"I sit in the room and watch films because I have to," McMahon says. "I get carried away and start looking at them like a fan. I watch the ball. I look at guys I know to see how they're doing. That's probably one thing about me that upsets Mike so much. I don't believe in the almighty film. Looking at a press-box view isn't half as good as lining up and going by what your eyes tell you. For me that's never been hard. Maybe it's a gift, but I never even watched much film in college. I trusted my instincts."
"I know it sounds weird," says offensive tackle Jimbo Covert, "but he's an amazing student of the game. He just has a feel for it, an on-the-field awareness of how to attack a defense. That rubs off on us. You feel that something special's going to happen. You need to score this quarter or this drive, he does it. If you had a guy who couldn't produce, you might feel kind of shaky, but he produces, over and over. It's just business as usual."
Well, not quite. Take the last drive against the Packers. With 56 seconds to play and Chicago still with all three of its timeouts, McMahon took the Bears from their own 24 to the Packers' 35 on two completions. Then came three straight flirtations with disaster in the next 40 seconds. He missed Gault, and Green Bay cornerback Dave Brown almost intercepted the pass. Nickelback Tiger Greene blitzed on the next play, and McMahon threw the ball to no one, escaping without a grounding call. "I asked the ref, 'What's the deal, there's no one standing here but us?' " said safety Ken Stills of the Pack. "He said, 'It's not my call.' "
With 10 seconds to go, McMahon overthrew Gault, and Stills came within an inch of making a diving interception. "I rolled over real quick and held the ball up, like we're taught," Stills said. "Then I started running with it. One official bought the act. One didn't."
Now it was up to Butler, who merely had to match his personal-best kick of 52 yards. He was 1 for 12 in the NFL on boots of 50 yards or more, but this one just made it. There was maybe a foot to spare. And Chicago won its 25th game in a row in which McMahon has started.
The Bears are 7-1 by the seat of their pants, with a running game that has fizzled—Walter Payton & Co. rushed for only 104 yards on Sunday—and a defense that's scratching its head. But McMahon is back, and so is the magic. At least for now.