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1985 Bears Coverage: Is Bear might rattling nerve of Cowboys?

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.

Is Bear might rattling nerve of Cowboys?

Ron Rapoport

Originally published Nov. 17, 1985

DALLAS – I have Too Tall Jones right where I want him.

Lying on the floor, reading a newspaper.

“Mr. Jones,” I say, taking advantage of this rare opportunity to make eye contact without getting a crick in my neck, “it seems that the last time the Cowboys played the Bears, there was a lot of extra-legal pushing and shoving and kicking and scratching, which led to Randy White being ejected and 14 players getting fined.

“I was wondering if you thought we might be seeing more of that on Sunday.”

Too Tall Jones looks up at me and carefully considers his reply.

“It would surprise me if you saw any of that,” the mammoth defensive end says. “That was an exhibition game and most of the players didn’t want to be there. It’s hot, you don’t think you need it, you get hit a little harder than you think is necessary and tempers fly. Any time you see fighting, the players are not concentrating on what they’re supposed to be doing. In this game, guys will be concentrating on football.”

I have Randy White pinned up against the wall.

“Evidently, they’re doing a lot of talking up there,” the all-pro defensive tackle says, speaking of the Bears. “Stuff about how we better get the cart we carry people off the field in gassed up. Well, I’m not planning on being kicked out in the first quarter this time. I’m planning on being available the whole game.”

I am going one-on-one with Everson Walls.

“We want the recognition of beating one of the better teams of this decade,” the Pro Bowl cornerback says.

“Huh,” I stammer. “One of the what?”

“I haven’t seen anyone else go 10-0,” Walls says, making it clear he is talking about the Bears. “Whether they go to the Super Bowl or not, up to this point obviously nobody has played better.

“Coach Tom Landry says you’re going to have to go through Chicago if you want to go to the Super Bowl. We’d probably have to play them twice. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but that’s the situation right now.”

“You mean you figure the Bears have the best record in the conference all wrapped up?” I say.

Walls shakes his head yes. “Unless something really bad happens to them,” he says.

I retire to the sidelines. I need a few minutes to think this over. The Cowboys are playing the Bears here Sunday and they sound – I have to find the right words for this – they sound defensive. They sound nervous. They almost sound afraid.

Can this be true? These are the Dallas Cowboys, aren’t they? America’s Team? The NFL’s standard of excellence? Then why do they sound like a team with its back against the wall? Like if they don’t
beat the Bears, they may not make the playoffs for the second season in a row – something that hasn’t happened to them in 20 years?

Is that why tickets are harder to get than for any previous regular-season game in Cowboy history?

Is that why the Texas Highway Department had to have a high-level meeting to decide whether to allow a banner that read, “Wake Up the Maytag Repairman; The Refrigerator’s” Gonna Need Service!” to hang off a freeway overpass?

“That’s the feeling you have,” Walls confirms when asked if the game has an aura of the playoffs about it. “Except for it not being cold outside. That’s the intensity and importance of the game.”

But even that doesn’t explain the feeling the Cowboys seem to have. Making the playoffs is one thing. Finding out what they are made of is something else.

How else can you explain this startling statement from Walls?

“I think for the most part the guys would like to see Jim McMahon play.”

But surely the Cowboys’ chances of winning are better without him, he is told.

“Playing against him adds to the flavor of the game,” Walls insists. “It gives you a chance to see how good you can be. It gives you a chance to see what you can do against a quarterback of his talent.”

It is not only because of the Bears that the Cowboys have this insecure feeling. It is also because of St. Louis. Two weeks ago, Dallas blew a 10-0 halftime lead against the Cardinals, a team that had only won three games, and lost 21-10. The reaction was one of shock.

“For this first time this year, I think the team was devastated by a loss,” says safety Michael Downs. “That frightened me because the players usually can shake off a loss fairly quick. But this loss took a lot out of us.”

“The Cardinals made us feel like we were just an ordinary team,” says Walls. “They came back on us the way we usually come back.”

Even Landry, who has made a career out of being unflappable, seems stunned.

Though Dallas came back to beat Washington 13-7 last week, it was quickly noted that for the first time in 11 seasons the Cowboys had scored fewer than 14 points in successive games.

So the Cowboys are playing for their pride as much as their spot in the playoffs. And while they downplay the likelihood of a repeat of the nastiness that marked their exhibition game against the Bears, they do not seem to mind the talk from Mike Singletary and Bears.

“For so many years, the Cowboys were considered a finesse team,” says Drew Pearson, who became Dallas’ receivers coach this year after 11 seasons of active duty. “Now here’s the Chicago Bears – the middle linebacker of the Chicago Bears – saying the Cowboys are a physical team. I take that as a compliment. Maybe the image is changing around here.”

As long as Pearson is accepting compliments, perhaps we should pay close attention to the odd but telling one he is offering to the Bears.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “they have good personnel, but it’s not the best in the league. We were like that when the Cowboys were going to four Super Bowls in eight seasons. Lee Roy Jordan was not a prototype middle linebacker. Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris were slow at safety. The basic similarity is though we didn’t have the greatest talent in the field, everybody knew their role. I see that with the Bears.”

Imagine. Suddenly, the Dallas Cowboys are scrambling to catch up. And suddenly, the Bears are the Dallas Cowboys.