10 most important Bears from 1985 Super Bowl team
Unapologetically authentic and thoroughly engaging from the head coach to an unusually large rookie, the 1985 Bears remain legendary. Yet, once the glamour and adulation are removed, which players were most responsible for that successful season? The answers don’t just reside in statistics, or even in wins and losses.
Mike Singletary, MLB
It's impossible to speak about the ‘85 Bears and not focus on the defense. Along those lines, you’ve got to start by mentioning the 1985 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Mike Singletary. “Samurai Mike” was the team’s defensive heart and soul. He recorded over 100 solo tackles that season, leading the “46” defense to a No. 1 overall ranking. Relentless and unnervingly focused, he set the tone for this championship defense.
Dan Hampton, DT/LDE
If Singletary was the defense’s heart and soul, then Hampton represented its blood, sweat and toil. At the beginning of the season, the extremely versatile Hampton started several games at defensive tackle. His ability to constantly face double teams (and beat them) was a key element to the success of the 46’s blitzing schemes.
Midseason, Hampton moved to left defensive end, which allowed first-round pick William Perry to start inside. Amid the double teams and position switches, “Danimal” recorded 6.5 sacks on the season and one more in the Super Bowl.
Richard Dent, RDE
A combination of length and a loping quickness that belied his size, Dent terrorized quarterbacks all season long. Having registered back-to-back seasons of 17 sacks (17.5 in 1984 and 17 in '85), the “Sackman” utilized his long arms to shed blockers and wrangle quarterbacks to the ground. Dent was more than just a pass rusher; he blocked passes, made interceptions, stuffed the run and pursued ball carriers down the line of scrimmage.
Everything came together for Dent in Super Bowl XX (1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked pass), as he was awarded the game’s MVP honor.
Matt Suhey, FB
Unheralded, underrated and understated, Suhey was undeniably the consistent engine that helped power the Bears’ offense in 1985. Offensively, Walter Payton had the most touches on the team (373) and that’s to be expected. However, Suhey’s touches (148) were more than all of the other running backs on the team combined (97). Not one offensive player even registered 50 touches individually that season.
Extremely durable, only Suhey, Payton and wideout Willie Gault started all sixteen games on offense that year. Suhey blocked for Payton, personally averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 8.9 yards per catch. In the Super Bowl, he scored the Bears’ first offensive touchdown, opening the floodgates for a decisive championship victory.
Otis Wilson, LOLB
Arguably the most ferocious Bear defender, Wilson was renowned for knocking quarterbacks out of games. In Week 11 versus the Cowboys, he knocked out starting QB Danny White twice. Along with being named NFC Player of the Week, Wilson was ultimately the league Defensive Player of the Month in November. Throughout the season, he intercepted three passes (one TD), recovered two fumbles and recorded one safety. By season’s end, he finished second on the team with 10.5 sacks and added two more in the Super Bowl.
Wilber Marshall, ROLB
Entering the 1985 NFL campaign, Marshall faced the daunting task of replacing starting LB Al Harris, who was holding out due to a contract dispute. Expectations were high for a defensive unit which set the NFL single season sack record (72) the previous year. Marshall met and exceeded expectations that year, snagging four interceptions, forcing two fumbles, recording six sacks and making 78 tackles. His ability to shadow TEs and WRs kept him on the field for all downs and made the 46 defense more lethal and unpredictable.
Dave Duerson, SS
Much like Marshall, Duerson shared similar pressures in replacing another contract holdout — starting strong safety Todd Bell. Bell was one of defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s favorites, due in part to his aggressive approach and bone-jarring hits. Determined and mentally tough-minded, Duerson made the Pro-Bowl that year, proving to be a better and more versatile defensive back than his predecessor. He blitzed quarterbacks (two sacks), covered receivers (five interceptions) and played the run like an outside linebacker. His intelligence and precision playmaking skills made him essential to the team’s success.
William Perry DT
Perry was easily one of the biggest sensations from the ‘85 team. "The Fridge" was more than just a hyped, commercialized, fan favorite. He was by all accounts an athletic marvel and versatile football player. Chicago’s first-round selection that year weighed in at over 315 pounds but displayed an agility and quickness surprising for his size. Perry’s exploits included blocking for Payton, rushing for touchdowns, catching a pass for a score and even attempting to throw a pass.
His unassuming, easy-going manner and charm endeared him to his teammates and the national media. What gets lost in the hoopla was how truly impactful and effective his play at defensive tackle was that season. Perry first started midseason yet still recorded five sacks and recovered two fumbles. He even covered kickoffs for several games before becoming a starter.
Jim McMahon, QB
McMahon was the right quarterback at the right time for the right team in 1985. An extremely confident and competent signal-caller for the Bears, he unfortunately never played a full season in his career. A fierce competitor, “Mad Mac” routinely sacrificed his body to make plays to help Chicago win games. Though he only played thirteen games that year, McMahon threw for more yards (2,392) and touchdowns (15) than in any year as a professional.
The zany prankster kept the team atmosphere loose and fun-loving but played earnestly in big moments. His third quarter, Thursday night rescue versus the Vikings (three TDs), and a playoff run including Super Bowl XX (3 TDs/0 INTs - three rushing TDs) illustrate how vital McMahon was to the ‘85 Bears.
Walter Payton, RB
If Singletary’s to be considered the “heart and soul” of the defense, then Payton was the soul of the franchise and heartbeat for the ‘85 season. Revered by his teammates and respected by his opponents, “Sweetness” turned in a year-long performance that carried the team to its first Super Bowl. Already the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (he broke the record in ‘84), Payton ran for 1,551 yards (fourth most in his career in a single season), and produced his third-consecutive 2,000+ yards from scrimmage season.
Whether it was blocking blitzing linebackers in pass protection or lead blocking for running mate Suhey, Payton showed up each and every week. Midseason, the Bears struggled offensively with injuries to wideout Dennis McKinnon and McMahon. So, the dependable and durable Payton set a new NFL record, rushing for 100 yards or more in nine consecutive weeks. In his 11th season, Payton — who endured 10 years of futility and frustration — was finally rewarded with a championship.