The Bears' defense scored its sixth touchdown of the season when end Richard Dent sacked the beleaguered and overmatched Brock in the fourth quarter and linebacker Wilber Marshall picked up the ensuing fumble and carried it the 52 yards to the end zone. On the play Marshall shrugged off a clawing Dicker-son, the previous week's playoff rushing record-setter (248 yards against the Dallas Cowboys) but this week's invisible man, and followed a Refrigerator-escort home. The run gave Marshall six more yards than Dickerson made all day.
There were times Sunday, as there have been in almost every Bears game this year, when the defense looked as if it had to be doing something illegal. How could any team put eight men on the line of scrimmage and stop the pass? How could it stop a running game led by four Pro Bowl offensive linemen who just a week earlier had carved great swaths in the Cowboys' flex defense?
"We felt like we could block them," said L.A. tackle Jackie Slater wearily after the game. "But they have great personnel, and they play hard. Damn hard."
They do. Plus, they've got pipe-smoking, shoot-from-the-mouth, publicity-oblivious genius Buddy Ryan to move their defensive players around like checkers on a board. The Bears' defensive coordinator bolted the locker room after the game so fast that some observers assumed he was upset about something. Nope, that's just Ryan's style. When the game is done, what's there to do but go home, crack a beer and design some new, horrifying twist to the 46 defense? Ryan had plenty of twists this time. Prime among them was using the 46 short-yardage alignment, a normal third- or fourth-down defense, on first down. "That's where we put Too-Tall [6'7" end Tyrone Keys] in for Fatso [as he calls Perry]," said Ryan as he trotted toward the parking lot with his wife, Joan. "We did it because we expected them to run."
Another twist was bringing free safety Gary Fencik up to the line as strong safety Dave Duerson dropped off. The result was a virtual shutdown of the Rams' weakside running attack and the creation of a hybrid strong-weak safety. Ryan did that, he said, because Fencik "led our team in tackles all year." He did it against the Rams, too, with seven tackles and three assists.
The many Bear defensive fronts snuffed any hopes the Rams' offense might have had about controlling the game. For the 41st time in the last 42 games the Bears had possession of the ball longer than their opponent. Brock, who threw for more than 4,000 yards three times in the Canadian Football League, never got untracked. His longest completion of the day was a 15-yarder to Tony Hunter in the fourth quarter. His best heave—up the right sideline to rookie Michael Young—was ruled incomplete because Young had stepped out of bounds en route. Video replays showed that cornerback Mike Richardson had pushed Young after the legal bump zone, but no penalty was called. "It wasn't our day for luck," sighed L.A. coach John Robinson after the game. "Good teams do that to you."
"When you take us out of our run offense, you can pretty much do what you want," added Dickerson. The Bears did that—the Rams went three-downs-and-punt seven times and converted only two of 14 third-down attempts.
The Bears were more successful with the ball. On Chicago's first drive of the game McMahon saw just what he wanted. After passes to receivers Emery Moorhead and Willie Gault picked up 39 yards and Matt Suhey rushed for four more, McMahon was confronted with third-and-nine at the Rams' 16-yard line. He dropped back to pass. A lane opened to the left where a Rams' linebacker had blitzed, and the former hyperactive kid who says, "Nobody knows what I'm like, and that's the way I want it," headed for the goal line. He got a terrific block from Dennis Gentry on safety Johnnie Johnson and then hurled himself into the end zone. With just 5:25 gone in the game, the Bears, as it turned out, had enough points to win.
"When that happened we felt real confident," said center Jay Hilgenberg. The Bears also felt McMahon's aggressive personality all afternoon.
"He was a crazy nut out there," said Walter Payton afterward. "He did everything but take his clothes off, and if we'd been out there longer, he might have done that."