Chicago Bears survive Tampa Bay, 27-19 in Historic 1985 Season


Greetings, Bears fans. With this being the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears of 1985, here at Bear Goggles On we’ll be revisiting the regular season and playoff games — including re-watching them when possible — and posting information about a game each Throwback Thursday as we move closer to the 2015 regular season.

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If Week 4’s win over Washington proved that sometimes one good quarter is enough to win a game, the Week 5 win proved that sometimes you need all 60 minutes.

For the fourth time in five weeks, the Bears came out looking flat and fell behind. The offense was stagnant, showing absolutely no running game and picking up only one first down in three possessions in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the vaunted Bears pass rush was absent, recording no sacks on the day while Bucs receivers ran open throughout the secondary for much of the game.

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A scoreless and boring first quarter – featuring nothing more interesting from either team than a missed 46-yard field goal by the Bucs – gave way to a lousy second quarter for the Bears.

It started with the Bucs kicking a field goal following a fumble by reserve wide receiver Ken Margerum at the Bears’ 29. A McMahon interception, on a horribly overthrown ball to Dennis McKinnon, followed on the next Bears possession. Bucs quarterback Steve DeBerg, who would throw for 346 yards in the game, hit wide receiver Kevin House for a 21-yard touchdown following the interception.

Fortunately, the Bucs being the Bucs, snapping the ball on an extra point proved too difficult, leaving the score at 9-0.

A Bears’ three and out, featuring several penalties, then led to another Tampa Bay field goal, before the Bears finally strung first downs together to kick a field goal at the end of the half.

The first half was beyond ugly, starting with McMahon, who looked uncomfortable and missed open receivers, connecting on fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He said as much to the Chicago Tribune’s Don Pierson after the game:

"“I just don’t know what happened. I’m upset with my play. Everybody executed well except me in the first half. I made some stupid reads and didn’t throw the ball well at all. Foolish football on my part. I wasn’t setting my feet. I knew what I was doing as soon as the ball left my hands.”"

He wasn’t alone in his shaky play, though. Payton, perhaps still feeling the injury to his ribs that slowed him in prior games, had only four carries and one catch in the first half. The pass coverage was atrocious; House had a solid first half, and Bucs tight end Jimmie Giles snagged 7 passes for 112 yards in two quarters, while the Bucs as a team notched 204 first half passing yards. The pass rush was taking an afternoon snooze in the Tampa sun. About the only part of the team to show some intestinal fortitude was the run defense, which held the Bucs to 18 rushing yards.

The third quarter started where the first half ended. The Bears drove the length of the field, only to see another errant McMahon throw, tipped by McKinnon, intercepted in the Bucs’ end zone.

The only thing that kept the Bears in the game was the Bucs, as the home team committed two straight turnovers, starting when Bears safety Dave Duerson picked off a DeBerg throw, setting up McMahon’s 21-yard touchdown pass to McKinnon.

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With the score cut to 12-10, DeBerg then fumbled a snap on third down on the Bucs’ next possession as Duerson and Mike Singletary showed blitz, with Steve McMichael recovering. The Bears would kick a field goal as the quarter ended, putting them in front for the first time, 13-12.

The fourth quarter didn’t start any better for the Bucs, who picked up one first down and punted, only to see the Bears, relying on McMahon’s passing to McKinnon and tight end Emery Moorehead, chop up the Tampa secondary before Payton scored from four yards out.

Amazingly, despite being 4-0 at this point and scoring more than 30 points in three games, that was Payton’s first rushing touchdown of the season.

The Bucs, though, struck back, as a blitz left linebacker Wilber Marshall covering wide receiver Gerald Carter, who caught the subsequent pass for a 25-yard score, narrowing the Bears’ lead to 20-19 with less than six minutes left.

This wasn’t the day for an embarrassing upset, though. Taking over with about four minutes left, McMahon converted one third down with a pass to Moorehead before hitting a deep ball to the Bucs’ 10 to Willie Gault. Payton would close the scoring with a nine-yard run with less than a minute left.

After the game, one of the Bears’ leaders acknowledged that throwing the ball on the final drive to seal the win showed a different team from the Oregon Trail-era offense of 1984:

“Last year, I don’t think he (Ditka) had the confidence in the offense to call that play, and I don’t think the offense had enough confidence to execute that play,” defensive tackle Dan Hampton told the Tribune’s Bernie Lincicome. “This year, it’s ‘We got to have this play to win and put the game out of reach. Let’s do it and get on out of here.’”

Which is exactly what the Bears did. While the play on the field was hardly inspiring, the ability to come back and earn a hard-fought win, even over a horrid 0-4 Bucs team that ended up 2-14, was encouraging. So was the Bears run defense, which rounded into form by holding Tampa back James Wilder – then the ’85 rushing leader who torched the Bears for 166 yards in week 1 – to a paltry 29 yards on 18 carries.

More important was the continued evidence that the Bears offense was more than Payton. McMahon, even in a weak game, threw for almost 300 yards and contributed another 46 on the ground. Payton lodged 63 rushing yards and fullback Matt Suhey 38. Seven Bears caught passes, with Moorehead snagging eight passes for 114 yards.

It was good timing for the offense to show its versatility too, as up next was San Francisco, the team that taunted the Bears for their absentee offense following a 23-0 drubbing in the 1984 NFC title game.

Next: Chicago Bears 2015 Position Preview: Safety

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