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.
`Those people will be nuts’
Originally published Dec. 31, 1985
New York Giants coach Bill Parcells was still savoring Sunday’s 17-3 upset of the 49ers when the phone rang in his office yesterday morning. On the other end of the line was a longtime friend from the Midwest, Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight.
“He told me the only reason we beat the 49ers was because I knew a little bit more about basketball than the other coach,” Parcells said, shaking his head.
Parcells didn’t reveal what Knight told him about the Giants’ next opponent – the heavily favored, 15-1 Bears. But he did say what he expects to find at Soldier Field next Sunday.
“A hostile environment,” Parcells said. “Soldier Field doesn’t hold the noise quite like Giants Stadium. But it will be hostile. Those people will be going nuts.”
On and off the field.
“I imagine there will be a lot of physicalness,” was the way Giant defensive end Casey Merrill put it. “Collisions. Contact. Should be a lot of fun.”
“Soldier Field is not a bad place to play other than the fact that it might be 40 below,” said New York tight end Don Hasselbeck.
Parcells reported no major injuries from the Giants’ NFC wild-card victory. Starting cornerback Elvis Patterson was nursing a sprained foot. His understudy, Ted Watts, had a knee bruise. And running back Joe Morris, the NFL’s leading touchdown scorer, was suffering from bruised ribs. But, said Parcells, “I think everybody will play.”
Parcells was more concerned about the hectic late-season schedule that prevented Giant personnel boss and advance scout Tim Rooney from witnessing the Bears’ last regular-season game, a 37-17 victory over the Lions Dec. 22. Rooney was in San Francisco that day scouting the Dallas-49ers game.
“You like to have a guy there in person,” Parcells said.
But Parcells also said the Giants’ assistants started looking at film of the Bears last week. “The Bears are a team we’ve seen and heard about,” said Pro Bowl linebacker Harry Carson. “But we haven’t played them.”
At least not since 1977, when Bob Thomas’ late field goal in an icy overtime gave the Bears a 12-9 victory. Only Carson, reserve defensive end George Martin, and starting left tackle Brad Benson
remain from that Giant team. And Benson didn’t play against the Bears that day.
The 1985 Giants (11-6) beat the 49ers Sunday in large part because they established the run. Morris rushed for a game-high 141 yards. That enabled New York to pass when it pleased.
But the Bear defense has ranked No. 1 against the rush the last two years. Giant center Bart Oates is unimpressed.
“They’ve got to stop our running attack,” he said. “And if they do that, they’ve got to stop our passing game. They may be able to do one. But no one, as yet, has been able to do both.”
“It isn’t anything egotistical,” Parcells said. “But I think we’re running it as well as anybody in the league the last eight or nine weeks. There isn’t any doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean you’re gonna run it that way every week.
“My biggest concern from the Bears is the pass rush. Walter Payton is also a big concern. And Kevin Butler is a helluva field-goal kicker.”
The mention of Butler is an indication Parcells agrees with experts who have predicted a low-scoring game that will magnify the importance of the kicking game.
When somebody asked Parcells to predict the outcome, he did a pretty good Bobby Knight imitation. “Prediction?” he huffed. “I’m not Muhammad Ali.”
But the next moment he was chuckling softly at Bear Coach Mike Ditka’s prediction that this game – featuring the NFL’s top-ranked defenses – would be a “war.”
“The Bears pride themselves on being tough,” Parcells said. “And they are. I think our guys do, too.”
The Giants will not arrive in Chicago until Saturday. And they won’t set foot on Soldier Field until the day of the game.
“I think the two teams are very similar,” said Parcells, betraying a quiet excitement with dancing eyes. “I think you would expect the game to be very physical.”