Even Bears head coach Mike Ditka is amazed. “Our defense, what can you say?” he asks. Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson are everywhere—the Bears come in waves that make it look as if they are playing with more than the requisite 11 men. Their frenzied pass rush accounts for six sacks, causes three interceptions (two are returned for touchdowns), and twice knocks Dallas quarterback Danny White out cold. “I put the wood on him,” Wilson remarks.
“It was just a matter of playing the kind of defense we’re capable of playing,” says middle linebacker Mike Singletary. “We’re still getting better.”
Defensive tackle and part-time fullback William Perry provides some comic relief when he picks up ball-carrier Walter Payton at Dallas’s two-yard line and throws him into the end zone; he is flagged for illegal use of hands. “I didn’t know you weren’t allowed to do that,” he says. Even without Perry’s help, Payton gains 132 yards to put him over 1,000 for the ninth time in his career, a record. Ditka awards a game ball to every man on the roster and promises a gold-plated one for backup quarterback Steve Fuller, who gives another solid performance in place of Jim McMahon, who is banged-up.
One of the game’s story lines is the meeting between Ditka and the man who coached him as a player and gave him his first job as an assistant coach, the Cowboys’ Tom Landry. “[Ditka] downplayed it,” said safety Dave Duerson, “but it was written on his face.” As the game unfolds, Ditka seems a little sheepish to be giving his mentor such an awful beating. He calls off the dogs early in the fourth quarter, replacing most of his starters. Even so, the Bears score two touchdowns with third-string quarterback Mike Tomczak at the controls, on a 17-yard run by one reserve, Calvin Thomas, and a 16-yard run by another reserve, Dennis Gentry.
At 11-0, the Bears have equaled the best start to a season in franchise history (the 1942 Bears went 11-0 for the regular season but lost the championship game). The Bears have also clinched the NFC Central Division title; it’s the first time in league history that a team has clinched with as many as five games remaining.