Great Games in Bear History

Many Bears fans think the seeds were planted for the 1985 Super Bowl-winning defense a year earlier, in 1984. That's probably so, but the soil was prepared in 1983, when the Bears on the defensive side of the ball began to realize how good they were.

That was evident on a rainy, windy day in Soldier Field on Nov. 27, 1983, when Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers came to town. The Niners had a swagger that Super Bowl teams possess. Then they met Mike Ditka's Bears, who were only 5-7 coming into the game but were beginning to display the look of a team on a serious mission.

Let's start with Montana, he of the four Super Bowl rings and the Hall of Fame plaque. The Bears sacked him five times, three times in the fourth quarter when he was angling for one of his famous comebacks, and picked off two passes.

Next on their list of victims was running back Wendell Tyler, who at the time was one of the NFL's top backs. The Bears spanked him for two fumbles and held him to 18 yards on eight carries. "Everybody knows Wendell is fumble prone," Bears linebacker Otis Wilson said casually after the game.

Roger Craig? He was held to 21 yards on 10 carries. Tight end Russ Francis didn't catch a ball, and wide receiver Dwight Clark was held to three catches for 22 yards.

Head Coach Bill Walsh, architect of the famed West Coast Offense? "Love those great offensive teams," said Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan, dripping wet with sarcasm and the day's precipitation. "The 49ers are heavily typed, even though nobody knows it."

Even Ditka said he was surprised to hold the 49ers to a field goal. So, how did they pull it off? "The 49ers are the epitome of a great offense," said middle linebacker Mike Singletary, who had an interception, a fumble recovery and 12 tackles on the afternoon.

"They have all those formations and a quarterback who scrambles. Buddy Ryan came up with a way to do it, and we executed it. Since I've been here, I'd have to say this was the best we've ever played."

Along with Xs and Os execution, the Bears also brought a chip on the shoulder, evidenced by big hits from Wilson, Todd Bell, Steve McMichael, Richard Dent and Dave Duerson.

On offense, two Bob Thomas field goals and a 49-yard scoring strike from Jim McMahon to Dennis McKinnon was all the Bears would need. Walter Payton and Matt Suhey helped control the ball, combining for 115 yards on the ground. Even McMahon rushed for 74 yards on nine attempts.

A year later it was the 49ers defense that turned the trick on the Bears, shutting them out 23-0 in the 1984 title game. But by 1985 the Bears couldn't be stopped on either side of the ball. "We are a ballclub that has improved," Ditka said after the game. How true.

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