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Is it ever. Defensive end Dan Hampton, an eight-year veteran and former All-Pro, got so jealous of all the attention showered on Perry and others that he decided to boycott the press in the third week of this season. Probably a good thing, too, or Hampton would have had his feet to the fire the past several weeks. First, McMahon let word out that Hampton, in a team meeting following the Minnesota loss, asked him whether he was ever going to practice again, inciting a rift between the offensive line, which rose to McMahon's defense, and certain members of the defense, who rightly figured McMahon has been getting too much credit for the Bears' success. Then, following the Bears 12-10 win on Nov. 23 over Green Bay—Hampton's safety providing the margin of victory—Hampton was arrested and charged with drunk driving and cited for refusing to take a breath analysis test. Coach Ditka chose not to comment on the incident, having lost his license for six months in February on the same charges.
"We've had adversity and controversy before," said Singletary. "But it's always come from the outside."
Singletary's high profile has also sparked jealousy among the Bears' elite linebacking corps. When Singletary missed the 13-7 win over the Lions last month because of a groin pull, Wilber Marshall, who would score the Bears' only TD in the game when his sack forced a fumble, groused: "The only person anyone sees as a leader is Singletary. Why didn't you ask if they missed my leadership last week? [Marshall missed a practice.] Singletary is just like any other individual out there. We don't depend on him all the time. He's a good player, but everybody has the same amount of leadership."
Even the wives have gotten into the act, specifically Dainnese Gault, who, after reading comments about her husband in McMahon's autobiography, labeled the injured QB "that fool" in a recent SI article (Nov. 24). McMahon had no reply, for a change, although his agent, Steve Zucker, magnanimously allowed that "wives will be wives." He may have something there. Sources close to the situation speculate that some of the internal grumbling that has distracted the Bears this season has been started by wives wanting to know why so-and-so is doing this commercial instead of hubby.
"For me, coming in new to all this, the distractions were unbelievable at first," says Tobin. "Not just at home, but on the road, where in every hotel there were thousands of people in the lobby. But I think maybe we're getting that Chip back a little bit. I really do. There's more of a singleness of purpose."
It is Tobin's defensive unit that gives the Bears' Super Bowl aspirations credibility. For the third straight year the Bears have the NFL's top-rated defense, and they have an excellent chance to break the 1978 Steelers' record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season, which now stands at 195. With three games remaining (Tampa Bay, Detroit and Dallas), the Bears have allowed only 150 points—11.5 a game—and 3 of the 16 touchdowns they have allowed have been scored against the offense. "We're playing as well as we ever have at this time of the year," says Singletary. "We're beginning to get on that peak tone."
Indeed, in the past six weeks, since the loss to Minnesota, the defense has been on the field for only four touchdowns. The unit has allowed only four rushing TDs all year and nine passing TDs. At the same time, the defense has produced 46 sacks, 25 interceptions, 2 safeties and 2 touchdowns. Seventy-four of the Bears' 264 points have come after the defense forced a turnover inside the opponent's 50-yard line, while the Chicago defense has not yielded a single touchdown in 12 chances after a Bear turnover inside Chicago's own 50. They don't bend; they don't break; they come after you like you've stolen something from them.
"Both Vince and Buddy are attack-oriented," says Fencik, the veteran free safety who recently has been replaced in the nickel defense by Todd Bell. "But under Buddy's system, tremendous communication was required. You might shift defenses three times before the snap of the ball, depending on which formation they came out in and who went in motion. It was a chess game. Now most of the defenses come in straight from the sideline."
The new Bear defense may not be quite as fun or mysterious as Ryan's, but it is statistically as effective and less vulnerable to the communication snafus that resulted in the occasional long gainer last year. Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche remembers watching films of the 1985 Bears and seeing "people run free and people being left uncovered. Now this year, I don't see that. Defensively, I think they're an edge better."
They have had to be, because their offense is considerably worse. The Bears just cannot get into the end zone this season. After 40 forays inside the opponents' 20-yard line, they have scored just 13 touchdowns. And if you're looking for a long march, forget it. Only four times all season have the Bears taken the ball from their own 20 (or deeper) and moved it down the field for a TD—most recently in the game-tying fourth-quarter drive against Pittsburgh that covered 96 yards and consumed 7:00.