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Bears D is good, but not as good as Chicago had in 1985 record-setting season

Steve McMichael was a defensive tackle and played for the Chicago Bears from 1981 to 1993.
Steve McMichael was a defensive tackle and played for the Chicago Bears from 1981 to 1993.

CHICAGO — Even though he finished his 15-year NFL career in Green Bay, two-time Pro Bowler Steve (Mongo) McMichael still detests the Packers.

Of course, playing the previous 13 seasons with the rival Bears would have something to do with that.

At the unveiling of the Walter Payton and George Halas statues outside Soldier Field on Tuesday, McMichael was telling a couple of Canadian reporters that “football is circular, baby,” and that one day teams will go back to winning with a strong defence and good running game, when his true colours started to show.

“Right now, it’s ‘ahh, we gotta throw the ball everywhere,’” said McMichael, considerably thinner than his days as a 270-pound defensive lineman who had a second career as a commentator and wrestler for World Championship Wrestling. “It’s going to come around again, to teams running the ball and keep the other team’s offence off the field, kind of like what we did.

“They’re going to get tired of all these franchise quarterbacks taking $150 million and bankrupting a team that can’t afford any more players,” McMichael added, turning a target on the positional players he has spent his career chasing. “I’m happy it happened in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers took all that money and all their players are starting to be jettisoned now that are coming up for contract. You bankrupt a team doing it.”

The rules by which teams operated certainly were much different in McMichael’s day. It’s why, in McMichael’s words, “there will never be another defence like the ’85 Bears.”

Including the 2019 Bears.

“There’s a salary cap now,” he said. “You know how many all-pros we had on my defence? Three all-pro defensive linemen, three linebackers and two safeties. That’s eight all-pros on one defence. You can’t afford them anymore. With the salary cap, you can afford an Akeem Hicks and a Khalil Mack and an Eddie Jackson. That’s about it.”

Otis Wilson also shakes his head when asked about any comparisons between the Bears defence that posted back-to-back shutouts in two playoff games before holding the Patriots to 10 points in the Super Bowl to today’s group.

“Don’t put that pressure on these kids,” said Wilson, a Bears linebacker from 1980-87 who also was named a Pro Bowler. “No. 1, they don’t let you play football like we played football. When we played football, it was about taking somebody’s will. When they play football today, it’s pretty much a spread offence and two-hand touch.

“Football is different. I mean, they have some good athletes, but we had the best.”

Wilson figures he “probably wouldn’t get paid” if he played today, with all the fines being dished out.

“The way I hit, our motto was to go through you,” he said.

Perpetuating that motto was defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who left following the Bears record-setting ’85 season to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

That’s where there is a similarity between those Bears and these Bears, who lost DC Vic Fangio to a head coaching job with the Denver Broncos over the off-season.

“When the defensive captain leaves … the scheme … we went from an aggressive defence to a passive defence,” Wilson said. “I mean, we were the same athletes, but you don’t play the same way. That’s what I’m waiting to see with these guys. They played a different system last year.

“When you start out with a great defence and a great scheme, then you go to something different, it’s always going to happen. No doubt about it. That’s why I’m anxious to see what happens.”

Just as he is eager to see how the Bears handle the schedule of a first-place team after their 12-4 finish in 2018.

“They will do well,” he said. “I’m just anxious to see how well they’ll do against these teams they’ll play this year, because look at their schedule this year as opposed to last year, it’s a lot more different.

“So they’ve got to play like a first-place (team).”

The Bears are confident they can do that. Just as the defence thinks it can duplicate the high level that was played some 34 years ago.

“This is what every mere mortal doesn’t realize: there’s plenty of rom on the top of the mountain,” McMichael said. “I’m up there waiting for the Bears to win another Super Bowl, so I can open my arms up and welcome them, like Walter did me.

“The top of the mountain isn’t a pinhead. There’s plenty of room for everybody. I’ll welcome them.”

EXTRA POINTS

On their way to surrendering a league-low 80 yards rushing per game last season, the Bears gave up just two individual 100-yard games. The Dolphins’ Frank Gore had 15 carries for 101 years and the Giants’ Saquon Barkley had 24 carries for 125 yards. The Packers rushing chores will be shared by Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. “You’re always supposed to have patience as a running back but, really, we’re just going to go in there and do what we planed this whole week,” Williams told reporters in Green Bay on Tuesday. “They’re going to get a few stops, but we’re planning on just running our offence, and really get the offence moving.” … With the Packers placing TE Jace Steinberger on IR, TE Jimmy Graham (finger) is probable, as is CB Josh Jackson (foot). Green Bay lists as questionable CB Kevin King (hamstring) and LB Oren Burks (pectoral). The Bears’ injury report showed TE Trey Burton (groin), OL Rashaad Coward (elbow) and DT Bilal Nichols (knee) were limited participants in Tuesday’s practice.

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