Great Games

The Bears entered the 1988 season with high hopes that still lingered from the Super Bowl XX season. But divisional playoff losses in 1986 and 1987 and the loss of Walter Payton, Otis Wilson, Gary Fencik, Willie Gault and Wilbur <!--Default For Marshall is to ignore-->Marshall had the critics howling at the door as the 1988 campaign dawned.

And with Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins coming to Soldier Field for the season opener, the critics were getting their pencils sharpened. Never fear. On a drizzly, muggy day, the Bears sent a message to the rest of the NFL with a resounding 34-7 victory in a season that would culminate with a spot in the NFL title game.

"Our guys played as hard as they could," a sweat-soaked and sarcasm-dripping Mike Ditka said in the locker room after the game. "I was very proud of the effort all the way through. We will try to improve and meet the expectations of the experts in America."

The Bears dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, amassing 427 yards of offense with 28 first downs and holding Don Shula's Dolphins to 163 total yards and only 10 first downs. The Bears' offense, under the direction of QB Jim McMahon, the running of Neal Anderson (24 carries, 123 yards) and the lead blocking of Matt Suhey controlled the ball for an astounding 45 minutes and 32 seconds. Dennis McKinnon was the Bears' leading receiver with four grabs for 76 yards, coming up particularly big on the third scoring drive.

The defense, led by Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Jim Morrissey, Dave Duerson, Steve McMichael, Ron Rivera, Mike Richardson, Vestee Jackson and Shaun Gayle, held Marino and his receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper to nine completions in 22 attempts for 113 yards.

The Bears opened the scoring on a two-yard run by Anderson (Kevin Butler PAT). After a Dent fumble recovery on the Miami one-yard line, Anderson plunged over for a one-play, one-yard drive and a 14-0 lead. McMahon tallied two quarterback sneaks for touchdowns, and Thomas Sanders ripped off a 20-yard scoring run for the extra insurance.

Added McMahon: "Everybody's writing us off, and that's good. We like being in the underdog role."

Ditka's final summation on the game, "We like our people," he said. "For those who don't like our people, that's tough."

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