"I told him, 'What the hell are you doing?' " Ryan remembered. "I said, 'You take on Singletary, you're gonna be picking Riddell helmets out of your ribs.' "
"An IQ the size of his yardage average," Hampton said. "Hopefully, when the score's 35 to nothing I'll go over to Buddy and say, 'Give us that All-Pro running back. See if he wants to play with us pansies.' "
In Chicago, though, a weird story was breaking about Richard Dent, the defensive right end and Super Bowl MVP. On Wednesday after practice he sprained his back lifting weights. Five minutes before Thursday's early meetings he relayed this information to Fred Caito, the trainer. Ditka was informed, and his message to Dent was no practice, no play. He declared his superstar pass rusher out of the Eagles game, a status that remained quo even when Dent engaged in the full Friday and Saturday workouts. Bear veterans saw a different message in it. Dent was being informed that his summer progress had been leisurely and it was time to shape up.
"Oh, Dent might miss a series or so," Ryan said, "but you watch, when things get tough he'll be right in there."
Dent entered the game—to stay—on the Eagles' third series, with Philly in front 3-0 early in the second quarter and backed up on the four-yard line. Waters, the motivational specialist, had played one series and was to sit out the rest of the game. Jaworski had been a third-down magician, dodging the rush, reading on the move and throwing for completions, generally underneath left cornerback Mike Richardson's coverage. But with Dent in there the Chicago defense had the bite it needed, and the game settled into a pattern—mistakes and frustration.
The Eagles finished with six turnovers, the Bears with four, but Chicago's kicker, Kevin Butler, missed four field goals and that evened things out. Jaworski was knocked groggy twice ("I feel like I've just gone 15 rounds with Ali," he said afterward), the last KO coming at the very worst time, near the end of regulation play when Philadelphia had a chance to win.
When the Eagles won the toss in overtime, Jaworski was ready to go in again, but rookie return man Charles Crawford fumbled the kickoff and the Bears took over on Philly's 35. Payton, still remarkably fresh and facing a tired team, took command, carrying six times for 29 yards (he had 177 on the day), and a final 23-yard field goal by Butler won it.
A casual fan might say it was kind of a sloppy affair, but that's a short-sighted view. It was more than a game, it was a psychological study. The Eagles were heroic. Ryan kept them at a high emotional and physical level, and the only problem now is keeping them there for the rest of the murderous schedule. At least the Philly fans, who turned a bit rebellious after the Redskin blowout, will be in the Eagles' corner for a while.
And how about Payton, who had been almost an afterthought this season?
"My role on this team doesn't matter," he said. "I've been the stagehand, the guy who draws the curtain, who says the last word, the leading man, everything. As long as they pay me to do a job, I'll do it."