#TBT: 1985 Chicago Bears survive Colts, 17-10


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.

Six days after the Chicago Bears lost their first and only game to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, they struggled to beat a lousy Indianapolis Colts team at Soldier Field, 17-10.

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The Bears came into the game at 12-1, having lost their first game by 14 points the week before. That was a loss to the Dolphins, an eventual playoff team who’d gone to the Super Bowl in 1984. This week they were playing a team that was 3-10, and whose three wins were against equally weak foes in Buffalo, Green Bay and Detroit. No doubt there was little in watching the Colts that would have scared the Bears.

The Colts didn’t have a quarterback with a rocket arm, like Miami’s Dan Marino, nor did they have a wily quarterback like the 49ers’ Joe Montana. Instead, they had someone named Mike Pagel, who completed only 50 percent of his passes on the season and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. They didn’t have an intimidating defense; they were at best medicore against the run and pass, ranking 18th and 19th in yards allowed in both categories, respectively.

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About the only thing the Colts had going for them that might have given the Bears cause for concern was their running attack, which ended the season ranked fifth in yards gained. Still, they didn’t have a Pro Bowl-caliber back and didn’t finish the season with a 1,000-yard rusher. Instead, they split carries between Randy McMillan and George Wonsley.

The only major change for the Bears, meanwhile, was that Jim McMahon was back starting at quarterback after missing the Detroit, Dallas and Atlanta games and seeing only second half action in the loss to Miami.

The game against the Colts was an ugly win for the flat, uninspired Bears, who nevertheless moved to 13-1 on the season. Multiple players acknowledged after the game that something was missing against the Colts.

“Intensity is the big factor in professional football. And right now, it’s like we’re leading the Indianapolis 500 by five laps with 10 laps to go. You don’t want to let up, obviously. But it’s hard to get too motivated because you know what’s ahead. The last game we had to win was in Green Bay. The next game we have to win is the playoffs. That’s a long time between must-wins,” defensive tackle Dan Hampton said to the Chicago Tribune’s Bob Verdi.

The first quarter went by scoreless, and both teams managed only a field goal by halftime before the restless Soldier Field crowd, who must have been wondering what had happened to the Bears of the first 12 games in the 1985 season as they booed the team off the field.

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“We looked at each other and said ‘this is ridiculous.’ We were bad, flat. We finally went out and did what we had to do, but it was not glamorous. If you say maybe we’d be better off if the playoffs started tomorrow, I know what you’re saying. But maybe we wouldn’t, either,” linebacker Mike Singletary told Verdi. “Our aim is to have it all there when the time comes, to have all the impact. To have the intensity we had against Dallas and Atlanta, even more. To be even better than that. And while we think we’re ready, maybe we’re not ready.”

The Bears’ offense woke up slightly in the second half, with running back Walter Payton scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and fullback Calvin Thomas scoring on a three-yard run in the fourth.

Pagel, who struggled for much of the game, finished the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Capers.

Coach Mike Ditka didn’t sound happy after the game about the team’s performance, but didn’t seem too frustrated, either.

“I’m not unhappy. I kinda really thought it would be 7 or 10 or 13 points. I didn’t think it would be a blowout like a lot of people. The main thing is we’re going into the playoffs, and people are going to have to come here to play us,” Ditka said to the Tribune’s Don Pierson.

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One week after the offense was inconsistent against Miami, the Bears offense took a step back and became pedestrian against the lowly Colts.

McMahon, seeing his first full-time action since the Week 9 win over Green Bay, struggled against the Colts, going 11 of 23 for only 145 yards. The pass protection, a serious concern after surrendering six sacks against Miami, allowed three this time by Indianapolis. About the only good thing to say about the Bears’ passing attack was that the 11 receptions were spread around to six receivers, preventing the Colts from keying on one target.

The running attack continued to hold steady, with Payton again topping 100 yards, this time carrying the ball 26 times for 111 yards. McMahon added 36 yards, Thomas 27 and Matt Suhey 17, again pushing the Bears close to 200 rushing yards for the game.

The best thing to say about the offense is that the game against the Colts marked the only time in the regular season where the Bears’ offense didn’t turn the ball over.

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One week after being torched by Marino, the Bears pass defense put the clamps on Pagel, allowing only 10 completions on 24 attempts and 143 yards. Though they failed to force a turnover and registered only one sack by Otis Wilson, the Bears managed to hold the Colts to 99 rushing yards. It was only the fourth time the Colts were held to less than 100 rushing yards all season.

It wasn’t a great performance by either side of the ball, but the Bears had collected their 13th victory of the season. The defense had rebounded from the Miami game, and the offense had its full contingent of players back now that McMahon had returned to the lineup. Up next was the New York Jets, who were 10-4 when they played the Bears and were likely the last team on the Bears’ regular season schedule with a shot at knocking them off.

Next: Kevin White to Undergo Surgery for Shin Injury

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