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Monday, May 14
Updated: May 15, 10:15 AM ET
 
Papa Bear would've been proud of '85 team

By Eddie Epstein
Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Our series on the greatest NFL teams of all time concludes with its 12th installment and a look at the 1985 Bears – the greatest team ever.

The 1985 Chicago Bears would have represented the good and the bad to Papa Bear George Halas. It is highly doubtful that he would have approved of the hype surrounding Refrigerator Perry and Jim McMahon's headbands, and it's really doubtful he would have enjoyed the Super Bowl Shuffle. In general, the cult of personality that the Bears generated would not have been something that Halas would have liked. William Barry Furlong wrote about Halas, "He has all the warmth of breaking bones, a personality as daring as twin beds?"

Chat wrap: Hampton, Dent
Two members of the 1985 Bears' famed "46" defense stopped by to answer your questions – defensive tackle Dan Hampton and defensive end Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX. Click here for the transcript.

It's just as clear, however, that Halas would have loved the Bears on the field. The utter domination of their opponents as well as their physical and intimidating style of play would have reminded him of his best teams, the teams that earned the Bears the nickname "The Monsters of the Midway."

While Jim McMahon was no Sid Luckman, the 1985 Bears made a lot of big plays through the air as did the Luckman-led Bears. Although the modern-day running game uses many fewer backs than the teams of the '40s, '50s, or '60s, both the 1985 Bears and Halas' best teams had very effective running attacks. Halas' best teams played ferocious defense that often totally stymied opposing offenses and, of course, the 1985 Bears played the same way. The Bears under Halas almost always played hard for 60 minutes as did the 1985 Bears. All things considered, I guess Papa Bear wouldn't mind if we called the 1985 Bears "The New Monsters of the Midway."

A few facts about the '85 Bears before I tell you why I think they are the best team of all time, at least for one season since 1950:

  • Since the adoption of the 16-game schedule in 1978, the 1985 Chicago Bears are the only team to score 400 or more points while allowing fewer than 200.

  • Led by the great Walter Payton, who ran for 1,551 yards and a 4.8 average per carry, the Bears led the NFL in rushing yardage and were fifth in average yards per carry.

    Buddy Ryan
    Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan gets carried off the field by Super Bowl XX MVP Richard Dent (95).

  • The Bears led the NFC and were fourth in the NFL in average yards per pass attempt. Are you sick of hearing about that stat? Tough.

  • The Bears led the NFC and were second in the NFL in average yards per completion. Doesn't sound like an ultra-conservative offense to me.

  • Including their three postseason games, the Bears were outgained in a game just once the entire season.

  • The Bears' defense forced 54 turnovers, the fifth-highest total since the beginning of the 16-game schedule.

  • The Monday Night game against the Dolphins on December 2 is still the highest-rated game in the history of Monday Night Football with a 29.6 rating.

  • Nine members of the '85 Bears were homegrown first-round picks. Five of them played in the Pro Bowl.

  • The Bears outgained their three playoff opponents by an amazing margin of 1,023 yards to 434.

  • In the Super Bowl, the Patriots made positive yardage on just one of their first 16 offensive plays.

    1985 Bears
  • Record: 15-1
  • Points scored/allowed: 456/198
  • Adjusted power index: +7.25
  • Opponents' record: 120-120 (.500)*
  • Record against teams with winning records: 5-1
  • Points scored/allowed against teams with winning records: 180/71
    *For all of these opponents' records, games against this team are excluded.
  • I could list a dozen more. The Bears had an amazing 1985 season.

    OK, so why did I pick them as the best team of all time? There's a reason I listed those four pieces of information about each team. Those were the main criteria I used to rank the teams and to pick a winner. The Bears' credentials are simply the best of the bunch. They had a great record, they had a great Power Index and they played exceptionally well against good teams, not even counting their amazing playoff performance.

    Only one of these 12 teams had a better overall record than the '85 Bears, only one had a better Power Index, and no one played as well against quality competition. Only the '89 49ers had a playoff run that resembles the '85 Bears in terms of dominance. Simply put, there were no negatives in the 1985 Bears' record, which can't be said about any of the other 11 teams on the list, at least relative to each other.

    I don't think this selection will be too controversial, although I have never steered away from controversy. In fact, the 1985 Chicago Bears may still be the most famous team in NFL history and much of their fame comes from the brilliance of their season, the best season by a team in NFL history.

    Eddie Epstein works as a consultant to major league baseball teams. He is the co-author, along with ESPN.com's Rob Neyer, of "Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time." He has been a regular contributor to ESPN.com's baseball coverage and is a huge football fan.





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