The Chicago Bears and Their Dominant History
Back before any NFL games were even televised, football was a completely different sport. Players played a more physical game as there were no rules to protect players. It favored the players who played hard nose football and didn’t let up for anything. A perfect example of that is the pre-Super Bowl era Chicago Bears. A team that dominated by any means and made sure they won no matter the circumstances however as time went on, the NFL began to put player protective rules in place. Meanwhile, the Bears continued to play within their physical playstyle and made a name for themselves forever as the most palpable and defensive-minded franchises to date. They were home to a defense many considered the best of all-time in 1985 where they had one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history. It doesn’t end here either, as their history goes further than their physicality.
Starting back in 1932, the Bears began their journey to become what most believe to be the most defensive-minded franchise in NFL history. They won their first Super Bowl during the 1932 season where they dethroned the Green Bay Packers as what was believed to be the best team in the NFL at the time. From there, they never looked back.
They went on to manhandle teams and notch six championships from 1933 to 1969. In one of these championship wins, they beat the Washington Redskins 73-0. To this day, that still holds the record as the biggest win margin in Super Bowl history. Though this Bears’ team was home to the best quarterback the Bears have ever had.
Sid Luckman took the NFL by storm from 1939 through 1950 and carried the Bears’ offense through some of their most dominant seasons. During his campaign with the Bears, he won four championships throughout 12 seasons and even acquired an MVP award in 1943. While he did amazing things throughout his career, this was the only true franchise quarterback the Bears ever had rights to.
Now many may ask, what does this mean if a “dominant” franchise only had a good quarterback for 11 seasons in the mid-1900s? It is weird and something fans never typically see. However, for the Bears, this was what shaped them into becoming the franchise they’re known as today. This molded them into this physical, defensive-minded team that prided themselves on their ability to keep opposing teams from scoring. From the day Luckman retired, Chicago became one of the most diverse and unique franchises in NFL history while still being what most consider successful.
With Sid Luckman gone and nothing but hope, it was time for the Bears’ defense to take over as the face of the franchise. Since 1961, their defense was on average the 12th best each season in terms of points allowed with seven seasons as the number one defense. However the saying “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” didn’t play out well for the Bears. After their 1963 championship, they fell into a deep hole where they didn’t appear in another Superbowl for 22 years. Many credit this dry spell to their lackluster offense that ranked around 17th on average in terms of points scored. The struggle to find consistency on both sides of the ball hasn’t been settled to this day. However, they managed to pull out some seasons where they found a good balance and made insane runs.
Looking past the 1960s and 1970s, the Bears’ most glorious season to date came in the 1985-1986 season. Their defense ranked first in points allowed and their offense came in at second for points scored. Despite their historic defensive dominance, their offense finally came to life with all-time great running back Walter Payton putting their offense on his back. Walter Payton mounted nine pro bowl appearances, was named an all-pro five times and was the 1977 league MVP. With his 1985 season not being his best, it was still monstrous. He rushed for 1,551 yards, ran for nine touchdowns while catching two, and averaged 96.9 yards a game rushing. With his production being top tier, he still wasn’t even the main focus.
The 1985 Bears defense is known as the best of all-time by many NFL fans worldwide. They let up a total of 23 touchdowns all season with four total shutouts including two in the playoffs. Just on the defensive side of the ball, three players are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside two offensive players. All around this team didn’t have one notable weak spot and they played physical football, making them seemingly unstoppable. They were coached by their former Hall of Fame tight end, Mike Ditka, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and coach. Not even their coaching staff had a weakness. They went on to win the Superbowl over the Patriots in a massacre of a game. The final score was 46-10 and the Bears looked like they would be unstoppable for a long time to come. Although they hit a brick wall right when they finally turned everything around.
The Bears went into the next season steamrolling through teams. They went into week 12 against the Green Bay Packers with a team record of 10-2 and were looking like the same team they were last year. However, starting quarterback Jim McMahon suffered a season-ending injury during this game and that completely altered the Bears’ ability to compete. They fell short in the divisional round to the Washington Redskins and didn’t make it back to another Superbowl for 20 more years. Meanwhile, Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent saw the season through a different lens.
Richard Dent went on WSCR-670 (AM) and gave his opinion on the season explaining how head coach Mike Ditka completely ruined their season. He went on to say, "Bringing Doug Flutie in and thinking that he's gonna come in and be on a team for three weeks and start him in a playoff game? Hell, I mean you're trying to change the name on the Super Bowl trophy to Mike Ditka (from) Vince Lombardi when you do something like that.” He holds his coach accountable for bringing in someone who hadn’t played much for the team and trying to make a true Super Bowl run. Dent believes they could’ve been the first team to three-peat however they couldn’t figure out the quarterback position. This still seems to haunt the Bears to this day as they have yet to find a true franchise quarterback.
Since the botched rerun of the Super Bowl, the Bears had been quiet for nearly two decades. From 1986 through 2005, they only made the playoffs eight times. In these appearances, the furthest they made it was the NFC Championship in 1988, but lost to the San Francisco 49ers 28-3. A team that came out of nowhere and ran through the entire NFL fell into a 20-year slump. It was nothing anyone had ever seen before. No one knew how a team so dominant and seemingly unstoppable could just fall apart throughout one offseason. Many attribute it to the injury of their closest thing they had to a franchise quarterback since the 1950s. While others look at the decisions made by the coaches once it came to the playoffs. Fingers will be pointed at one another for decades to come and no one can debunk what the true problem was. Once the 20-year drought came to an end, a new day came and the Bears crawled their way back up the rankings.
