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This is as good as it gets. The Bears won the Super Bowl 46-10 in an awesome display of football encompassing all the joy and fury of an awesome season.
Their destruction of the New England Patriots was so complete it went beyond Super Bowl proportions and recalled only the record 73-0 victory by the Bears over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 National Football League championship game.
The Bears have a tradition that transcends Super Bowls and Sunday they ended years of frustration for their city and themselves and showed a nation they play even better than they talk or sing.
They simply blew your minds like they said they would.
After an early Patriots` field goal ruined their bid for an unprecedented third straight shutout, the Bears scored and scored until they reached the appropriate final number, stamping the ``46`` defense forever on NFL history.
They scored until the Cubs and White Sox had won the World Series, until the Black Hawks and Bulls had won world titles. They scored until all the doubts and fears of all those awful years were replaced by the deafening cheers of a Superdome crowd chanting ``Let`s Go Bears.``
Quarterback Jim McMahon, changing headbands more quickly than he changes plays, scored twice. Fullback Matt Suhey scored once. William ``The Refrigerator`` Perry scored after coach Mike Ditka called on him for a rollout pass he never got off.
Cornerback Reggie Phillips, subbing for injured Leslie Frazier, scored on an interception and defensive lineman Henry Waechter scored a safety.
McMahon answered the pressure of Super Bowl week with a near-perfect performance helped by a different kind of needle than his ballyhooed acupuncture treatments. He received a pain-killing shot in his sore rear end from team physician Dr. Clarence Fossier and was able to move away from the Patriot rush with ease. He was sacked only once.
``The Doc`s needle worked,`` said trainer Fred Caito. ``We went back to basic NFL treatment.``
McMahon chose to wear several headbands out of the hundreds he said were sent to him.
``I decided to stick with the charities,`` said McMahon, who started with ``JDF Cure`` in honor of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation; POW-MIA; and finished with ``PLUTO`` for former Brigham Young teammate Dan Plater, a cancer patient who is now in medical school at USC.
Only the cries of ``Payton, Payton`` went unanswered. Walter Payton failed to score, providing a harsh reminder that like their 18-1 record, not everything is perfect. He blocked, as usual, and ran hard, as usual, and said, as usual, that it wouldn`t really sink in until next year.
``Right after we win it again,`` he said.
``I wanted to get Walter into the end zone,`` said Ditka. ``But our plays are designed to score and I didn`t know who had the ball.``
``I feel very sad for No. 34,`` said McMahon. ``I also would have liked to have seen a goose-egg up there. We could have got to 60 points, but we ran out of time.``
This was the completion of a mission that Ditka said meant more to him than the Bears` and Chicago`s last title in 1963 under George Halas.
``What you do in life by yourself doesn`t mean as much as what you accomplish with a group of people,`` said Ditka.
``It`s because of Mr. Halas that I`m here. I`m just trying to pay some dues.``
They were paid in full in a little more than one devastating opening quarter, a microcosm of the season.
The Patriots scored first after Payton fumbled and the Bears scored twice after two Patriot fumbles, recalling Ditka`s early-season vow to never be upstaged in anything in life.
``It didn`t start out too well the first few series today,`` McMahon said. ``The fumble (by Payton on the second play) was my fault. I made the wrong call. I put him in a bad situation.``
``The game was never in question,`` said Ditka.
Quarterback Tony Eason could do no more than take five steps back and duck. When he got passes off, they looked like ducks. After three sacks and no completions in six attempts, the Patriots brought in veteran Steve Grogan, who finally got them a first down with 4:06 left in the half.
``We have to communicate,`` yelled middle linebacker Mike Singletary after the play. ``They got a first down. It was ridiculous.``
The Patriots had minus yardage until the third quarter. Grogan was sacked four more times and was intercepted twice.
Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan broke down and admitted his defense was the best he had ever seen, a sentiment that provoked no argument.
``This was a 10,`` said Singletary. ``Or at least a 9.999.``
Ryan also broke down in a team meeting Saturday night.
``He told us, `Win or lose, next week you guys are my heroes,` `` said safety Dave Duerson. ``By the time he was able to finish, his eyes filled with tears and they were running down his chin. His entire face was quivering. We stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Then Steve McMichael proceeded to destroy the chalkboard.``
``We love each other. That`s why we`re so good,`` said McMichael.
