayes would have punted from the Redskin 13 a few minutes later, after Tyrone Keys’s sack made it fourth-and-16. Instead, Theismann lined up for his first NFL punt.

“We thought it was going to be a fake,” said Shaun Gayle, an outside rush man.

It wasn’t. Theismann kicked the ball – sort of. It went off the side of his foot and out of bounds for one yard.

“Another big play,” McMahon said. The next play was Dennis McKinnon’s fifth touchdown catch of the year.

Theismann didn’t have to punt next time. Richard Dent swooped in on third down and batted the ball aside. Dan Hampton recovered it at the Redskin 22.

On third-and-three from the 10, McMahon called another audible. Payton blocked the blitzer, Emery Moorehead ran toward the right sideline and McMahon delivered Moorehead the ball at the 5. There wasn’t a Redskin near him. The Bears had a 21-10 lead and three touchdowns in 5:33.

The Bears got their next turn at Washington’s 36 after a 22-yard punt by Jay Schroeder, the backup quarterback. But they had third-and-13 at the 13 when McMahon dropped back to pass, pumped once and handed the ball to Payton.

Payton was supposed to roll toward the right sideline. McMahon was supposed to run down the left sideline. Then Payton was supposed to throw to McMahon.

But they both had to change plans. Payton was nearly sacked, and had to scramble back to his left. McMahon was unable to go to the left sideline because defensive end Dexter Manley was covering him.

“So I went inside and kept going,” said McMahon, who made a diving catch in the end zone. “I always wanted to be a receiver anyway. I’m just too slow.”

“We didn’t do anything offensively except capitalize on what the defense gave us,” Ditka said. But that was something in itself. In their first three games, the Bears had settled for field goals six times after crossing the 20.

Their only field goal yesterday was Kevin Butler’s 28-yard kick four seconds before halftime. The Bears drove 58 yards in a minute to set it up.

“Last year, our guys were pretty much looking for somebody to make the big play,” Dent said. “This year, everybody’s trying to make something happen.”

Longest drive

The Bears showed they could sustain a drive at the beginning of the second half, marching 80 yards in 6:22 – longer than their other touchdown drives combined. McMahon’s fourth straight completion was the 33-yard TD to Payton on second-and-26, making it 38-10 with 5:23 left in the third quarter.

Three times after Payton’s touchdown, the Redskins crossed the Bear 20. But Otis Wilson and William Perry stopped a fourth-and-goal try from the 1, and Richardson and Ken Taylor intercepted passes.

Richardson set up the Bears’ last touchdown, Dennis Gentry’s one-yard run. Richardson nearly scored himself, returning the ball 90 yards, but Theismann slowed him down and Keith Griffin tackled him at the 1.

Taylor’s interception was the Bears’ 10th, compared to 21 all last year. They have had seven more takeaways than turnovers, producing a net gain of 30 points.

“Maybe we were fortunate in some areas,” Ditka said. “But I think when you’re fortunate, it’s because you make fortunate things happen.”

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