4. Sixth sense
The Bears weren’t doing it because they were greedy. The Bears were doing it to feed the needy. Or so the song said. In a mind-blowing display of confidence, the Bears shook off their only loss of the 1985 season — a 38-24 Monday night thrashing by the Dolphins — by heading to a recording studio. The very next day. Born was “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Sweetness, Speedy Willie and Samurai Mike. The Punky QB, Mama’s Boy Otis and Steve Fuller. The Sackman, Hitman and the Fridge. Fans all across Chicago rushed to get the 45. The record went gold. The video went platinum. The song was nominated for a Grammy. Most importantly, the Bears made good on their vow and won the Super Bowl.
On a rainy, muddy December day at Wrigley Field in 1965, Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers turned in the signature performance of his dazzling seven-year career. It started with an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass and ended with an 85-yard punt return touchdown. In the middle: four other scores on runs of 21, 7, 50 and 1 yards. Six TDs in all, tying an NFL record. It was a breathtaking display of vision, agility and grace. Teammate Mike Ditka has called it “the most unbelievable exhibition I’ve ever seen in the history of the game.” “It seemed like everybody was slipping but me,” Sayers said many years later. “I couldn’t believe I was having that kind of day.” The Bears throttled the 49ers 61-20. Sayers, who piled up 336 all-purpose yards, was unaware in the moment that he was making league history. “If we had record books on the sideline, I probably could have scored eight touchdowns.”
3. The beginning
It was in Ralph Hay’s auto showroom in Canton, Ohio, where George Halas began putting his fingerprints all over professional football. Halas, at the time, was a player-coach of the Decatur Staleys and accepted an invitation from Hay to help formulate a vision for the American Professional Football Association. That gathering on Sept. 17, 1920, with Halas sitting on a Hupmobile and exhibiting his think-big mentality, is pointed to as the launching point for what pro football — and eventually the NFL — became.
2. Defense wins championships
The Bears had five All-Pros on a defense that allowed fewer than 10 points per game during the 1963 season: Bill George, Joe Fortunato, Doug Atkins, Richie Petitbon and Roosevelt Taylor. Not even Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle could survive against that group. In the ’63 championship game, in frigid conditions at Wrigley Field, the Bears defense intercepted Tittle five times in a 14-10 triumph. Bill Wade’s two short rushing touchdowns each came after a Bears pick. Linebacker Larry Morris was the game’s MVP. It was George Halas’ final championship as coach. As O’Bradovich once said of his ’63 teammates: “God damn it, they were men. Their word was their bond. They went on the football field and they knocked the hell out of people. And I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to play with them.”
1. Almost perfect
The fitting end to the most dominant season in Chicago sports history. Super Bowl XX: 46-10. Six players scored points. Seven others recorded either a sack or a takeaway. The vaunted ’85 Bears defense capped a magical postseason run in which it allowed only 10 points over three games. And it did so with a special combination of swagger and viciousness. At the final gun, Otis Wilson and Richard Dent went for Buddy Ryan, the beloved defensive coordinator who had made it known to his players that the Super Bowl would be his final game with the Bears after eight seasons. Wilson and Dent hoisted Ryan on their shoulders to carry him off the field. Steve McMichael and William Perry did the same for head coach Mike Ditka. The snapshot remains iconic and was splashed atop the Tribune’s front page the next morning. “Bears bring it home,” the headline read. The Lombardi Trophy was Chicago’s. The ’85 Bears were permanently etched into football lore as champions.
Buddy Ryan, left, and Mike Ditka get carried off the field after the Bears blew out the Patriots to win Super Bowl XX in January 1986.
George Halas’ 1920 Decatur Staleys, who moved to Chicago and became the Bears.
QB Bill Wade (9) scores the winning touchdown in the 1963 NFL championship game.
Gale Sayers’ 1-yard dive gives him the fifth of his six touchdowns in 1965 vs. the 49ers.