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