1985 Chicago Bears Clip Wings Off Falcons, 36-0


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.

In facing what was probably their most over-matched opponent, the Chicago Bears held the Atlanta Falcons to negative-22 yards passing and smashed the visiting birds 36-0 to move to 12-0 on the season.

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While the game ended up being a mismatch, the contest had all the signs of a trap game. The Bears were coming off an absolute beat-down of the Dallas Cowboys by a 44-0 margin, and had an upcoming Monday Night Football date scheduled in Miami against the Dolphins. The Bears were still playing without quarterback Jim McMahon, who wouldn’t see action until late in next week’s game against Miami.

Atlanta, meanwhile, sported a poor 2-9 record but was coming off a convincing 30-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears’ eventual opponent in the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons boasted a weak passing game and an average defense, but had one of the best running backs in the game in Gerald Riggs, who would finish the season ranked second in the league with 1,719 yards.

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“He’s tough. It’s like turning a bull loose. He’s always going to get you a couple yards. And if he’s going to get you a couple yards, he’s going to get you five. He’s the kind of guy you’ve got to wrap up on. He bounces off a lot of tackles. I wasn’t that impressed with Riggs when he first came out, but I am now,” Bears Coach Mike Ditka told the Chicago Tribune’s Ed Sherman leading up to the game against the Falcons.

Once the game, started though, it was clear the Bears were more than prepared to take the wings off the Falcons.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears put the game out of reach with 20 points in the second quarter. Rookie kicker Kevin Butler continued his stellar campaign with a pair of field goals to start the scoring, and then running back Walter Payton ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run to push the score to 13-0.

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William Perry, meanwhile, closed the scoring in the second quarter with a one-yard plunge, putting the Bears up 20-0 at the half.

The game didn’t get any better for Atlanta in the second half, as Calvin Thomas added another Bears touchdown on a two-yard score in the third quarter. Backup defensive tackle Henry Waechter sacked reserve Falcons quarterback Bob Holly for a safety to start the scoring in the fourth quarter, while Bears running back Thomas Sanders notched his only touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter with a one-yard score.

By the time the 36-0 rout was over, the Falcons had shown they didn’t belong on an NFL field with the Bears, while the Bears continued to show the ways they could win without McMahon, who remained sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The offense continued to rely on the running game, with Payton rushing for 102 yards on 20 carries and fellow backs Dennis Gentry, Sanders, Thomas, Matt Suhey and quarterback Steve Fuller combining to push the team’s game total to 196 yards on 43 carries.

But while the running continued to be effective – the win marked Payton’s seventh straight 100-yard game – the passing game continued to be anemic. Fuller completed only 10 of 20 passes for 151 yards, while third-stringer Mike Tomczak completed two of four passes for 33 yards. Clearly, the passing game needed McMahon in order for it to be effective.

Despite the win, the offense was making a concerning shift back to the 1984 version of the Bears, which ran and ran and ran its way through the season, only to find out at the end in San Francisco that they needed a passing game to reach the Super Bowl.

Fortunately, though, the defense in 1985 was better than the version of the prior year, and they proved it again against the Falcons. In what is another candidate as their best game of the season, the defense held the Falcons to 119 total yards, including limiting them to -22 passing yards, collecting five sacks and two interceptions and a safety.

Remarkably, the Bears collected more sacks – 2.5 from Waechter, 1.5 from Richard Dent and the last from the Refrigerator – than the Falcons completed passes, with quarterback David Archer going two of 15 and backup Holly completing one of two passes.

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The game also marked the last time the Bears would allow a 100-yard rusher until Week 9 of the 1986 season, as Riggs ran for 110 yards on 30 carries, while Atlanta piled up 141 rushing yards on a total of 37 carries.

“First time since the first game of the year when James Wilder (of Tampa Bay) got 100,” defensive tackle Steve McMichael said to the Tribune’s Don Pierson. “Samurai (Singletary) was pretty mad about that.”

Even allowing more than 100 rushing yards – for the first time since Week 4 against the Redskins – the Bears defense was in the middle of a remarkable run.

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They’d played nine straight quarters of shutout football, not allowing any points since the third quarter of the Week 10 game against Detroit and not allowing a touchdown since the Week 9 game against the Packers. Over the past seven games, they’d allowed only 39 points while scoring 27 of their own. They were a devastating force in the league, one capable of winning games on their own with little to no help from the offense.

“I didn’t know if this would be hard or easy,” Ditka told the Tribune’s Don Pierson. “The way our defense is playing, it seems nothing is too hard.”

With the win, the Bears moved to 12-0, and talk of finishing the season undefeated was rampant, even from the players.

“People are waiting, expecting, for us to hit that slump. Will it be the Dallas game? No, maybe it will be the week after Dallas and the week before Miami. No, maybe it will be Miami,” linebacker Mike Singletary told the Tribune’s Bob Verdi. “People are saying we’ve got to have that one day, that one game. But why? Why do we have to? If you keep trying to improve, every week, why does there have to be that one week? When will it happen? Maybe the bottom line is, the only team that can beat the Chicago Bears is the Chicago Bears.”

Singletary would prove prophetic in more ways than one with the above quote: Maybe it would be Miami. And maybe the only team that could stop the Bears was the Bears themselves.

Next: Chicago Bears: Why 3-13 prediction is dead wrong

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