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1985 Bears Coverage: 6-0 a new experience for Payton

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.

6-0 a new experience for Payton

Herb Gould

Originally published Oct. 15, 1985

Even the NFL’s all-time leading rusher is feeling a little giddy.

“I’ve never been in this situation before, either in high school or college,” Walter Payton said yesterday in the aftermath of the Bears’ 26-10 thrashing Sunday of the 49ers, their best start since 1942.

“Right now, it’s all new to me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel. All I know is, every game is pressing, and there’s more pressure building up.

“If this is what 6-0 means, it feels really good.”

And if it means Payton’s number isn’t being called as often as it used to be, the man who thrived as a workhorse for so long doesn’t mind. There’s no mourning the passing of an offense that used to be considered Walter and the 10 Little Bears.

“I’m so happy to be with a team that has struggled so long and tried so many methods to get into this situation,” Payton said. “Now that we’re here, I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

“I think Walter accepts any role you put him in,” coach Mike Ditka said. “He’s a pro in every sense of the word.”

Asked if Payton is enjoying this season as much as he appears to be, Ditka said, “I hope that by the time it’s all over, he’ll have enjoyed this one the most.”

Ditka said the 6-0 start doesn’t surprise him “because we’re a good football team. It was just a matter of executing and doing the little things we hadn’t done in the past.”

Though Ditka is the architect of the passing game that has airlifted the Bears to their unbeaten perch, he admitted he got a kick out of that long, run-dominated fourth-quarter drive, which was a return to the Payton place of old.

“That drive was fun to call and fun to watch because it was Payton again and the offensive line responding to the challenge,” Ditka said of the 7 1/2-minute grinder. Payton gained 52 of his 132 yards in that drive, including the 17-yard touchdown that was pure Payton, speed and power wrapped into one. On the drive, Payton carried nine of 13 plays.

Ditka said he liked the reaffirmation of the ground game during that drive. “I don’t think we doubt the running game, but it’s hard when you’re trying to do a couple of things,” he said. “It was simply a matter of taking seven minutes off the clock.”

Unlike Ditka, Payton said he was surprised at the good start, but added, “We’ve worked hard for it. What we’ve accomplished, nobody’s given us.”

Payton also took delight in his new “fullback,” rookie defensive tackle William Perry, who carried twice to end the game and pay back the 49ers for lining up an offensive guard at fullback in the postseason rout of the Bears last January.

“I saw William upstairs this morning,” Payton said. “He had his contract in his hand. I heard he wants to play some quarterback and wide receiver, too.”

Gee, but it’s great to be young, or old, and be a Bear in 1985.