Bears fans, and the nation, felt they were watching a
dynasty in progress in 1986. The Bears were world champions of NFL football,
and for much of the season, it looked like nothing would stand in their way of
repeating for the forseeable future. In retrospect, it is easy to see that the
egos that are built by championships certainly can do damage to an
All was well during training camp 1986, except possibly for
the fact that QB Jim McMahon reported at over 220 pounds, evidence of the
lifestyle he led in the offseason after the championship. The Bears had stolen
RB Neal Anderson with the final pick of the first round, as they were able to
draft for future need instead of the present. Anderson would use 1986 as a
warmup-he would have huge shoes to fill 2 years down the road.
In the 1986 opener on September 7, the Bears blew out
Cleveland 41-31, in a game that featured the first use of instant-replay ever
in an NFL game. This first use worked against Chicago, as a touchdown was
awarded to the Browns on the ruling. The following week, new Philadelphia coach
Buddy Ryan brought his Eagles to town for a grudgematch between the two bitter
enemies Ditka and Ryan. The Bears prevailed in overtime, 13-10 in an emotional
contest. Over the course of the next four weeks, Chicago dominated their
opponents, with their defense on the way to an NFL record for fewest points
allowed in a 16-game season. The Bears had won their first 12 games in 1985,
and after the loss to Miami, won another 12 in a row including the playoffs.
Fans began envisioning the possibility of another perfect season. But it was
not to be, as the team lost a shocker to Minnesota, 20-7. Jim McMahon was
injured again, and Steve Fuller just couldn't move the team.
After the Minnesota loss, McMahon was back, and wore black
high-top shoes as a tribute to WR Ken Margerum, a good friend of his who had
been released by the club earlier that week. Chicago beat Detroit 13-7 with
another impressive defensive effort. The following week, Chicago was shocked
again, as the Los Angeles Rams beat them on a late field goal, 20-17. The talk
of an undefeated season of just two weeks ago was gone, and many wondered how
long the losing streak would last.
More significantly in retrospect, WR Margerum's release two
weeks before made room for the addition of QB Doug Flutie, acquired in a trade
from the Rams. The trade for Flutie was highly controversial with Bears
players-especially the QB's-who took it as an affront to their talent.
Considering how much McMahon and Fuller were banged up, however, the move was
almost a requirement for Bears management.
After the two losses in three weeks, Chicago got back on
track by winning at Tampa and Atlanta. On November 23rd, Green Bay was in town,
and bad blood was still simmering from the '85 embarassments of the Packers.
During the game, Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin body-slammed Jim
McMahon in a clear cheap shot, and McMahon was lost for the year. With
McMahon's loss went the Bears' hopes for a super bowl repeat.
In the final four regular season games, all Chicago wins,
Doug Flutie's playing time increased. Flutie possessed a rocket arm-but only
stood 5' 8" tall-a dwarf by NFL QB standards. In addition to his size
limitations, trying to teach a new QB Chicago's complicated offense in a few
short weeks was suicide for the team. After the final four wins, Chicago
finished 14-2, adding up to a remarkable two-year stretch record of 29-3.
As a result, the Bears would face the Washington Redskins on January 3rd at
Soldier Field. Washington was the NFC's wildcard team, but a tough one to
beat given their 12-4 regular season record.
The Bears entered the game as heavy favorites. During the
bye week before the game, anxious fans wondered who Mike Ditka would
choose to start at QB. Would he go with the experienced but unimpressive Mike
Tomczak or Steve Fuller, or the newbie Flutie? In a move that divided the team,
Ditka chose Flutie.
Chicago began the game against the Redskins by scoring an
early Flutie to Gualt TD pass, tying the score at 7-7. It was all downhill
after that, however, and Chicago lost 27-13. The city was in depression, but
felt the dynasty would still be alive in '87.