CHICAGO — It's hard to put a precise date when things turned around for the Chicago Bears.
A perennial non-participant in the playoffs until last year, some would argue the key to success came 10 years ago when the Bears made Walter Payton their No. 1 draft choice out of Jackson State.
Some would suggest January, 1982, when the late founder of the Bears and the NFL, George (Papa Bear) Halas, decided to hire an assistant coach out of the Dallas Cowboys organization by the name of Mike Ditka to run his football team.
More likely, the start of the rise of the Bears came in the playoffs after the 1984 season. The club found out that it could compete with the powers of the NFL and be a force to be reckoned with during the 1985 season.
Here is a chronology of the 1985 rise:
Jan. 6--Fresh from upsetting the Washington Redskins 23-19 in the second round of the NFC playoffs, the Bears journey to Candlestick Park to meet the San Fransico 49ers. After trailing by only 6-0 at halftime, the 49ers proceed to blow out the Bears 23-0 to advance to the Super Bowl and eventually beat Miami for the title. "It was after then we knew we could win and go all the way the next year," said defensive lineman Dan Hampton.
April 30--Bears surprise the experts and the media by drafting a 330-pound defensive lineman, William Perry, out of Clemson. Perry tells the media in his first interview that local fans call him "The Refrigerator" because of his size and ability to get to the passer. The Bears make Kevin Butler, a kicker from Georgia, their fourth-round pick in the draft.
July 20--Bears open training camp at Platteville, Wis., without several starters, including last year's NFC defensive player of the year Mike Singletary; defensive back Todd Bell; defensive lineman Al Harris -- and Perry.
Aug. 1--Perry arrives in camp weighing over 325 pounds. Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan labels the rookie as a "wasted draft choice."
Aug. 15--All Bears holdouts, including Singletary, back in camp except Bell and Harris, who remain out all year.
Aug. 26--Bears lose fight-filled exhibition game at Dallas. Dallas prevails 15-13 and bad blood exists because of numerous penalties.
Aug. 31--Bears wind up exhibition season with win over Buffalo after losing first three pre-season games.
Sept. 8--Tampa Bay scores 28 points in the first half as Chicago trails 28-17. But Chicago, ignited by Otis Wilson interception return, scores three touchdowns en route to 38-28 season-opening victory.
Sept. 19--Appearing on national television, Minnesota jumps to 21-13 lead in Metrodome. Quarterback Jim McMahon replaces starter Steve Fuller in third quarter and electrifies Bears with three touchdown passes as Chicago goes to 3-0 with 33-24 win.
Sept. 29--Chicago explodes for 28 second quarter points en route to 45-10 thrashing of Joe Theismann and Washington Redskins, the team Chicago beat in first round of playoffs last season.
Oct. 6--Chicago survives 27-19 game at Tampa after trailing early to get off to 5-0 start, best in more than a decade. Payton rushes for more than 100 yards, the start of what would be an NFL record.
Oct. 13--Bears avenge NFC championship loss with 26-10 win over 49ers at Candelstick Park.
Oct. 21--Playing on Monday night at home for first time in more than two years, Chicago outlasts Green Bay 23-7. Perry, playing fullback, scores touchdown to begin national media blitz.
Nov. 3--Chicago wins rematch against Packers at Green Bay with Perry catching touchdown pass. McMahon begins to show additional signs of shoulder ailment.
Nov. 10--Fuller replaces McMahon at quarterback and Bears whip Detroit 24-3 to begin three-game defensive streak in which Chicago goes 13 quarters without giving up touchdown.
Nov. 17--Chicago hands Dallas worst defeat in Cowboy history, 44-0, as defense returns two interceptions for touchdowns.
Nov. 24--Bears record first back-to-back shutouts in 42 years by blanking Atlanta 36-0.
Dec. 1--Chicago's quest for unbeaten season ends when Dan Marino and Miami get off to 31-10 lead and win 38-24. McMahon replaces Fuller, who suffers sprained ankle, in fourth quarter. Payton breaks NFL mark with eighth straight 100-yard plus game.
Dec. 14--Bears beat Jets 19-6; Payton streak of 100-yard-plus games ends at nine.
Dec. 18--Eight Bears named to Pro Bowl.
Dec. 22--Chicago whips Detroit 37-17 to go 15-1 to tie 49ers' record for most wins in regular season and go perfect 8-0 against NFC teams.