Editor's note: This column was written after an NBC re-air of Super Bowl XX on June 7, 2020. It is written as if the game was being covered on Jan. 26, 1986. All quotes are courtesy of the Jan. 27, 1986 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Sorry, New England. Your time may come. You may even become a dynasty someday. But not today.

No, this was the Chicago Bears’ night to dominate, running the New England Patriots right out of the Louisiana Superdome in a 46-10 victory in Super Bowl XX.

It wasn’t even that close. A Walter Payton fumble on the second play from scrimmage led to an early Patriots field goal that spoiled the defense’s bid for its third straight shutout, but the Bears responded by scoring 44 straight points.

“The game was never in question,” head coach Mike Ditka said.

No one will care that Buddy Ryan’s unit failed to get the shutout as the defense couldn’t have played better. The Bears sacked the Patriots seven times. It felt like 14. The Bears forced six turnovers. It felt like 12. The defense scored too. Safety Reggie Phillips returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, while defensive tackle Henry Waechter – yes, Henry Waechter – delivered the final points of the game with a safety in the fourth quarter.

At times it seemed like the Patriots didn’t even have an offensive line on the field. If you took the field for the Bears’ defense Sunday, you probably got near the quarterback. Otis Wilson, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Wilber Marshall and Waechter were all credited with sacks in the game.

 

Poor Tony Eason had a quarterback line that will live in Super Bowl infamy. He was 0-for-6 with three sacks before getting benched. Perhaps there’s an 8-year-old boy living in San Mateo, Calif that will rescue the Patriots some day, but backup quarterback Steve Grogan couldn’t do that Sunday. He was sacked four times and threw two interceptions while completing 17-of-30 passes for 177 yards.

Dent was particularly unblockable, earning Super Bowl XX MVP honors with two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks.

“I don’t think things like this are going to happen,” Dent said. “I feel like a kid who just got a toy for Christmas. You just smile and want to go outside and play with it.”

Considering Dent was locked in a contract squabble with the Bears this season, he should be rewarded with plenty of new toys after Sunday’s dominating performance.

Jim McMahon also had a case for MVP honors as his own concerns about playing through a sore rear end were apparently overblown. He received a pain-killing shot before the game and looked as mobile as he ever has, delivering two rushing touchdowns while only getting sacked once. After a shaky first drive in which McMahon nearly threw two interceptions and was flipped upside down on a third down scramble, the quarterback settled down and finished the game 12-of-20 for 256 yards, averaging 12.8 yards per attempt. Sticking with the gloves on both hands and rotating through several headbands, McMahon delivered completions of 60 yards, 43 yards, 29 yards, 27 yards and 24 yards throughout the game. Wide receiver Willie Gault finished with four catches for 129 yards.

From the first play of the game, the Patriots keyed in on Payton, swarming him every time he got the football. Payton finished the game with just 61 yards on 22 rushing attempts and did not score, but that does not mean the future Hall-of-Famer didn’t have an enormous impact on the game. With all of New England’s resources focusing on stopping Payton, the rest of the Bears’ offense was unlocked. One of McMahon’s two rushing touchdowns came on an option play at the goal line in which the quarterback faked a straight handoff to William Perry before sprinting left with the option to pitch to Payton. McMahon correctly kept the ball for an easy score. Fullback Matt Suhey also benefitted, gaining 52 yards on 11 carries, while scoring on an 11-yard touchdown.

With the game well out of reach in the fourth quarter, fans inside the Superdome could be heard chanting “Walter, Walter,” as the only business left incomplete was getting Payton into the end zone. That never happened and it’s fair to wonder if head coach Mike Ditka will regret not giving Payton the ball on the Bears’ last touchdown, which came late in the third quarter. The vision of Perry barreling into the end zone and spiking the football feels like it will live on forever, but it’s still unfortunate that Payton wasn’t rewarded with a touchdown in a blowout largely possible by his presence on the field.

 

“Yes, I was surprised,” Payton said about not getting the ball on Perry’s touchdown. “Yes, I was disappointed.”

With the youngest team in the NFC and a defense that isn’t going anywhere, Payton may get another opportunity for a Super Bowl touchdown in the future. But with Ryan seemingly on his way to Philadelphia to take over the Eagles, nothing is guaranteed.

For now, Chicago will savor the sweetness of a Super Bowl victory. These opportunities don’t come along often. It’s been over 22 years since Chicago’s last championship in any major sport. Let’s hope we’re not watching Super Bowl XX 34 years from now in a desperate attempt to savor the Bears’ only Lombardi Trophy.

 

 

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