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.
Titanic Bears hit DeBerg
Dave van Dyck
Originally published Sept. 9, 1985
Every time Tampa Bay quarterback Steve DeBerg looked up in the second half yesterday, all he saw were Chicago Bears.
“They were flying all over the place,” DeBerg said.
It’s no wonder DeBerg figured the Bears changed defenses – to their familiar old “46” – at halftime. It turns out what DeBerg saw, however, was the same defense just played with more intensity.
“To beat the Chicago Bears,” he said, “you have to beat that defense.”
And DeBerg and the Buccaneers couldn’t beat it. They blew an 11-point halftime lead and were sinking fast when the game finally ended 38-28 for the Bears.
“We played two different halves,” said new Tampa Bay coach Leeman Bennett.
That was about as astute an appraisal as saying it was hot and humid in Soldier Field.
In the first half, when the Bucs led 28-17: DeBerg completed 8-of-10 passes, was not sacked, handed off to running back James Wilder for 105 yards and watched as his team made only three penalties for 20 yards.
In the second half, when the Bucs were outscored 21-0: DeBerg was 5-for-11, was sacked twice, handed off to Wilder for 61 yards and watched nine penalties for 60 yards.
“They were playing better defense in the second half,” said DeBerg. “They were running the “46” defense almost the whole second half. That’s the defense they go to when they want to stop you. And
they did a pretty good job of stopping us.
“I guess they save it and use it when they have to.”
Linebacker Otis Wilson said the Bears didn’t change anything at halftime. “If he DeBerg was confused, that’s good. That means we got him thinking,” Wilson said.
What got the Bucs thinking was an intercepted pass from DeBerg on the second play of the second half. Richard Dent tipped the pass and it wobbled into the hands of Leslie Frazier, who sprinted 29 yards into the end zone.
It was the end of the Bucs.
“It was a real key because it was such an easy score for them,” said Bennett, the former Atlanta coach. “They had been battling for yardage but it was in small bits.”
Said Wilder, who ran 27 times for 166 yards and caught a pass for five yards, “They came out and capitalized from our mistakes and turned the game completely around. I’m pretty sure it the interception turned the game around.”
Said wide receiver Jerry Bell: “We came out in the second half and started giving it to them. We had a lot of confidence at halftime. I don’t know what happened after that. We beat ourselves.”
Said DeBerg: “We did self-destruct a little bit. That interception seemed to be the turning point. We struggled a lot right after that. If we’re going to be a good football team, we can’t let that distract us.”
The loss distracted Bennett. “We played about as error-free football as you can in the first half and just the opposite in the second half,” he said.
“It disappointed me a great deal to lose the game and for us to lose the concentration. With the silly off-sides and holding penalties, we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Tampa Bay defense was as much to blame as the Tampa offense. Or maybe, again, the Bears offense just did things differently in the second half.
Walter Payton ran eight times for 46 yards in the first two quarters, nine times for 74 yards in the second two. Total: 17 carries for 120 yards.
“I’m glad he didn’t run anymore in the first half,” said Bennett. “He might have gained 200.”
In the end, it was total second-half failure for the Bucs, success for the Bears. “It didn’t make any difference if we score 29 or 45 if we got beat,” Bennett said.
“We let it get away from us,” DeBerg said. “But that defense made a lot of it happen. They put a tremendous amount of pressure on the offense but you have an opportunity for big plays. They seem to usually come out on the better end of it.”