The Greatest Teams in NFL History - 1985 Chicago Bears
With the NFL Draft in the books and on the field action still months away, let’s take a look back at the stars of yesteryear and the teams that shaped the NFL. This list isn’t in any particular order but we will simply highlight 10 teams that left their imprint on the league and whose blueprints are still being studied today. Over the coming offseason I will take a look at each of these teams in depth and talk about what made them great in their own way and whether or not they lived up to their potential. Last time out we looked at the 1968 Baltimore Colts. In this article we will focus on the the one loss 1985 Chicago Bears.
1985 - Chicago Bears
In his fourth season with the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka would lead one of the best teams, perhaps even the best, all the way to the Super Bowl and eventual World Champions. This incredible season was made possible by overpowering, scarily aggressive and outright dominant defense. The defense only gave up 198 points throughout the season and headed into the playoffs where history would be made; but more on that later.
The Bears defense not only led the league in points allowed but also in yards allowed (4135) and takeaways (54). No other team managed that feat again until the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and their Legion of Boom. In the opinion of many football experts out there the only team that is better than the 85 Bears are the undefeated Dolphins. That is a topic of hot debate and the only defense that comes close to this one is the Steel Curtain from Pittsburgh. This Bears defense, without question, are the scariest and the one that will still haunt quarterbacks to this day.
Despite having numerous issues during the preseason, the Bears got themselves ready for the start of a defining season in NFL history. During that preseason, seven players, including Mike Singletary, were either unsigned or holding out for a better contract. Additionally during a less than impressive preseason their number one pick from the draft that year was labelled a “wasted draft pick” by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan
Finishing with a record of 15-1 you would presume that the Bears dominated from the first kickoff to the final whistle in most games. However, the season started shakily, with an opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This star studded defense could not get going and by halftime the Bears were trailing 28-10. Up stepped Mike Ditka at half time and from that point on Tampa Bay did not score a single point. That game was the birthplace of the famous 4-6 defense. Despite it being early in the season this is the moment a championship winning team was born.
The strong defensive performance continued into Week 2 where a Super Bowl preview was played out against the New England Patriots. The Bears defense forced four turnovers and stopped the Patriots from scoring until the fourth quarter. After a poor first half performance in week one, this defense went five quarters without conceding a single point.
In Week 3, the Bears struggled in Minnesota after an injury to starting quarterback Jim McMahon left the Bears trailing. McMahon came back into the game despite carrying the injury and pulled the Bears back to take them to 3-0.
Weeks four through nine rolled on with wins against Washington, Tampa Bay again, San Francisco, Minnesota and divisional rivals Green Bay twice. Then in Week 10 the Bears defense went on a three week run that showed how dominant they were capable of being. First up was the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field, Chicago. The Bears defense held the Lions to three points, which were scored in the third quarter on their way to their 10th win of the season.
Next up a visit to the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. Going into Dallas and playing one of the greatest franchises in NFL history would have been enough to unsettle any defense, but not these Bears. The Bears made the Cowboys look like children running about the field as they handed them their worst defeat in franchise history, holding them to zero points for the first time in 15 years. A 44-0 win was enough for the Bears to clinch the NFC Central division.
The final game of this dominant defensive stretch came at Soldier Field against the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears would get their second shutout in a row and hand the Falcons a comfortable 36-0 loss. That win would take them to 12-0 on the season and chasing an undefeated season that only Miami had managed before.
Ironically, up next for the Bears was the Dolphins. Obviously worried that the undefeated season was about to be replicated, Dan Marino found a way around the 4-6 defense of Chicago. Completing numerous short passes for plenty of yards after the catch meant the Bears couldn’t get a stop. This was the first time the Bears had given up 31 points in a half since the first game of the 1972 season. It led to Mike Singletary to say on Americas Game:
“Well needless to say, there was something different about that game, and there were some things happen that night, that were really strange. I mean balls ricocheting off guys heads and flying into receivers hands. You couldn’t buy a break, it was like a nightmare, when something is happening and you’re in the middle of it, and you’re thinking this can’t be happening, please let this be a dream.”