As time went on and the Bears continued to fight through their struggles, they caught fire in 2006. Similar to the 1985 team, this team had an overwhelming defense that worked hard to become as dominant as they were. Their defense was ranked third in points allowed with an offense ranked second in points scored. They were well-rounded and excelled in every way possible. Most players that were on this team haven’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet. However, they were home to Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher who was an eight-time Pro Bowler, first-team All-Pro five times, and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s. Looking past that, they had Devin Hester who many believe to be the best kick returner of all time. He holds records for kick-return touchdowns with 19, punt-return touchdowns with 14, and 20 return touchdowns. Those are just the two most notable players who played alongside tons of stars on both sides of the ball. But to this day many people wonder, “How did this team lose in the Superbowl?”
There was nothing to blame except the fact that the Bears played poorly in that game. Their defense did their best to hold off Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning but just couldn’t handle it. Furthermore, the offense didn’t play up to their hype either. They had a total of 11 first downs as opposed to the Colts’ 24 and turned the ball over five different times. They only had possession of the ball for a little over 21 minutes, allowing the Colts to take their time with the ball and use Peyton Manning to lead their offense as he did all season. Bears fans worldwide were bummed out by this loss, as they spent decades waiting for this moment and had it ruined by one bad game.
Once again after a failed Super Bowl run, the Bears were on a rapid downward spiral. After 2006 they only saw the playoffs twice from 2007 to 2017 where they were taken down no later than the Conference Championship. However, things started looking up once again in 2018. They were coming off a 5-11 season where nothing was going well for them. Over the offseason, they acquired superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack via a trade with the Raiders. On the other hand, they also took ownership of wide receiver Allen Robinson who dominated as a young player in Jacksonville and did the same in Chicago. Their starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, was going into his second year and people set the bar high for him as he was a second overall pick and had an amazing young wide receiver with him.
They had everything they needed and had young studs across the board. Players like Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, and more emerged and made the most of their opportunity with a good team. They finished the season with a record of 12-4 and won the NFC North. There was no looking back for this team as they made it into the playoffs with home-field advantage with their first game set to be against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears seemed monstrous compared to the underdog Eagles as their defense came together to be a team similar to the one in 1985 and 2006. Their defense was once again ranked first in the league only allowing just over 17 points per game on average. Looking across the way at the offense, they were ranked ninth in the league despite their inability to keep the ball as they were eighth in the league in turnovers. On the other hand, their defense made up for this by leading the league in takeaways with a total of 36 throughout the season. Their defense covered all their offensive struggles so all in all this team was all-around great and the statistics are there to prove it. So what did this team do with such a versatile roster?
This is where the infamous Cody Parkey missed field goal came to life. The Bears found themself in a dog fight throughout the entire game with the Eagles. The game was low-scoring as both defenses performed as expected. The game came down to the wire with the score being 16-15 with just a few seconds left. The Bears lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt that would’ve sealed the win and put them further into the playoffs. Cody Parket put the kick up and somehow managed to hit it off both uprights and have it bounce out and become the most depressing moments for modern-day Bears fans. The team’s hard work and first season since 2006 where they got things together fell into the hands of one field goal attempt that was missed in the most agitating fashion. Within 12 years, the Bears had two teams that looked good in every aspect that let one game slip away from them causing their season to end.
Following the 2018 season, the Bears didn’t come out the way they looked the previous year. Starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky didn’t look as fresh as he did the previous year and that put a huge halt in their progress as a team. Their offense ended up ranking 29th in both yards and points scored which is third-worst in the entire NFL. Meanwhile, the defense was fourth in the league for points allowed and eighth in terms of yards allowed. Their defense gave fans hope throughout the season as they were the only reason the Bears kept their record to a neutral 8-8. The Bears didn’t completely fall off, but they were only going backward.
In the Bears’ most recent season, they again went 8-8 however they ended up barely finding their way into the playoffs. Starting running back Tarik Cohen suffered a torn ACL early in the year while on the other hand, the team wasn’t sure of who their starting quarterback would be until week 12 of the season. They started off hot winning five of their first six games but began to regress as they went on to lose six straight games after that point. Their offense struggled to open up the run game averaging a mediocre 102 rushing yards a game. Without a threatening run game, it allows other teams to play defense the way they want to and control the game. In games where the Bears rushed for over 100 yards, they were 6-3 proving the consequences they had to deal with for not having a legitimate run game. In past years the defense was able to recover for the lackluster offense but this year was nothing like others. In points allowed they ranked 14th and in yards allowed they ranked 11th which left them hopeless going into the playoffs. They were defeated in the Wildcard game losing to the New Orleans Saints without scoring a single touchdown. Fans were left defeated, as they went into the game thinking the Bears could make an underdog run that would be remembered forever if their players all played to their highest potential. Now the fans are left with nothing except unanswered questions, unsure of what route this team will take.
The story of this franchise has always been defense. That’s their trademark and something they will always excel in with a coaching staff of defensive experts year in and year out. Unorthodox to say the least, but the Bears find a way to make it work. Always a sleeper team that seems to become a contender out of nowhere almost every other year. Where is this franchise headed in the future? That is something no one can tell you as they always pull something unpredictable out going into every year.