1985 Bears Coverage: Dent puts a dent in Pro Bowl campaign

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SHARE 1985 Bears Coverage: Dent puts a dent in Pro Bowl campaign

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.

Dent puts a dent in Pro Bowl campaign

Ray Sons

Originally published Dec. 15, 1985

Richard Dent, candidate for all-pro, wrapped up his campaign yesterday, stuffing the ballot box with Ken O’Brien of the New York Jets, hitherto known as the top-rated passer in the National Football League.

He sacked O’Brien twice, forcing two fumbles recovered by the Bears

in a 19-6 victory that showcased the Bears individually and

collectively at a most opportune time.

Tomorrow, NFL players and coaches vote for their representatives in

the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. With the football season drawing to a close,

media repesentatives soon will ballot on their all-pro selections.

Yesterday’s game was on national TV on a day when most of the

electorate was free to watch. And the Meadowlands press box

was crowded with the largest throng of reporters ever to cover a

regular-season Jet home game.

Did you think about that, Richard?

“Of course,” he said. Though “winning is more important,” he added

hastily, remembering the party line set down by defensive coordinator

Buddy Ryan, “as long as I play, I would like to make all-pro. I can

make all-pro as long as I play.”

You think you deserve it this year?

“Of course. If I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be here.”

There would be many more pleasant places to spend a Saturday

afternoon than this desolate patch of New Jersey, where the temperature

was 35 degrees and the wind whistled around a man’s ribcage at 19-to-28

m.p.h.

But the time and place were most fortuitous for Dent for more

reasons than the heavy national exposure.

He was playing on the same field as Mark Gastineau. He still was

trying to make points in contract negotiations. And he was celebrating,

one day late, his Friday-the-13th birthday. He marked No. 25 by blowing

out the candles on O’Brien, and perhaps on the Jets’ playoff cake.

Gastineau generally is regarded as a defensive end without equal.

He was named NFL defensive player of the year last season. The last Pro

Bowl was his fourth, and he was the MVP. Dent was making his debut in

that game. Gastineau, playing in the nation’s media capital, runs just

ahead of the Statue of Liberty in publicity.

Yesterday’s score – Dent: four solo tackles, two sacks for 16 yards

lost, two fumbles forced. Gastineau: two solo tackles, two assists, one

sack for loss of seven yards, one fumble forced. For the season, Dent

leads the National Football Conference with 15 sacks. Gastineau, in the

AFC, has 12 1/2.

“We’re both great pass rushers,” Dent said. But he denied

Gastineau’s presence had been a spur to him.

The contract negotiations that made Dent a holdout in training camp

still haven’t borne fruit. “I just made them an offer,” he said. “I

don’t know if they’ll decide to take it. Hopefully, we can settle it

before the playoffs.”

Surely, he bolstered his case yesterday.

Dent conceded the score and the furious wind were more favorable to

him and his teammates than to Gastineau and his supporting defensive

cast. Once the Jets had fallen behind, they had to play catch-up. That

meant O’Brien had to throw, even with the wind in his face during the

fourth period. The Jet quarterback also had to try to throw deep

occasionally, forsaking the short game that had kept Dent off his back

in the first half.

Dent wore out the first Jet tackle to oppose him, Reggie McElroy, then

beat sub Ted Banker like a campaign drum.

New York writers repeatedly questioned him about the uncomfortable

weather. “Wait’ll you come to Chicago in January,” he told them. “We’ll

show you what cold is all about. . . . Vaseline freezes up.” This

victory was a tonic not only for Dent, but for all the Bears,

especially the defensive team. After losing to Miami and playing below

their standard in beating Indianapolis, their competitive fire had been

questioned. Fans and writers wondered whether they were going to

swagger, or slink, into the playoffs.

“The only people displeased last week vs. Indianapolis were you

bleepers,” Ryan told this writer and others with his usual candor.

Except for one defensive breakdown that allowed a Colt touchdown, “I

was pleased,” he declared.

But neither he nor his players had been pleased by their flop against

Miami, largely the result of a few major defensive errors.

“A lot of guys were upset that we lost to Miami,” Dent said. “We

just threw it away with a lot of mistakes.”

This game showed off the Bear defense in playoff form, squashing

what had been the No. 2 offense in the NFL. Though the weather was an

inhibiting factor for offense, there is reason for Bear pride in

limiting the Jets to a net of 89 passing yards.

This Bear performance was especially impressive because they had

nothing to gain but pride and tickets to the Pro Bowl. They were

playing on the road, against a team that hoped to meet them in the

Super Bowl and badly needed a victory to get there.

It would have been easy for the Bears to use the weather and their

lesser incentives as excuses for another subpar effort. Instead, they

showed metropolitan New York and the nation the truth about this

season:

The team to beat for the Super Bowl lives in Chicago.

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