Defensive end Richard Dent was the game`s most valuable player because he was in on the Patriots` two early fumbles. After that, it was hard to see who was getting to the Patriot quarterback first.
Dent had a sack and a half. Otis Wilson had two. McMichael and Dan Hampton had one each. Wilber Marshall had a half and Waechter`s safety provided the final two points.
Appropriately, defensive players scored the final three times. Phillips ran back an interception 28 yards for a touchdown and Perry`s one- yard touchdown plunge preceded Waechter`s safety.
Even referee Red Cashion scored for the Bears, proving it was a season that truly would have pleased Halas.
Cashion allowed Kevin Butler`s third field goal on the last play of the half even though it was kicked against the rules.
McMahon, demonstrating a quick mind under all those headbands, threw a ball out of bounds before the referee had put it in play. The Bears were penalized, but Cashion should have run 10 seconds off the clock and not allowed the field-goal attempt.
Luckily, the Patriots couldn`t complain about three points.
The Bears got going shortly after McMahon found receiver Willie Gault behind cornerback Ronnie Lippett for a 43-yard pass. The Bears isolated Gault on Lippett by flopping their formation to get Gault away from Patriots` cornerback Raymond Clayborn.
It was a play-action pass that was a big part of the offensive game plan to take advantage of the aggressive Patriot defensive backs.
The Patriots came out passing because they figured they couldn`t run. But the Patriots simply couldn`t block anything.
``Dent was coming free. We knew we could be effective with different stunts until the well ran dry. It never did,`` said Singletary.
``Eason was throwing off his back foot. They should have rolled out. They made a mistake,`` said McMichael.
``The pocket collapsed on him. He was a little bit afraid to throw the ball and a little bit too timid to run it,`` said Hampton.
``His eyes were moving around,`` said safety Dave Duerson. ``John Hannah`s eyes were moving. Brian Holloway`s eyes were moving. The reason was we were creating havoc. They couldn`t block man. They couldn`t block zone.``
Eason fumbled when sandwiched by Dent and McMichael, leading to a field goal.
Then Craig James fumbled when he was picked up and tossed aside by Dent, leading to a touchdown by Suhey.
McMahon faked to Perry and followed a huge path for the touchdown that made it 20-0.
McMahon`s perfect 60-yard pass to Gault early in the third quarter set up McMahon`s second touchdown that made it 30-3 and ended any thoughts of respectability by the Patriots.
Payton ended up with 61 yards in 22 tough attempts, but the Bears established the run early with Suhey, who had 52 yards in 11 attempts.
``We knew if we could run, the play-action pass would open up, because their cornerbacks eye the backfield so heavily,`` said center Jay Hilgenberg. ``We knew if the line would keep our hats down and block like a run, it would open up big plays.
``Throughout the playoffs, teams have been taking Walter away from us.``
Singletary said the only subtle difference in Ryan`s ``46`` plans for this game was a ``59`` blitz that sent Singletary, Marshall, and Wilson all after the quarterback.
But the rush of the front four was more than the Patriots could handle. They thought they were a better offense than the one that crossed midfield only twice against the Bears in a 20-7 loss Sept. 15. Ryan had said: ``They better be better if they want to make a game of it.``
The Bears called the Patriots a cheap bunch after proving they were unworthy competitors.
``I`ve got to be honest,`` said Singletary. ``I thought New England was a lot better than what I saw today. They were trying to talk their way through us.``
``We`ve never been a team to talk,`` said Duerson, who didn`t mention barking. ``When Les Frazier and Mike Singletary got hurt, the Patriots were cheering and patting each other on the back. When their tight end (Lin Dawson) went out on a stretcher, our whole defense all clapped and cheered for him. They were a cheap organization that showed no class.``
As usual, the Bears were mild-mannered and subdued afterwards, refusing to let that chip fall off their shoulders.
``You don`t see any of us hyperventilating,`` said Duerson. ``We knew we were the better team.``
Now everybody should know it.
``People kept saying we weren`t that great of a team,`` said Gault.
An article by a Boston columnist headlined ``Chicago will choke again,`` was posted inside the Bears` locker room.
Chicago did the choking all right. And the Patriots did the gagging.
``No, it wasn`t easy,`` said Singletary. ``Maybe we made it look easy. But it wasn`t easy.``