The Super Bowl is just 32 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 32 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
The Louisiana Superdome hosted Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986. The game pitted the NFC champion Chicago Bears against the New England Patriots of the American Football Conference.
Chicago Bears 32 Years Ago
In 1985, there was President Reagan, Michael Jackson and the ’85 Bears when it came to things every American was familiar with! The Bears were built in the image of their Head Coach, “Iron” Mike Ditka and their brash defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan. Chicago did not experience much team success since their 1963 NFL championship. But, they always had Hall of Famers on their roster.
Walter Payton was such a man. Drafted in 1975 out of Jackson State, Payton was a superstar. He possessed immense talent and personified character. Chicago added a character of a different sort when they selected BYU’s Jim McMahon at quarterback. McMahon was not a great quarterback, but was a great leader and teammate.
On defense, the 1985 Chicago Bears will likely be compared with the greatest units of all-time as long as there is a National Football League. It was called the “46” defense. Their defensive line featured the ferocious Richard Dent, the brutal Steve McMichael, “the Danimal” Dan Hampton and “the refrigerator” rookie William Perry. Perry was a fine tackle no doubt. But, it was his contributions on offense in goal-line situations that endeared him to the national public.
The Bears had great linebackers as well. Their captain Mike Singletary anchored the middle with the meanness of Jack Lambert and speed of Luke Kuechly. Simply put, he was everywhere. He was just as intelligent on the field as he was talented. Ryan molded his defense around the skills and brains of Singletary and safety Gary Fencik.
Awesome 46 Defense
The Bears rampaged through the 1985 season coming off the heels of being shut out in the 1984 NFC Championship game. However, they had one blip on their resume. Dan Marino and the high-flying Dolphins put up an unbelievable 38 points on 12-0 Chicago. The win preserved the 1972 Dolphins as the only undefeated team in modern-league history. It also demonstrated that the Bears’ defense was not infallible.
In the playoffs, the Giants were no match for Chicago. The game was played in such windy conditions that Giants’ punter Sean Landeta completely whiffed on a punt. The following week, Chicago shut out Eric Dickerson and the Rams in the championship game. Linebacker Wilber Marshall scored late in the game amid a snowy backdrop. Bears’ fans were rewarded with their first Super Bowl appearance.
New England Patriots 32 Years Ago
While Chicago was the most popular team in the NFL in 1985, the New England Patriots were among the least-known squads. They were a good, but not great team that season. In fact, they finished in third place in their own division!
However, the Patriots had two great things going for them. They were marvelous on special teams and they created turnovers. Linebacker Andre Tippett was perhaps the second best defensive player in the league (behind Lawrence Taylor) in 1985. On a team largely void of superstars, Tippett stood tall.
The Pats were inconsistent on offense. Wily Steve Grogan and youthful Tony Eason shared the work. They both had good and poor moments in 1985. If anything, New England had an established running attack. SMU’s Craig James and East Carolina’s Tony Collins were dependable and versatile.
In the playoffs, the Patriots became the first team to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl. In the Wild Card game, they were +4 in turnovers. Eason managed a fine game, going 12 for 16 and hitting Stanley Morgan for a huge TD. The Pats prevailed 26-14.
Wild Road Show
New England followed a similar formula in upsetting the Raiders in the divisional round. Again, they were +4 in turnovers. With the score tied at 20 late in the game, the Pats forced a special teams fumble and Jim Bowman recovered in the end zone for the game winner.
The powerful Dolphins were next up for New England. Nobody gave the Patriots a shot to win this game and why would they? As an organization, the Patriots had not won in Miami since 1969! Furthermore, the Dolphins had been THE team to beat the Bears in 1985.
The Patriots ignored all the negative hype. They went into Miami and won convincingly. They moved the ball well on offense and they harassed Marino all game. Again, they were +4 in turnovers. Raymond Berry’s Patriots were off to the Super Bowl as they upended Miami, 31-14.
In the Super Bowl, New England forced a Walter Payton fumble on the second play from scrimmage. However, Eason threw three incompletions and the Pats settled for a field goal. Chicago proceeded to score the next 44 points!
Here’s some stats: Eason was benched after going 0 for 6, the Patriots rushed for seven yards, and New England was -4 in turnovers. The Patriots’ offense scored 10 points and the Bears’ defense notched nine. Chicago rushed for four touchdowns, but none were scored by Payton which was probably the most unfortunate development for the Bears on the day.
The Bears were excellent for the remainder of the 1980’s but could not get back to the Super Bowl. Buddy Ryan left for Philadelphia and Payton retired after the 1987 season as the all-time leading rusher.
Those red-uniformed Patriots of 32 years ago never got back to the Super Bowl. But, later in this series, we will hear frequently from that franchise!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills