With their highly anticipated matchup this weekend, I thought I’d look at the most famous game between these two teams, Super Bowl XX. Bears fans will hope they get the same result as in ’86, and Patriots fans will hope Tom Brady doesn’t suddenly morph into either Tony Eason or Steve Grogan, but instead remains himself to try and lead them to victory.
This was the 20th Super Bowl ever played, a marquee moment for the NFL at the time. It was hosted down in the swamp beds of Louisiana, in the Super Dome. This was the first time either of these teams had played in a Super Bowl and the 6th time New Orleans had hosted the championship decider. As it was an important milestone, the NFL were keen to show off the history of the game, inviting every single previous Super Bowl MVP to be honoured during half time. With 92 million people tuning in on NBC, along with live coverage on Channel 4 in the UK, this was a well watched Super Bowl, and a memorable one.
The New England Patriots that year were a ‘Cinderella story’; they had gone 11-5 that season which got them the third spot in the AFC East. They had a definite weakness at Quarterback; the aforementioned Tony Eason threw 17 interceptions to 11 touchdowns and his back up Steve Grogan only started 6 of their games. Both equally as inept as each other and both probably near the start of the conversation ‘Who’s the worst Quarterback to play in a Super Bowl?’. However, there were areas that meant this team made it to the Super Bowl, anchored by a strong running game between Craig James and Tony Collins as well as a defence boasting 4 of that year’s Pro Bowlers, ranking 5th in yards given up. They visited and beat the Jets and the Raiders and in the AFC Championship game in Miami they beat the Dolphins, lead by Dan Marino, 31-14 despite being widely considered as underdogs. Head Coach Raymond Berry had worked wonders to get this team to the Super Bowl, in fact some people saw it as destiny for this Patriots team to win, given how far they’d come, whilst others perceived it as luck that had got them there. It wasn’t until Super Bowl XX, that everyone realised, especially the players, that these poor Patriots had run into a buzz saw of a team.
The 1985 Chicago Bears are one of the most memorable teams in NFL history. They went 15-1 in the regular season, becoming the second team ever to win 15 games and outscored their opponents by an eye-watering margin of 456-198. Head Coach Mike Ditka, an enigmatic rebel who had been a Hall of Fame Tight End in his playing career, put his fiery, loud and brash demeanour into coaching the Bears. Boy oh boy, did his personality run through the team, Pro Bowl Quarterback Jim McMahon was fined numerous times by the league famously for wearing an Adidas headband. The ’46 Defence’ coached by Buddy Ryan was legendary. It blew teams away, lining up facing it as an opposition Quarterback must have been like looking into the eye of a hurricane. They terrorised teams, with Hall of Famers: Line-backer Mike Singletary, Defensive End Richard Dent, and Defensive Tackle Dan Hampton. This team would poison opposing offences with their complex blitz schemes, tight coverage and ferocious tackling. This defence led the league in 7 different categories in 1985 including fewest points allowed (198), fewest rushing touchdowns (6) and most interceptions (34).
“Our whole deal was to attack, attack, attack. That’s how Buddy had us playing.” Lezlie Frazier CB Chicago Bears 1981-85.
Their defence suffocated you, not letting up until the whistle blew. The Patriots found this out the hard way, as they had 7 yards rushing, gave up 7 sacks, had just 12 first downs and a measly 123 total net yards. With hindsight now, the NFL should have just given the Bears the Super Bowl when they won the NFC Championship as no one would have stood a chance against Buddy Ryan’s defence.
But it wasn’t all on defence; Running Back Walter Payton put together one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career. That season he rushed for over 1,500 yards and had 11 total touchdowns. He was the guiding energy for the team, however he played they played. In Super Bowl XX despite not being one of the 7 players on the team to score a touchdown, Payton finally got his ring to add to his Hall of Fame status. He won Offensive Player of the Year in 1985, Mike Singletary won Defensive Player of the Year, Richard Dent won Super Bowl XX MVP and Mike Ditka won 1985 Coach of the Year. This was one of the greatest teams of all time and their steam rolling of the New England Patriots truly cemented their legacy.
Alex Riley is a 49ers fan who’s followed the game since 2010, currently at the University of Leicester. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRiley and his blog http://www.rileynfl.wordpress.com
Image credit: Sky Sports