With Buddy Ryan passing away at 85 last week, I thought a tribute to the monster he created was appropriate and necessary. Of course, I am talking about the 1985 Chicago Bears, more specifically the defense.
There were Hall of Famers like linebacker Mike Singletary, defensive end Richard Dent and defensive tackle Dan Hampton. More than anything though, what made them great was defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s mentality. It is best summarized in the following quote: “Quarterbacks are overpaid, overrated, pompous bastards and must be punished.” Well, no one ever called him shy.
No defensive punished quarterbacks like the ’85 Bears. Their famed “46” defense was among the first to feature an eight man front and defenders at all positions would blitz on a semi regular basis. All of it was Buddy Ryan’s brainchild. They led the league with 60+ sacks and 50+ turnovers. Many opposing quarterbacks did not finish games against the Bears that year. Case in point, Joe Ferguson of the Lions who was knocked unconscious by linebacker Wilber Marshall. You can see the hit below thanks to the Ironworker Jeff YouTube channel. It is about a minute into the clip. There was no flag on the play. My, how times have changed.
The numbers for the defense as a whole are staggering. They gave up 12.4 points per game, pitched four shutouts, and gave up ten points total in three playoff games. They ran right over the league, marching to a 15-1 regular season record. With a defense that good, the offense did not need to be great, but quarterback Jim McMahon and Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton were more than enough.
The “Monsters of the Midway “cemented their place as an all-time great defense when their turned Super Bowl XX into a glorified homecoming game. They had seven sacks and forced six turnovers in a 46-10 route. Also due to their stout defense Patriots quarterback Tony Eason failed to complete a pass before being benched. Even Bears rookie defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry joined in on the fun, scoring an offensive touchdown on a one yard rush in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the greatest insight into Ryan’s impact on the team is what happened after the Super Bowl. He was carried off the field by his players along with head coach Mike Ditka. This had never been done for a coordinator before and has not been done since.
Following the Super Bowl, Ryan went on to a so so head coaching career with the Eagles and Cardinals. He will forever be known as the mastermind behind the greatest defense football has ever seen. His legacy lives on through the countless defensive concepts of his that are still used today. Four defenders from the ’85 Bears became NFL head coaches. Ryan’s sons Rex and Rob are also coaches and just as brash and cocky as their father was.