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 of Second City show no pity
Originally published Jan. 6, 1986
The Bears disposed of the New York Giants yesterday like a snowplow flattening a drift. They had to back up and bang them a few times before the Giants collapsed, but by the end, there was no doubt who was in control.
The Bears’ 21-0 victory was that close only because the NFL doesn’t provide for negative scores. The Giants couldn’t get a
first down on nine of its first 11 drives before the meaningless last 12 minutes.
By then, Jim McMahon was celebrating his own first playoff victory by putting on a black Blues Brothers hat over his sweatband. He already had thrown two touchdown passes into the 14-m.p.h. wind. He had blocked Lawrence Taylor, completing a splendid day for the quarterback who would be guard. Now he was ready to step out and shuffle down the Super Bowl road.
Next stop is at 11:30 a.m. Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC championship. It will be the Bears’ second home playoff game since 1963.
For an idea of how the Bear defense dwarfed the Giants, consider what Richard Dent did. The right defensive end had 3 1/2 of the Bears’ six sacks, forced a fumble, knocked down a pass and made three tackles in the backfield.
That was just one player. Dent’s 38 yards on sacks were six more than the Giants’ whole running game in the other direction.
“The main thing we wanted to do was stop halfback Joe Morris,” Dent said. “That’s their bread and butter. We figured if we could stop him, we knew we could get to the quarterback.”
They did it the way they had all season. They made it look like connecting the dots. Morris gained 19 yards on his first two carries, but he finished the half with eight more runs for 11 yards.
By slamming the door on the run, the Bears opened the gates to the quarterback.
Mix and match
They confused the Giants with a variation of their “46” defense that looked like a 3-4. But this was not a shell game. “Old-fashioned football,” coach Mike Ditka called it, the way they played it before helmets were made of plastic.
“I think the key is still: whose line is dominating?” safety Gary Fencik said. On both sides of the ball, it was the Bears.
But all they had to show for the first half was a gift touchdown and a goal-line stand. “When it’s 7-0, you’re shaking in your shoes,” Walter Payton said. “One play, one mistake, and it’s tied.”
The Giants’ third-quarter wind advantage made that 7-0 lead teeter all the more. But McMahon’s two touchdown passes to Dennis McKinnon made it 21-0, and the Bears’ hot defense blew the minus-14 wind chill back in the Giants’ faces.
The third quarter began with the Giants’ backs to wind and ended with their backs to wall.
“We knew we had to take control then,” defensive lineman Dan Hampton said. “We knew they were going to pass. They had the wind. It was their last shot.”
The Giants had the ball four times in the third quarter. They had it for 3:42. They had 11 plays and lost 11 yards.
“I think they were feeling frustration as the game wore on,” middle linebacker Mike Singletary said. “After a while, if you can’t get anything going, you start to wonder, what can we do?”
Taylor, the anti-ballistic linebacker, led the Giants in frustration the way he leads in nearly everything else. He called
fullback Matt Suhey a baby for blocking him low and looked as though he wanted to take on the whole Bear bench at one point. “He wanted to fight with everybody,” tight end Emery Moorehead said.
This wasn’t the way things had gone against the 49ers, when the Giants whipped their two lines like a dessert topping.
“All we heard lately was how the Bears were going downhill and the Giants were on the rise, the team to watch in the playoffs,” Hampton said. “We like people to be skeptical of what we can do. If anything, that’s a catalyst for us.”
The offense was less specatcular, but amply efficient. No turnovers. No sacks for the league’s No. 1 team in sacks. Payton ran 27 times for 93 yards against the runners-up to the Bears in rushing defense.
But the offense didn’t do much until midway in the third quarter. The Bears scored before they made a first down.
Sean Landeta’s punt trickled off the side of his foot. Shaun Gayle grabbed it on the Giants’ 5-yard line and made what must be the shortest punt-return touchdown in NFL history.
The Bears were trying to block the punt, with Gayle and Dennis Gentry wide on the left side. Gayle got blocked. “I think I could have blocked it,” said Gentry, who saw the wind nudge the ball to the side of Landeta’s foot.
“I don’t know what you’d call it,” Gayle said. “A foul tip?”
Aside from that play, the Bears spent the first half wasting field position and missing field goals.
They blew two opportunities from beyond their 40 after Wilber Marshall forced a fumble and Singletary recovered it on the opening drive. The next three times they drove downfield, Kevin Butler missed field goal tries from 26, 49 and 38 yards. He had made 15 straight from inside 50 yards.
McMahon finally found the end zone with 8:48 left in the third quarter, although he barely found his receiver. It was third-and-eight from the 23. Three receivers converged near the right corner of the end zone. When the ball got near McKinnon, cornerback Elvis Patterson was in the way.
“I just reached under his arms,” McKinnon said.
“The ball was there, and all of a sudden it was gone,” Patterson said.
McKinnon had seven touchdown catches in the first eight games and seven catches, period, in the next eight. Last week was the first time he and McMahon shared a full week of practice. Late in the third quarter, they were back in synch.
McMahon called an audible, a slant-in. The 20-yard TD made it 21-0.
Not that the Bears needed it. They had established late in the first half the Giants weren’t going to score.
The Giants reached the Bear 2 with 31 seconds left but no time outs. They had to pass three times. All three were incomplete. Then Eric Schubert’s 19-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright.
“They had to settle for a field goal, but they could think, `We’re less than a touchdown down,'” Fencik said. “Then it hits the post.”
The Bears’ defensive linemen had felt confident going into the game. They talked privately last week about the Giant blockers’ slow feet. Against the Bears, that weakness was a red carpet to quarterback Phil Simms.
He completed 14-of-35. Be fore the last two drives, N.Y. gained 67 yards with three first downs. They were 0-for-12 on third downs.
Singletary gave the defense an 8 1/2, his highest grade for the season. What’s a 10?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll know when I see it. I’ve got a feeling I’ll find out before the year’s out.”