The catalyst for the Bears in 1985 was the defense. The attacking style of defense put into play by Buddy Ryan's 46 kept offenses on their heels and out of rhythm. Fourteen times in the nineteen games they played, the Bears' defense held the opponents to ten points or less. They also shut out two opponents during the regular season and two more in the playoffs.
The season started against Tampa Bay with most Bears fans having no idea how good this team was going to be. The expectations were high for the Bears, but they always are in september. And after a sluggish start which found them trailing at the half, 28-17, the Bears seemed to come together as a team as Richard Dent tipped a Steve DeBerg pass to cornerback Leslie Frazier, who took it twenty-nine yards for the first defensive score of the year. The defense held Tampa Bay scoreless the rest of the game as the offense added a couple more touchdowns giving the Bears a 38-28 victory.
In game two Chicago's defense totally dominated the offense of the New England Patriots. Only two times during the entire game did the Patriots manage to get the ball past the 50-yard line. The Pats did manage to put a touchdown on the board in the final period, but the Bears had already wrapped up the game 20-7.
The Bears went in to game three with an injured Jim McMahon relegated to emergency backup, meaning he would only play if there were an emergency at the quarterback position. Apparently Ditka thought a 24-9 deficit half way through the third quarter was an emergency because he decided to bring McMahon in to try and spark the team. And light a spark he did. On his first play from scrimmage he hit Willie Gault with a 70-yard bomb, cutting the lead to eight points. As was the case most of the season, the defense provided a big turnover on the Vikings next possession when a Tommy Kramer pass was picked off. With the ball on the 25-yard line, Jim McMahon threw his second pass of the day. A strike to Dennis McKinnon in the end zone. McMahon now had two touchdown passes for 95 yards on his only two attempts of the day.
The defense once again held firm and gave the ball back to McMahon. This time the offense for the Bears connected on a couple quick hitters to get across mid-field and then McMahon hooked up with McKinnon again, this time for fourty-three yards. The Bears tacked on a field goal in the fourth quarter and held off the Vikings by a score of 33-24. This game was "Jimmy Mac's" coming out party as the entire nation started to notice the team with the punky QB.
The next few games were typical of the way the '85 Bears handled their opponent. Get an early lead, let the defense dominate the opposition's offense, and give the ball to Walter Payton and let him grind the time off the clock. Payton was the perfect compliment to the Bears' defense. The defense would hold the opposition to three plays and out, then Walter would keep the clock moving as he moved the chains down the field. This combination of a great defense and a great running game kept the other teams defense on the field most of the game making it nearly impossible for them to score. The Bears consistently dominated their opponent in time of possession, limiting their chance of scoring against the leagues best defense even more.
Game six against the San Francisco 49ers was probably the game that put the Bears in the spotlight as the favorite to win the Superbowl. With a 23-0 whipping in the 1984 NFC Championship game at the hands of the 49ers still fresh in their memories, the Bears were determined to make things end differently this year.