1985 Chicago Bears Destroy Giants in Playoffs, 21-0


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.

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Following a bye week, the Chicago Bears knocked the New York Giants out of the playoffs in the divisional round with a dominating defensive performance in a 21-0 victory.

Playing their first home playoff game in the Super Bowl era, the Chicago Bears looked nothing less than sensational in knocking off the Giants, who would capture the Super Bowl title the following year. The offense racked up 363 yards against a very good Giants defense, while holding the New York offense to less than 200 total yards.

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This is my favorite win of the 1985 season. The Giants – having already knocked out San Francisco in the wildcard round with a 17-3 win – represented the last real threat to the Bears in the NFC. The two remaining teams in the divisional round – the Rams and Dallas – looked less frightening, as Chicago already destroyed Dallas in the regular season and the Rams were a one-dimensional offense.

The Giants, though, were another matter. Quarterback Phil Simms threw for almost 3,900 yards, good enough to lead the NFC in passing yardage. Running back Joe Morris ran for more than 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns. The defense, led by Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, finished fifth in points and second in yards allowed. They also led the league in sacks, with Taylor tallying 13, Leonard Marshall 15.5 and the whole team a whopping 68.

While the Giants defense played reasonably well, they were undone by the utter failure of the Giants’ offense to produce any success against the dominating Bears defense.

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Both offenses came out of the gate sputtering. The Giants, following initial success on the ground, fumbled after Simms hit fullback Rob Carpenter for a first down. Starting at midfield, the Bears ran Payton three times into the line for eight yards before punting.

The three-and-out contest continued, as each team failed to get first downs on their next possessions. The Giants, taking over at their own 21 later in the first quarter, went backwards, with Richard Dent – playing the best game of his career – sacking Simms, setting the Giants up with a fourth and 17 at their own 12.

Punter Sean Landeta, in one of the more bizarre plays in NFL history, didn’t shank the punt – he just whiffed on it, with the ball barely grazing his foot. Watching the play, there’s no significant pressure on Landeta as he goes to punt. The two theories are that he was scared of the Bears – I’m sorry, as good as they were, I don’t buy that the punter was scared of the second-team Bears on punt return – or that the wind blew the ball away from his foot.

Reviews of the play seem to show that once Landeta dropped the ball, it rotated away from his foot, so I tend to think his drop was bad. Maybe it was playoff pressure, but I don’t think the wind could effect the ball when it’s dropping only two feet.

“As soon as I dropped the ball, it started to go to the right. That’s happened before, and it happened later in the game, but at least I got a piece of it. This time, I didn’t. I’ve never experienced anything like that. It’s something you can’t explain. But I don’t think that was the determining factor in our loss,” Landeta said to the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Hersh.

Whatever the cause, the ball glanced off Landeta’s foot, with defensive back Shaun Gayle scooping the ball at the Giants’ five-yard-line and running it in for the score.

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Getting the ball back, the Giants again went three-and-out, but a good punt pinned the Bears at their own nine.

Putting together the first good drive of the game for either team, quarterback Jim McMahon led the Bears into Giants territory on passes to Willie Gault, Dennis McKinnon and Matt Suhey. Rookie kicker Kevin Butler, though, would miss the 27-yard field goal.

Dent sacked Simms on the next play, forcing a fumble that the Giants would recover. Three plays later, the Giants punted again.

A 28-yarder to Gault would push the Bears into field goal range on the next possession, but Butler – kicking into a fierce wind – badly missed a 49-yard try.

Neither team would threaten to score again until late in the second quarter.

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By the time the Giants took over on their final possession of the first half, they’d had absolutely no success moving the ball. Their running game was stagnant — they finished with 30 rushing yards in the first half — and they’d thrown for zero net yards.

Nevertheless, the Giants took advantage of good field position. Starting at the Chicago 45, running back George Adams beat Mike Singletary for a 31-yard reception. Three plays later, following a false start, Simms completed a pass down to the Bears’ three. With no timeouts, the Giants threw three times, all of which fell incomplete. Kicker Eric Shubert missed a 19-yard field goal off the upright, and the Bears went into halftime up 7-0.

The third quarter is when the Bears put the game away. One long drive ended in Butler’s third missed field goal, but the defense again held the Giants without a first down, setting the offense up with great field position at the New York 41. Three runs by Matt Suhey pushed the ball to the 23 yard line, and two plays later McMahon hit Dennis McKinnon for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 14-0.

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Later in the quarter, McMahon hit tight end Tim Wrightman for 47 yards, setting the Bears up at the Giants’ 20. On the next play, McMahon threw to McKinnon for his second touchdown, completing the scoring at 21-0.

Meanwhile, the defense held the Giants to negative yards in the third quarter and forced three three-and-outs.

The fourth quarter was a formality, as the Bears ran out the clock and the Giants chocked up garbage time yards, with Simms throwing for more than 120 yards in the fourth quarter.

By the time the game ended, the domination by the Bears defense was complete. The Giants came into the game with the fourth-best rushing offense; they ran for only 32 yards. The defense forced three fumbles, recovering one. They sacked Simms six times, harrying him into 14 of 35 passing for 209 yards, more than half of which came after the Bears were up 21-0. The Giants had only 10 first downs in the game, and collected seven of those in garbage time.

“They didn’t know who to block. That’s what makes this defense so exciting, because it’s so complicated nobody can figure it out,” linebacker Wilber Marshall said to the Chicago Tribune’s Don Pierson.

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Dent in particular had a terrifying game, collecting 3.5 sacks, forcing one fumble and hustling down a handful of Morris runs behind the line of scrimmage.

While the defense collected the headlines, the offense quietly put together one of its best games of the season, though much of it was negated by Butler missing three field goals.

McMahon was back to the form he showed early in the season, completing 11 of 21 passes for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The passing game was back to throwing for larger chunks, with McMahon completed passes of more than 40 yards to Wrightman and Dennis Gentry and passes of more than 20 yards to Gault and McKinnon. The offensive line, rebounding after a tough stretch at the end of the regular season, didn’t allow a sack in the game.

The running game, meanwhile, was stymied for a time by the Giants defense, but not for too long. The Bears collected 59 rush yards in the first half and finished the game with 147. Payton ran for 93 yards on 27 carries, with McMahon, Suhey and Calvin Thomas chipping in.

The Bears would move on to the NFC Championship Game, in which they’d host the Los Angeles Rams and Eric Dickerson, a team that beat them in 1984.

Next: Moving Kyle Long To Tackle Makes Sense

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