By Jason Bryden
Assistant Sports Info Director
Domination. When you think of the 1985 Chicago Bears, domination is one of the first words that comes to mind. The Bears asserted themselves as an all-time team by complete and thorough domination of the opposition en route to a 15-1 regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs to win Super Bowl XX.
On November 5, more than 25 members of the 1985 Bears reunited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its memorable season. This team is still fondly remembered to this day by Bears fans.
Why is this team remembered so well, especially in Chicago? During the reunion, safety Dave Duerson said it was “because of the unique relationship we had with the fans here in Chicago. But this is a unique city in that regard.” Duerson would second Mike Ditka’s comment that the 1985 Bears were a team of characters with character by saying, “At the end of the day, that’s exactly what it was.” He added, “we were a unique set of guys and Mike allowed us to be ourselves.”
When former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was asked about the 1985 Bears, defense he had one word: “Ow!” That year, the defense knocked out quarterbacks such as Danny White (Dallas Cowboys), Joe Ferguson (Detroit) and Tony Eason (New England). The defense was known as the “46” and was designed by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.
Chicago came close to the Super Bowl the year prior, but they fell in the NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl XIX Champion San Francisco 49ers 23-0.
After opening the season with victories, the Bears traveled to Minnesota for a Thursday night game. Ironically this was a night where it was the Bears offense that spearheaded the win. Quarterback Jim McMahon did not start due to an injury and Chicago was trailing 17-9 in the third quarter. McMahon was pestering Ditka to let him into the game, and finally he relented. It turned into gold on the first play McMahon fired a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Willie Gault to spark a Bears 33-24 victory on a play where running back Walter Payton picked up the blitzing linebacker.
After two more wins to improve to 5-0, it was off to San Francisco for a Week 6 showdown with the 49ers.
The Bears got their payback in a 26-10 win as the dominating defense sacked quarterback Joe Montana seven times and did not allow an offensive touchdown. However, this game is remembered for the debut on the offensive side of the ball of defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry as a fullback. Ditka did this after San Francisco coach Bill Walsh the year prior late in the NFC Championship game, used offensive guard Guy McIntyre in the same role. It was Ditka’s way of payback.
Perry would become a key factor on the goal line, though, as the next week in a Monday Night Football game with the Green Bay Packers, he scored his first touchdown on a one-yard plunge in a 23-7 victory. The moment turned him into a national star. Two weeks later at Green Bay, he scored on a touchdown pass in a 16-10 win.
Two weeks later it was off to Dallas to play the Cowboys and Ditka faced his mentor, legendary Cowboys coach Tom Landry. Prior to the game Cowboys’ cornerback Everson Walls said that Chicago’s 10-0 record was because “they haven’t played anybody.” When the dust settled, the Bears handed the Cowboys their worst defeat ever in the history of Texas Stadium by a 44-0 count. Chicago was 11-0 and defensive lineman Dan Hampton replied to Walls’ comment, “he was right, we still haven’t played anybody yet!”
Chicago returned home the next week and smoked the Atlanta Falcons 36-0 before heading to Miami to play the only team ever to go perfect in a season, as the Dolphins went 17-0 in 1972. Chicago entered it having outscored its foes by a 104-3 count in the prior three games.
The Bears season of domination had a hiccup on the Monday night in Miami as the Dolphins ruined Chicago’s hopes of a perfect season by a 38-24 score.
The next day, members of the Bears recorded the Super Bowl Shuffle Video. Members of the team in the video are Payton, McMahon, Perry, safety Gary Fencik, defensive end Richard Dent, and linebackers Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. Sales from the video went to a charity for the hungry in the Chicago area.
Chicago won its final three games after the Miami loss to enter the playoffs with a 15-1 mark.
The Bears became the only team ever to record back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs as they topped the New York Giants 21-0 in the Divisional Round and the Los Angeles Rams 24-0 in the NFC Championship Game. One of the most shown plays of all-time is when Giants punter Sean Landeta whiffed on a punt and Chicago safety Shaun Gayle picked up the ball and went in for a five-yard touchdown. Against the Rams, Chicago bottled up Rams’ Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson to just 46 rushing yards. During the fourth quarter, snow began to fall and Soldier Field began to cheer. It was off to New Orleans for the Super Bowl against the Patriots, who shocked the Dolphins, 31-14, in the AFC Championship Game. Chicago topped New England, 20-7, in Week 2.
The Bears made quick work of the Patriots in the Super Bowl. After spotting New England a quick 3-0 lead, Chicago’s domination set in. The Bears scored 44 straight points en route to a 46-10 win. Chicago scored through the air, on the ground, and with an interception return as Chicago won its ninth championship and first since 1963. After 11 years, Payton, the league’s all-time leading rusher at the time, had his Super Bowl ring.
Payton, along with Singletary and Hampton are in the Hall of Fame today.
Even though it has been a quarter century, there are many quarterbacks who played against them who still cringe when they think of this dominant team.