1985 Chicago Bears Run Past Detroit Lions, 24-3


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.

Riding a prehistoric offense, the Chicago Bears coasted to 10-0 on the season with a 24-3 win over their division rival Detroit Lions.

The Lions contest had all the signs of a trap game. The Bears were 9-0 entering the game, coming off an emotional, hotly contested win over the hated Green Bay Packers. The Bears defense was riding high, having allowed only 26 points over the past three games, and the run game was rolling. Just one week beyond Detroit was a visit to Dallas, a top team in the NFC East and a team the Bears – and everyone else – loved to hate.

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The Lions – two seasons removed from winning the division – were 5-4, coming off a frustrating loss to the Minnesota Vikings, a team the Bears had already spanked twice. Detroit had a trio of high-caliber wins, having already topped Dallas, San Francisco and Miami – all eventual playoff teams – in the season, and would end the season with the fifth-ranked pass defense.

To top it off, the Bears were playing without quarterback and offensive emotional leader Jim McMahon, who was missing the first of three contests with a shoulder injury. In his place was backup Steve Fuller, who had previously started the first game against the Vikings and had seen spot duty in several other games early in the season.

Nevertheless, Detroit had a series of flaws that ultimately made them unable to knock off the Bears. Their run defense was atrocious, ending the season ranked 27th in rush yards allowed and dead-last in yards allowed per carry at 4.8 yards per attempt. And their offense finished 22nd in pass yards and 26th in rush yards, good enough for the team to finish last in total offense in 1985.

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The Bears scored points in each quarter of the contest, starting off with Fuller carrying the rock into the end zone for a 1-yard score. Fullback Calvin Thomas added a seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Bears up 14-0 at the break.

The Lions finally broke through in the third quarter, scoring their only points of the game with a 34-yard field goal by kicker Eddie Murray. The scoring possession was set up when Fuller fumbled trying to lateral to receiver Willie Gault.

“It was a stupid mistake. I had made eye contact with Willie. I thought it would work, but it was still stupid,” Fuller told the Chicago Tribune’s Bob Verdi.

The Bears countered quickly, though, with Fuller notching his second touchdown run of the game – this one from five yards out – to put the Bears ahead 21-3. Kicker Kevin Butler added a field goal in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring at 24-3.

Playing without McMahon – and taking advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses, something the Bears would fail to do weeks later at Miami – the offense reverted to a heavy reliance on the run game to dominate time of possession and the Lions.

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The Bears opened up with running plays on their first 21 offensive snaps, and ran the ball a total of 55 times for 250 yards and three touchdowns over the course of the game, capitalizing on the Lions’ inept run defense.

The game also marked the only time in 1985 the Bears would have two rushers top 100 yards, with Walter Payton rushing for 107 yards on 26 carries while fullback Matt Suhey piled up 102 yards on only 16 carries. For Payton, the win over the Lions marked his fifth consecutive game clearing 100 yards.

Resting on the offensive line and the backfield, the Bears controlled the ball for 41 minutes of the game. Ditka acknowledged that the plan was to rely on the running game and use plays that made Fuller comfortable.

“We tried to give Steve a game plan he was comfortable with. When Steve has a bad day, it’s often because his coach has a bad day play-calling. I tried to use the plays he wanted to use,” Ditka said to the Tribune’s Bernie Lincicome.

The passing game, though, was anemic without McMahon, who had also started to struggle in the second win against the Packers. Fuller threw only 13 times in the game, completing seven for 113 yards, 69 of which went to Payton. Only one completion went to a wide receiver, with Ken Margerum making the grab for eight yards.

Despite his limited stats, Fuller said the game served to reinforce his confidence after some shaky performances, including his start against the Vikings earlier in the season.

“My confidence hadn’t been shot, but it was dented. I just wanted to play, to feel more a part of a special time with this team. A lot of critics had been talking as though if Jim went down, we’d fall flat on our face and lose,” Fuller told Verdi.

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While the offense was sufficient, the defense was unbelievable, taking their play-making and intimidation to a new level.

The defense allowed only eight first downs and 68 rushing yards on 22 carries en route to allowing only 106 yards of total offense, the Bears’ best mark of the season so far. Lions quarterback Eric Hipple completed only eight of 17 passes for 73 yards, and was sacked four times, two times by William Perry – who continued to show he was a talented defensive tackle in addition to a backfield threat – one by Wilber Marshall and a split between Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael. Wilson and Dave Duerson nabbed interceptions, while the defense also recovered two fumbles.

“We have a mission. Disrupt the offense. At times, it looked like a jailbreak out there,” Wilson said to Lincicome.

At 10-0 with only one division game remaining, the Bears had proven themselves masters of the NFC North in dominant fashion. They’d already topped New England, San Francisco and Washington — all playoff contenders at this point in the season — and the questions were starting to come rapid fire about the prospects of an undefeated season.

“There is no doubt this team has a chance to do something no other team has done. No team has ever gone through a 16-game schedule undefeated. We’re about two-thirds of the way there right now,” defensive tackle Dan Hampton said to Lincicome. “It’s inevitable that a football team will lose. There’s never been a team that has not been beaten. But you can’t convince any one of the 45 men in this room that we have to be beaten this year.”

Up next was Dallas, a traditional conference powerhouse that had knocked off Chicago in the 1984 campaign, but one that had no idea what was in store for them when this new version of the Bears came to town.

Next: What to Expect Out of WR Eddie Royal in 2015

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