Tuesday, October 12, 2010

1985 Bears Flashback: On the Prowl

     October 13, 1985. The Bears visit Candlestick Park in San Francisco, seeking to avenge their 23-0 loss in the 1984 NFC championship game at the same site. After that game, 49er safety Ronnie Lott had mockingly told the Bears, “Next time, bring your offense.”
     Now, the Bears heed Lott's advice. They return to San Francisco with the most potent offense in the league at 31.5 points per game. Quarterback Jim McMahon comes out winging (27 of Chicago’s first 37 plays are passes), and the Bears open up a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter. By halftime the 49ers close to within 16-10, but the Bears soon quash any thoughts of a comeback. San Francisco manages only three first downs and 45 total yards in the second half. Defensive tackle Steve McMichael manhandles All-Pro guard Randy Cross and terrorizes quarterback Joe Montana, who is sacked seven times in all.
     Walter Payton rushes for 88 of his 132 yards in the second half as the Bears rely on the ground game to hold the lead. As the clock winds down on the 26-10 victory, coach Mike Ditka inserts defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry at fullback, and the 325-pound rookie carries twice for four yards. "When the 49ers saw that I was the ball carrier," Perry says, “their eyes got really big.” What begins as a way to tweak the 49ers for using guard Guy McIntyre in the backfield in the ’84 title game (“I have a long memory,” Ditka says) will spawn a national phenomenon almost overnight.
     After the game, 49er coach Bill Walsh is asked to describe the Bear defense. “Use any adjective you want,” he says. “I’ll say it was intense and ferocious. They gave us a good, sound beating.”
     The Bears are 5-0 for the season, and McMahon will appear on the cover of the next issue of Sports Illustrated, under the header BEARS ON THE PROWL.

Adapted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert.

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