The Bears would win their remaining three games against the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and Detroit Lions to finish the season seven games ahead of second place in their division and with the best record in the NFL. The final game against the Detroit Lions was only the fifth time in the season that the Bears allowed a team to score more than 10 points. This game also featured a hit on Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson by linebacker Wilber Marshall where Ferguson was knocked unconscious. A clip that is still used to this day to show the toughness of the 85 Bears.
A dominant season led to the Bears having home field advantage throughout the playoffs and it is the next three games that perhaps define why this is one of the greatest team to ever play. In those next three games the famous 4-6 defense (named after former Bears safety Doug Plank), or “attack from every angle” defense, took the limelight and put the NFL world on notice.
The first of three dominant performances came in the divisional round against the New York Giants. A cold windy day in Chicago where the Giants would have been better staying in their hotel room and not taking the field. The Bears defense held the season’s leader in rushing touchdowns to a measly 32 yards on 12 carries.
This was enough to put everyone else off trying to run the ball and the rest was left to quarterback Phil Simms to try and salvage something from the game. Unfortunately, that scary defense of Steve McMicheal, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Richard Dent, Dan “Danimal” Hampton, Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson sacked Simms for a combined loss of 60 yards and held him to 14 completed passes out of 35 attempts. The Giants couldn’t muster a single point and were sent back to New York battered and bloodied.
Next up was a visit from the Los Angeles Rams in the Championship game and yet another dominant performance from the Bears. By stuffing the run again, holding Eric Dickerson to 46 rushing yards, the run game had nowhere to go and Rams quarterback Dieter Brock had to throw the ball 31 times. Unfortunately for him he only completed 10 of those passes for 66 yards and the Rams also could not put any points on the board.
The Bears set an NFL record by being the first team to have back to back postseason shutouts with their fourth shutout of the season. Next up for Chicago was a trip to the Superdome in New Orleans and a rematch against the New England Patriots.
Super Bowl XX
The Bears and Patriots had already met once this season when the Patriots were held to seven points that came in the fourth quarter. Since that game the Bears defense had shown absolutely no signs of letting up and there was nothing to show the Patriots were going to fare any better this time around.
In a game where both the Bears offense and defense clicked, the Patriots again were unable to even compete against Chicago being held to 10 points. The Bears went on to set a record at the time for points scored in a Super Bowl with 46 as well as setting the record for the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl with 36.
The Bears defense held starting Patriots quarterback Tony Eason to zero completions from six attempts making him the only starting quarterback in a Super Bowl to have zero completed passes. The leading rusher for the Patriots was held to four yards and needless to say the Bears finished the season as dominantly as they started it by running out 46-10 victors and winning their first world championship since 1963.
Widely regarded as the best team in NFL history the 1985 Chicago Bears had some interesting moments off the field as well. After their Week 13 loss to the Miami Dolphins the majority of the team (excluding Dan Hampton) became the first sports team to record a rap single. “The Superbowl Shuffle” peaked at 41 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song raised over $300,000 for a Chicago Community Trust and had Walter Payton rapping the line:
“Now we’re not doing this because were greedy, The Bears are doing it to feed the needy”
After you win the Super Bowl the tradition is that you get invited to the White House. The 85 Bears however had to wait 25 years for this tradition due to the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. They were invited by longtime Chicago Bears fan Barack Obama in 2011 to the White House to celebrate their victory.
With a defense that quite simply put the fear of god into opposing teams it is clear to see why the 1985 Chicago Bears deserve to be mentioned in the category of greatest football team ever. Bearing in mind they did this without two of their stars on defense as linebacker Al Harris and strong safety Todd Bell sat out the entire season due to contract issues.
To this day no team has had as dominating a display in the postseason as the Chicago Bears. Playing three games at the most crucial point of the season and holding your opponents to a combined 10 points is truly astonishing and makes them more deserving of being on this list.
Image credit: https://joemontanasrightarm.com/ & AP Photo