#TBT: 1985 Chicago Bears Blast Patriots for Super Bowl Crown


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.

The Chicago Bears saved their best performance of the season for last, obliterating the New England Patriots 46-10 to capture Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.

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Coming into the game, there was little reason to think it would be a close contest. The Bears had shutout the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams in their first two postseason games by a combined margin of 45-0. They were the top defense, leading the league in fewest points allowed and against the run, while their offense was second in points scored and led the league in rushing. New England, meanwhile, was 10th in points scored and ninth in yards gained, while their defense was in the top ten in points and yards allowed.

The Bears and Patriots were essentially the same type of team. Both were led by their defense and running game, while their passing games were limited. However, being the same type of team doesn’t mean they were equal, as the Bears proved in Week 2 when they beat the Patriots 20-7 and would hammer home again in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots were the bottom seed in the AFC playoffs, but they knocked off the Jets 26-14 and Raiders 27-20 in the first two rounds before beating Miami 31-14 in the AFC Championship Game. Their offense, particularly against Miami (255 rush yards), relied on the run game in the postseason, with quarterback Tony Eason attempting only 43 passes across the three games.

Most of all, though, the Patriots feasted on turnovers, forcing four against the Jets and six each against the Raiders and Miami.

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The Super Bowl started with the same narrative, as Bears running back Walter Payton lost a fumble two plays after Chicago received the opening kickoff.

New England took over at the Chicago 20, but instead of trying to run the ball – which got them to the Super Bowl – they elected to throw.

“We knew they would blitz a lot, and we wanted to exploit that early to keep them from doing it. Then we would establish the running game. When they get you in a situation where they know you have to throw, it’s like trying to beat back the tide with a broom,” guard Ron Wooten told the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Markus.

The plan didn’t work, though. Wide receiver Stanley Morgan dropped one likely touchdown pass, and the drive ended with Eason throwing three incompletions and New England kicking a field goal.

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The Bears took off after the initial turnover, and the game wasn’t close again. McMahon hit Willie Gault for 44 yards on the next drive, which ended with Kevin Butler knotting the game at 3.

The turnover battle started to go against New England later in the first quarter. Eason fumbled at his own 13, with the Bears recovering and kicking a field goal. Running back Craig James fumbled on the first play of the next Patriots possession; two plays later Matt Suhey scored the first Bears touchdown on an 11-yard run, making the first quarter margin 13-3.

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New England – which had -2 rush yards and -17 passing yards in the first quarter – continued to struggle on offense, and their defense started to falter.

In their first possession of the second quarter, the Bears drove 59 yards for the touchdown, this time with McMahon running three yards for the score.

The Bears would fumble on their next possession, and backup New England quarterback Steve Grogan – in after Eason failed to complete a pass  – guided the Patriots to their only first down of the first half before punting.

The Bears would kick a short field goal as time expired in the second quarter, giving them a 23-3 lead at the intermission.

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New England’s struggles in the first half were stunning, even against the vaunted Bears’ defense. They collected one first down, ran for -5 yards and threw for -14 yards, completed only two of 11 passes, were sacked three times and held the ball for fewer than eight minutes. Even in their shutout victories over the Giants and Rams, the Bears weren’t as destructive as in their first half rampage through the New England offense.

If the game wasn’t over at that point, it quickly became so in the third quarter. New England picked up one first down before Grogan was sacked twice and the Patriots punted. Starting at their own four yard line, McMahon hit Gault for 59 yards and tight end Emery Moorehead for 15 to move the ball to New England’s 22. McMahon would ultimately score his second rushing touchdown, this time from the one yard line.

On the next Patriots possession, Grogan’s third-down pass was tipped and intercepted by backup Bears cornerback Reggie Phillips – in after starter Leslie Frazier tore his ACL on a punt return, ending his young career at age 26 – and Phillips returned the pick 28 yards for the touchdown, making the score 37-3.

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The Patriots would fumble on their next possession, and the Bears would drive 38 yards for their final touchdown, with William Perry this time vaulting into the endzone to push the margin to 44-3.

“It was embarrassing. It was frustrating and aggravating. They really whipped us today. By the third quarter, it was hard going back on the field. We were just playing for pride by then, hoping to get more points and not make it look as bad,” Patriots running back Tony Collins said to Markus.

The Patriots would add a touchdown pass to Irving Fryar in the fourth quarter and Henry Waechter would sack Grogan for a safety to end the scoring at 46-10, a win that at that point in time was the largest margin of victory in the Super Bowl and stood four years until San Francisco annihilated Denver in Super Bowl XXIV 55-10.

The performance of the Bears’ defense – and we’ll get to how good they were in this game in a minute – overshadowed the Bears’ offense, which played its best game in months. The Bears ran for 167 yards and four touchdowns on 49 carries, while throwing for 256 yards. McMahon, who was 12 of 20 and ran for two touchdowns, had what was likely his best game of the season, and Matt Suhey ran for 52 yards on only 11 carries.

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The lone blemish for the Bears’ offense was Payton, who fumbled on his second carry and ended up running for only 61 yards on 22 carries and didn’t score, something that is egregious in hindsight, particularly when Coach Mike Ditka opted to give the ball to Perry at the one yard line in the third quarter rather than having Payton score to culminate his legendary career.

“I wanted to get Walter into the end zone,” Ditka said to the Tribune’s Don Pierson. “But our plays are designed to score and I didn’t know who had the ball.”

“I feel very said for (Payton). I also would have liked to have seen a goose-egg up there. We could have got to 60 points, but we ran out of time,” McMahon told Pierson.

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While the offense was solid, the defense was outstanding. They ended up forcing six turnovers, sacked New England seven times, held the Patriots to seven rushing yards and gave up 116 net passing yards on 17 of 36 passing. Dent, the MVP, collected 1.5 sacks and forced two fumbles; Otis Wilson had two sacks, Wilber Marshall a half-sack and Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael and Waechter all lodged one sack apiece. Eason remains the only starting quarterback in Super Bowl history to fail to complete a pass.

According to NFL.com, the seven rushing yards allowed by the Bears and 0.64 yards per carry are still the best in Super Bowl history, while the 123 total yards allowed is second and the seven sacks are tied for first.

Players and coaches seemed to understand exactly how special the team and season had been.

“Today history was set. I think we’re one of the best teams of all time,” Mike Singletary told Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune.

“Defense is what makes Chicago teams. If we’re not one of the best teams of all time, I’d like to see the others,” Dent told Hersh.

“A lot of dreams have been fulfilled, and a lot of frustrations have ended,” Ditka told Hersh.

“This is great for Chicago fans. They have been shellshocked for a number of years,” Ditka added.

The Bears and their fans still celebrate the 1985 team, primarily because they are the best single-season team in league history and because, unfortunately, they’re the only Bears team to win the title. Despite being one of the youngest teams in the league and having a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, the Bears would not repeat.

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Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan left for a head coaching job in Philadelphia before the next season. The 1986 Bears, while going 14-2 with a great defense and terrible offense, would lose by double digits at home to Washington in their first playoff game. In 1987, they’d again win the division and again lose at home to Washington, this time 21-17 in what was Payton’s final game. In 1988, they beat Ryan’s Eagles in the Fog Bowl before getting smashed at home by San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.

A terrible 1989 season was followed by playoff years in 1990 and 1991, where the Bears were a solid team but no longer a realistic Super Bowl threat. Ditka was fired after the 1992 season, and the Bears were irrelevant for the rest of the decade and longer.

But try to forget all that, and just remember that for one season, the Bears were the best team in the league. In history.

Next: Bears Struggle In Power Rankings

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