1985 Bears Coverage: Monday night a jinx?

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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.

Monday night a jinx?

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Oct. 18, 1985

The Bears are favorites to beat Green Bay Monday night, which means there are long odds against them. Underdogs have won all six Monday night games so far.

In fact, underdogs have won all but one of the nine prime-time games. The good news is that the Bears were the exception when they won their Thursday night game at Minnesota.

Another encouraging note for the Bears: none of the Monday night upset victims had been favored by 9 1/2 points, as the Bears are.

The Monday night results have been Dallas over Washington, Cleveland over Pittsburgh, the Rams over Seattle, the Bengals over Pittsburgh, Washington over St. Louis and the Jets over Miami. In the other prime-time games, Kansas City beat the Raiders and Dallas beat the Giants.

EYE-POPPING: In the Bears’ last prime-time game, Jim McMahon aroused the national audience with three touchdown passes in his first seven minutes. Among others, he impressed commissioner Pete Rozelle, who recalled the game before watching the Bears play at San Francisco Sunday.

“He was really something in that Minnesota game,” Rozelle said. “You could see it in his eyes.” Then, smiling, Rozelle added, “If he wasn’t from BYU, you’d have wondered about him.”

HEAT SHIELD: McMahon often has talked about his admiration for Joe Namath “because he said he’d do something and he did it.” If the Bears reach the Super Bowl, McMahon says he’ll guarantee a victory, just as Namath did.

It won’t have the same impact, of course. Namath was predicting victory for a prohibitive underdog from an upstart league. But in another sense, it would have just as big an impact.

“Joe took all the pressure off everybody else on the team when he did that,” says Bear defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who was an assistant coach on the Jets’ Super Bowl team. “After that, everybody else could just relax and play their game. He put all the heat on himself. And it was OK because he played great.

“Jim’s a lot like that. Even when we’re not playing great on defense, the guys all know we’ve got a chance because he can pull it out for us.”

Ryan had a backstage influence on Namath’s guarantee. He said he had suggested to Namath that he tell reporters something else outrageous, that the AFL had at least 10 passers better than his opponent, Earl Morrall of the Colts.

“We wanted to make him throw it a lot,” Ryan said. “Then Joe went on and told everything else, too.”

BULLBACK: Who will be the Bears’ No. 2 fullback if Calvin Thomas has to go on injured reserve? “Perry,” coach Mike Ditka said yesterday without blinking. Still recalling defensive tackle William Perry’s two carries Sunday, Ditka said, “He had pretty good body lean in there.”

Dennis Gentry will be the backup fullback against Green Bay since Ditka said Thomas is “probably out.” Ditka also mentioned the possibility of one-back formations.

If Thomas’ knee injury, a bruised tendon, looks next week as though it will last another three weeks, Ditka said, “We need somebody on special teams to replace him.” Most likely, he would put Thomas on IR and activate tight end Pat Dunsmore, the only player on IR who is ready to play.

Aside from Thomas, Ditka said he expected everyone else to be available Monday. Tackle Keith Van Horne (ankle), wide receiver Dennis McKinnon (quadriceps) and safety Gary Fencik (knee) missed practice yesterday.

DRY COPIES: The first of many imitators of the Bears’ “46″ defense was Cincinnati in 1981. Its coach was Forrest Gregg, who now coaches the Packers, with former Bengal aide Dick Modzelewski as his defensive coordinator. The Packers are using their version as much as anybody, aside from the Bears.

“That’s the way they beat Detroit,” Ryan said. “They just got after them.” Before a bigger audience, the Jets used some “46″ in holding Miami to seven points Monday.

The imitations “help us, in a way,” Ryan says. “We’re able to see how teams think they can block it.”

Ryan had watched film of Houston’s “46″ against Washington and Atlanta’s against San Francisco before the Bears played those teams. He’ll also see how Minnesota and Detroit Bay handled Green Bay’s version.

DEADLINE: Mark Haynes’ signing with the Giants made Bear safety Todd Bell the only Howard Slusher client still holding out, but general manager Jerry Vainisi said there was no reason to expect either Bell or Al Harris to return to the team soon.

If they don’t sign by Nov. 23, they’re out for the season. The NFL prohibits adding players from non-injury reserve lists in the last 30 days of a season.

The rule’s purpose is to prevent teams from flouting the roster limit by leaving them unsigned until the playoff races heat up. But it also protects a team from a bad bargaining position in case it desperately needs an unsigned player in the last few weeks.

Neither player can be traded until after the season. Vainisi ruled out trading Bell this year, but he said he would reconsider if he doesn’t sign this year.

If negotiations drag into next year, the situation doesn’t become any more amicable.

“Why would I offer the same thing for a guy who hasn’t played?” Vainisi said. “He’s not going to be the same caliber player.”

Vainisi said he made a new offer Saturday to defensive end Richard Dent, who wants his contract extended. “It’s a little sweeter,” he said.

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