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Pro Football : Bears Big Attraction This Time

January 15, 1986|Bob Oates

Everyone wants to see the Chicago Bears one more time.

That's the attraction of Super Bowl XX.

The Bears, with their crazy defense and their crazy quarterback are the most charismatic team to reach the championship game in many years.

A month ago, the first choice of the country had probably been a Bear-Raider Super Bowl. Then the Raiders proved they can't throw the ball much better than the Rams. Exit Raiders.

Second choice was a Bear-Dolphin Super Bowl. But in Miami Sunday the Dolphins forgot to take the football with them when they romped about the Orange Bowl. Exit Marino.

Hardly anyone wanted to see the New England Patriots, and not much is expected of them Jan. 26 when they face the Bears at the Superdome.

The Patriots are a very good football team. If they get a break in the turnovers, they'll beat the Bears.

Search the country and you might not find two head coaches as different as the two who will be leading the Super Bowl teams into New Orleans Monday.

Only their ages are similar. Both were born in the 1930s.

Otherwise, New England's Raymond Berry is a lanky, laid-back Texan who looks like a substitute teacher. Bear Coach Mike Ditka is a chunky bundle of energy from Pennsylvania who looks like a short-tempered butcher.

Not surprisingly, their football backgrounds are more alike than their personalities.

Both were All-Pros, Berry as a receiver for the Colts, Ditka as a tight end for the Bears.

Both are graduates of Tom Landry's coaching staff at Dallas, where Berry was an assistant in the 1960s, Ditka in the 1970s.

And both were unappreciated by the Cowboys.

This was first shown in surveys by a Texas writer, Steve Perkins, who now edits the nation's best football paper, the Dallas Cowboys Weekly.

In the '60s and '70s, when Perkins polled Landry's 10 or 12 assistant coaches, Berry and Ditka were voted the least likely members of the staff to succeed as head coaches.

The Patriots confounded Miami Sunday when they began rotating two backfields.

Their starters, Craig James and Tony Collins, had ranked with the top pairs in the league.

But suddenly James and Collins were sitting--to be replaced by Robert Weathers and Mosi Tatupu--and in a moment, it was Weathers taking off on a James-type long run.

Asked about this Tuesday, Berry could have claimed the credit for a winning idea. Most head coaches would at least have implied they thought it up.

Instead Berry said:

"It was (backfield coach) Bobby Grier's suggestion. Bobby thought Cleveland's big, tough backs slowed down in the Miami heat last week (when the Dolphins came from behind to win). He said we should keep Craig and Tony fresh."

Strategy changes are often born that way in football. The Patriots may continue to strike with two backfields.

The way to handle the Dolphins this year is to run at them. There are two reasons:

--Their defense is very vulnerable to running plays.

--Miami's Dan Marino can't throw a touchdown pass when the other team is running the ball.

So Berry's side ran it Sunday. The coach would have been remiss if his players hadn't.

But in earlier playoff games, the Patriots threw passes to beat the Raiders and Jets. And they will have to do this again to beat Chicago.

Accordingly, the test of Berry as a football coach will be how willingly and how effectively the Patriots throw the ball in the Super Bowl.

The fumbles that eliminated Miami Sunday were the two in the third quarter by Lorenzo Hampton and Joe Carter.

The fumbles had this in common:

Each time the running back was carrying the ball in the wrong arm.

Don Shula's teams don't often make such mistakes of technique. The Dolphins will have six months to regret that all of them weren't listening.

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