As we prepare for the Chicago Bears’ season opener against the Green Bay Packers, we are providing fans with a list of 100 interesting facts, records and tidbits to help you get in the football mood.
We are continuing that list today with 10 facts we’re calling “We Are The Champions,” a look back at the iconic 1985 Bears squad that won Super Bowl XX and captured the imaginations of the sports world.
The incredible defense that started it all
Naturally, the place to start with this incredible group of players is on the defensive side of the ball. This record-setting bunch was the brain-child of legendary defensive guru Buddy Ryan, who used his “46 Defense” to guide the team to victory in 1985.
That defense wasn’t named for any particular concept, but rather for the man who wore number 46 for the Bears when Ryan implemented it. That player was safety Doug Plank, and in a cruel twist of fate, he was not a part of the team that ultimately won the Super Bowl championship.
How about some eye-popping numbers?
The Bears’ defense was loaded with stars during the 1985 season, and three of those players were later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: defensive ends Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, and linebacker Mike Singletary.
That defense put up some absolutely crazy stats, including the second-best point differential in NFL history at plus-258, and the Bears allowed just 12.4 points per game, one of the best marks in the history of the league.
To illustrate how dominant they were, the 198 points the Bears allowed were a staggering 65 fewer than the second-best mark in that category during the 1985 season. They also had a turnover ratio of plus-23, and registered four shutouts during the campaign.
Jim McMahon’s meteoric rise to sports fame
During the 1985 season, McMahon went from being a Chicago icon into a national phenomenon. The Bears won their first 12 games with McMahon at the helm that season, including a game in which an injured McMahon badgered Mike Ditka into allowing him to play.
After being inserted into the contest, McMahon threw a 70-yard touchdown pass on his first throw, and on his second he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass. He threw a total of three touchdowns in the game while dealing with a badly injured neck, and he helped the Bears to an important divisional win.
McMahon had plenty of other crazy moments during the season, including mooning a helicopter before the Super Bowl. According to GQ, McMahon also threw fruit at New Orleans revellers, was falsely accused of calling male residents of New Orleans “idiots” (while also using a derogatory term about women that we can’t reprint here), and even had to wear a different number in practice because of the incident.
In the end the “Punky Quarterback” had the last laugh, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in the Super Bowl.
The nearly perfect season
The Bears were aiming to have a perfect 16-0 season in 1985, but their hopes were derailed in Week 13 when they lost to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
Dan Marino and the Dolphins ended up triumphing in the contest, with the legendary quarterback throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns. McMahon didn’t play in the game, and Steve Fuller couldn’t quite get the Bears over the hump in a 38-24 loss.
Mike Ditka vs. Buddy Ryan: The feud’s origins
During that loss to the Dolphins, Ditka and Ryan became engaged in a heated confrontation in the locker room, spawning a long-running rivalry between the two men.
According to multiple re-tellings of the story, Ditka ordered a cornerback to cover Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore instead of linebacker Wilbur Marshall, and Ryan refused to make the strategic change. Undaunted, Ditka then offered to fight Ryan in the hallway.
After the season, Ryan announced that he would take the job as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, breaking up an incredibly successful partnership.
Speaking of head coaches
The 1985 Bears season not only smashed all sorts of records and established members of the team as legends in the eyes of the public, but it also stocked NFL coaching trees for many years to come.
A total of three active players on the roster ultimately became NFL head coaches, including Singletary and Leslie Frazier. Ron Rivera, who played as a linebacker on the team, is still the head coach of the Carolina Panthers after a successful stint on the Bears’ coaching staff.
Former Tennessee Titans and LA Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was also on the Bears that season, but was held on injured reserve throughout the year.
“The Super Bowl Shuffle”
We’ve already touched on a few facts about the “Super Bowl Shuffle” in our coverage leading up to this week’s game, but did you know there was one Bears player who refused to participate in the song’s production?
According to legend, Dan Hampton did not participate in the recording of the song because of its “arrogance.”
The song topped out at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
Mike Ditka’s biggest coaching regret
The Bears’ 46-10 thrashing of the Patriots remains one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history, but the absence of one player from the scoring column remains a big regret for Coach Ditka all these years later.
McMahon became the first quarterback to rush for multiple touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Matt Suhey scored a touchdown for the Bears. William Perry rumbled into the end zone on an iconic run that became a staple of highlight reels everywhere.
You’ll notice that list did not include Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who rushed for 61 yards in the game but did not find the end zone.
“I realized after the game that Walter Payton didn’t score. It bothered him and because it bothered him, it bothered me,” Ditka said in a book about the 1985 Bears. “I regret not giving him that honor.”
And the MVP award goes to….
Despite the team’s dominant offensive performance, the lone Super Bowl MVP in Bears history isn’t an offensive player, but rather defensive end Richard Dent.
Dent had one and a half sacks in the game, helping the Bears limit the Patriots to just 123 total yards of offense. The Bears only allowed the Patriots to register seven rushing yards, the lowest total in the history of the game.
A White House visit 25 years in the making
The Bears were set to visit the White House and President Ronald Reagan after they won the Super Bowl, but their visit was called off after the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle on Jan. 28, 1986. The explosion, just two days after the Bears won the Super Bowl, dominated national headlines and caused the team’s visit to the postponed.
A quarter-century later, the Bears were invited to the White House by Chicago-resident and U.S. President Barack Obama, and he honored the team at an emotional ceremony.
Interestingly enough, Coach Ditka, who has called his decision not to run against Obama for Senate one of his greatest regrets, did attend the ceremony and presented the president with a Bears jersey.
“This game changed everything for every team that came after them,” the president said. “They changed the laws of football.”
For more Bears facts:
Part 1: The Bear Necessities: 10 basic facts about the team, and the players now patrolling Soldier Field.
Part 2: In The Beginning: 10 facts about the team’s founding, original owner George Halas, and the first big star the team was able to sign in the 1920s.
Part 3: There's No Place Like Home: 10 facts about the places where the Bears have played football.
Part 4: Weathering the Storms: 10 facts about the Bears' relationship with Mother Nature.
Part 5: DA BEARS: 10 facts about the Bears through the eyes of American pop culture.
Part 6: 10 for the Record Books: A look back at some of the remarkable, and odd, NFL records set or held by Bears players.
Part 7: Leaders and Legends: A look at some of the interesting records held by Bears players from years gone by.
Part 8: Sweetness: A look at the incredible Bears career of legendary running back Walter Payton.