7th Most Memorable Chicago Bears Game Since 1979
Bears 23, Redskins 19: NFC Divisional Playoff: December 30, 1984
The Bears were clearly building toward a championship run at some point by 1984, led by third-year coach Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, and one of the best draft classes (1983) in NFL history. But McMahon wouldn’t even be a part of the equation for this game, as he was lost for the season with a lacerated kidney weeks prior. The Bears offense was a completely different and weaker animal under the control of backup Steve Fuller, who was rusty himself having not played since late November. And some fans & prognosticators felt the Bears were just destined to never win, like the 1984 Cubs who had choked away a 2-0 series lead in that year’s NL Championship Series.
But the Bears had something the NFL was just discovering they possessed-the makings of the most ferocious defense the NFL had ever seen, led by safeties Todd Bell and Gary Fencik, linebackers Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson, and NFL sack leader Richard Dent. In fact, the 1984 Bears set the NFL’s sack record for a season with 72, a mark that still stands. This wasn’t even including rookie linebacker Wilber Marshall, who was just a role player in 1984.
After allowing an early Redskin field goal, the Bears matched with a kick of their own, then shocked their hosts when Payton threw a surprise touchdown pass to tight end Pat Dunsmore. Chicago led 10-3 at halftime.
Then on the first drive of the second half, a quick swing pass to receiver Willie Gault turned into a 75-yard touchdown romp after the speedster made one spin move on the Washington cornerback. Later in the third the Bears looked firmly in control after a Fuller to Dennis McKinnon touchdown pass gave them a commanding 23-10 lead.
In the fourth, Washington scored a touchdown to bring the score as close as 23-17. Late in the period, with the Bears pinned inside their end zone and punting, Ditka made a calculated gamble and asked punter Dave Finzer to step out of the end zone, taking a safety and giving up 2 points for better field position.
After kicking back to Washington the Bear defense held firm, and Chicago shocked the favored Redskins 23-19 in their first playoff win since 1963.