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1985 Bears Coverage: 49ers haunt Bears’ future

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.

49ers haunt Bears’ future

Ron Rapoport

Originally published Dec. 29, 1985

This was after the Bears had given an indication of what kind of season it was going to be by (a) beating the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers and (b) giving William Perry a football to run with for the first time.

It was a famous victory, that 26-10 triumph at Candlestick Park last October. Not only did it release the Refrigerator’s megawatt power, it also avenged the 49ers’ 23-0 humiliation of the Bears in the NFC championship game last season. And it proved once and for all that Chicago had a team to be reckoned with.

But in the midst of the jubilation and satisfaction that reigned in the Bears’ dressing room, a note of caution was issued by Steve McMichael.

“We’ll see these guys again in the playoffs,” the defensive tackle said as he sat on a stool in front of his locker.

As you examine the path the Bears must negotiate to get to the Super Bowl this year, you note irony upon irony.

If McMichael is correct, and I believe he is, then the Bears will have to step across the prostrate body of the very team that left them for dead in the playoffs last season.

And if the Bears should manage to do that, then it is hard to see how they can be kept off the New Orleans Superdome field Jan. 26.

They would, it is true, still have to face the winner of next week’s game between Los Angeles and Dallas. But compared with beating the 49ers that should not be a difficult task.

Nobody who saw the Rams lose to the Raiders last Monday night can seriously entertain the notion that such a team could beat the Bears in Soldier Field in January. The Chicago defense could hardly have watched Dieter Brock try to mount a passing attack without licking its lips in
anticipation.

As for Dallas’ chances of beating the Bears, there is only one thing to say.

44-0.

No, the 49ers hold the key, it says here, starting with a victory over the Giants this afternoon. What is particularly interesting about all this is that everywhere you look these days – everywhere but on the oddsmakers’ charts – the 49ers are treated like underdogs and underachievers.

As the team went through its final drills at its training camp here prior to flying east, they seemed less the defending champions of professional football than schoolchildren boning up for a final exam.

There are questions about Joe Montana’s efficiency this season. There are questions about the rash of injuries that has hit the team as it enters the playoffs. There are questions about the 49ers’ will. There are questions about their attitude.

Bill Walsh, who only last season was regarded as a coaching genius incarnate, has not reacted at all calmly to this naysaying.

“Regardless of some feelings about us, some people who treat us as a total flop, we’re pound of what we’ve done here,” Walsh said testily after the 49ers made the playoffs by coming from a 13-0 deficit to beat Dallas, 31-16, last Sunday.

“At some point, we’re going to break through and people will take pride in our accomplishments, including the press. Maybe it will take winning a couple of championships to do it.”

Or maybe all it will take is beating the Giants.

The 49ers can hardly take this for granted. For one thing, they are badly beaten up, having lost two All-Pros, guard Randy Cross and cornerback Eric Wright. In addition, there have been injuries of varying degree to running backs Wendell Tyler and Bill Ring, nose tackle Michael Carter, tight end Russ Francis and others.

“It’s a real concern,” Walsh said of these injuries. “It’s these minor injuries that are debilitating.”

But if injuries have hurt the 49ers this season, they are not the only reason the team has fallen from 15-1 to 10-6. Indeed, Walsh wears the air of a man confused by events he does not truly understand.

No fewer than 36 of his players were on the Super Bowl roster last year and 18 have been in four playoffs since 1981. The players are the same, the system is the same, so why all these problems?

“Part of it is the injuries plus we’re a year older in some cases,” Walsh said. “But that doesn’t explain all of it. We get behind in the fourth quarter and we don’t do anything about it. Against the Bears, we fumbled on our first three possessions. You can’t explain it,
the number of sacks we’ve given up and the number of fumbles.”

Perhaps, Walsh said, the problem is less physical than psychological.

“Often, championship teams have trouble repeating because of the sacrifice they’ve made emotionally,” he said. “You get worn down from the championship season and you aren’t consciously aware of it. We looked excellent playing exhibition football, but when the heavy hitting started, we just weren’t ready for it and it showed up in different ways.

“We have yet to play a game the way we played in the Bear game last year or the way we played in the Super Bowl. We played the Raiders dominantly and the first Ram game, but that’s all. This last week (against Dallas), there were periods when we played well, but not a whole game.”

They may, however, be ready to do just that today. Montana, who had his problems throughout the season, has thrown for more than 300 yards in the 49ers’ last three games and taken over the No. 1
quarterback rating in the NFC. In those games, he has connected on 75 of 108 passes for 1,004 yards and eight TDs.

Give him a game against the Giants to go with these and next week the 49ers and Bears will play their third important game in less than a year.

“I hope there is a third game,” Walsh said. “I’d like that.”