SI Vault
Rick Telander
January 12, 1987
The Redskins set a trap for the Bears and sent the defending world champions off for an early winter's nap
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January 12, 1987

Shuffling Off To Hibernation

The Redskins set a trap for the Bears and sent the defending world champions off for an early winter's nap

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It's probably not a good sign when a head coach's rock video comes out the very week of his team's biggest game of the season. But then Iron Mike, featuring the gyrations of the Chicago Bears' Mike Ditka—"Most of us [coaches] are overpaid as it is"—was done for charity. Besides, all Bears do music videos. And books and radio shows and TV shows and stand-up comedy and posters and endorsements and other things to keep their minds off those annoying games that pop up every week during the season. Hey, to be a Bear is to be a star.

But suddenly last Saturday the wildcard Washington Redskins whipped the NFL champions 27-13, and all the off-field stuff seemed a little secondary, even a little embarrassing. None of the Bears' video dancers had had the foresight to make a Quick-Exit Shuffle.

The game was supposed to be a lock. After all, the Redskins were so out-manned, battered and exhausted after beating the Los Angeles Rams six days earlier that it seemed coach Joe Gibbs might as well just mail in a forfeit from Dulles Airport. "We're tremendous underdogs," he moaned early in the week. Gibbs then recited the Skins' problems: a short work week, injuries, the Bears' defense, the Bears' two-week layoff and general soundness, the Bears' artificial turf and home-field advantage, Walter Payton, the Bears' linebackers, Dexter Manley's mouth. Gibbs gently chided the press over the last issue, saying, "I think you people stay after Dexter until he says something."

Which, of course, is true, though it sure doesn't take long.

Last year, before the Bears whipped Washington 45-10, the All-Pro defensive end said the Skins would have to knock Payton, Mr. Sweetness himself, the NFL's answer to Bill Cosby, "out of the game." Last week, Manley talked about going after tight end Emery Moorehead for alleged "cheap shots" in the 1985 game.

But Manley's best verbal work came when he explained his absence from practice two days before the Rams game. First, he said he had contract problems. No, he amended, he was out hunting. For Bears. Then, on the Monday before the game, alone and pensive at the Skins training camp in Herndon, Va., he said, "I was hung over, I'll admit to that. I'm not a drinker and I drank too much Christmas night. I didn't even wake up for practice, to be honest. I was very stupid, very immature." The six-year pro, who used to wear a Mohawk hairdo, added, "I am concerned about my image. When your career is over, you want to be respected, not looked at as a knucklehead. If people don't respect you, you're a lost soul."

Take it easy, Dexter, the Bears respect you. Even though you and your buddies pulled a major con job on them. "We were a pretty mad team," said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz (eight tackles, two assists, one sack) after Saturday's game, citing the Skins' rough treatment in the Chicago press as the major goad. But hadn't Washington planted all that phony-baloney weak-sister stuff in the first place? Olkewicz nodded. "It worked," he said with a grin.

Boy, did it ever. So certain were the Bears of victory that they left some of their office and medical equipment at the Atlanta Falcons camp in Suwanee, Ga., their postseason training site. After all, quarterback Doug Flutie, though a starter in just one Bears game—indeed, a member of the league for just eight weeks—was so charismatic, resourceful and just plain miraculous that he would certainly shove the Bears' torpid offense into high gear. And then there was the Bears' defense: It had given up the fewest points ever in a 16-game NFL season (187, 11.7 per game).

"We have no plans for a loss," said Bears president Mike McCaskey before the game. "If we lose it will be like a toboggan that's racing down a hill and hits a log, sending everybody flying." The bodies are still tumbling.

The Bears figured that Redskins quarterback Jay Schroeder could not stand up to a wild, blitzing attack, one that included vestiges of the old 46 front as well as such new touches as a weak-side cornerback blitz. As it turned out, he had little trouble with the Bears' defense, getting sacked only twice and throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Art Monk off Chicago blitzes.

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