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.
`Sweetness’ eases Bears fans’ pain with rush to record
Ray Sons; Kevin Lamb
Originally published Dec. 3, 1985
On a night that went sour for Chicago Bears fans, there was a touch of sweetness at the end.
Walter Payton got his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game and a fresh entry in pro football’s record book.
The last-minute opportunity for Payton’s “eighth wonder” of the season came from a Bears defense that suddenly stiffened after a nightlong limp showing against Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in the Orange Bowl.
While Payton’s performance salvaged some drama for Bears fans on a made-for-television night, the hometown would just as soon the nation forgot.
With less than two minutes to play and Payton two yards shy of his latest record, the defense stopped the Dolphins and gave Payton 44 seconds to do his thing.
That was more than enough time for football’s all-time rusher to carry twice more. He gained eight yards on his first attempt to break the record and then another 15 yards for good measure. In all, he racked up 121 yards in 23 carries.
The Dolphins had been unable to run out the clock after Payton’s fumble on a four-yard gain gave them back the ball for one last possession.
Earlier, coach Mike Ditka hadn’t seemed terribly eager to give the ball to Payton. His first carry was the Bears’ eighth play, 9 1/2 minutes into the game.
Watching him from the TV booth was O. J. Simpson, who had once held the record Payton was breaking.
Simpson, Earl Campbell and Payton were tied in the record books with seven straight 100-yard games until “Sweetness” ran past the co-holders last night. His final dash of 15 yards, which gave him the 121-yard total, provided some insurance, as commentator Joe Namath put it, to satisfy any doubting statisticians.
“Another one bites the dust,” Simpson said of his broken record. It was another achievement in Payton’s spectacular career – even though it was one he would have traded for a victory.
“We made a lot of mistakes and you can’t do that against a good team like Miami,” Payton said after the game, without a mention of his latest record.
“We have to regroup and get ready for the next game.”