The Bears won fifteen games, as the 49ers had the year before, and won their first twelve before losing to the Miami Dolphins to deny a perfect season. The Bears' defense was ranked first in the league and only allowed 198 total points (an average of 12.4 points per game). The Bears won the NFC Central Division by seven games over the second place Green Bay Packers and earned the NFC's top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs at Soldier Field. In their two playoff games against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, the Bears outscored their opponents 45–0 and became the first team to record back-to-back playoff shutouts. Then, in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans against the New England Patriots, the Bears set several more records. First, their 46 points broke the record that had been set by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984 with 38 and tied by the 49ers the following year. Their 36-point margin of victory topped the 29-point margin of victory that the Raiders had put up in Super Bowl XVIII and stood as a record until the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIV, also in New Orleans, by 45 points over the Denver Broncos. It was the Bears' first NFL World Championship title since 1963.
During training camp, seven players, including Mike Singletary, Steve McMichael, Keith Van Horne and rookie William Perry, were either unsigned or holding out due to their contracts. Perry, McMichael and Van Horne eventually reported to training camp. Perry held out until August 5, when he signed a four-year, $1.35 million contract. However, after an unimpressive showing at training camp, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan tabbed Perry as a "wasted draft-pick". Before the team's season opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, players Al Harris, Todd Bell and Richard Dent requested to be traded. Dent and the Bears had been attempting to work out a contract extension, as his contract ran through the 1985 season, and paid him $90,000. Bell played for $77,000 the year before, and made the 1985 Pro Bowl roster, but asked for $950,000 annually, which would have made him the highest-paid player on the team. Bell and Harris would eventually hold out for the season.
In the season opener against the Bucs, the Bears defense seemed lost for much of the first half of the game by allowing 28 points, and trailed 28–17 at halftime, but the offense was able to lead the Bears to a victory after Jim McMahon scored 3 touchdowns, with Matt Suhey scoring on another. Leslie Frazier was also able to give the Bears defense their first highlight of the season by returning a Steve DeBerg interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the third quarter. The Bears had allowed 212 yards in the first half, but eventually allowed only 95 in the second half. Walter Payton had rushed for 120 yards on 17 carries, and McMahon completed 23/34 passes for 274 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The following week against rival Minnesota, backup quarterback Steve Fuller was called up to take the place of Jim McMahon, who was sidelined with a pinched nerve. With the Bears trailing the Vikings, an anxious McMahon was allowed to return to the game. Without any delay, McMahon spearheaded a Bears comeback and victory, with the game being famously called The Viking Miracle.
Week 4 saw Chicago trailing 10-0 early to the Joe Theismann-led Washington Redskins. One play turned the game, a 99-yard kickoff return by Willie Gault. This cut the lead to 10-7 and importantly, on the play, Washington’s punter injured his knee and was sidelined for the remainder of the game. On the next possession, Theismann punted for 1 yard (his only punt in the NFL), and Chicago scored on the very next play to take a 14-10 lead – on their way to a 45-10 rout of Washington.
Nine months after their humiliating defeat at the hands of the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, the Bears claimed their revenge by sacking Joe Montana a then-career high seven times. In return for 49ers coach Bill Walsh’s idea of sending in lineman Guy McIntyre in as fullback the season before, Mike Ditka sent in rookie William Perry, but as a runner, rather than a blocker. Shortly after the game and the flight back to Chicago, Ditka was arrested for DWI.
The Packers increased tensions in the Bears-Packers rivalry after putting horse manure in the Bears locker room. However, the Bears had the last laugh against their hated rival, winning 16–10, and Perry scored his first career receiving touchdown along the way. Green Bay's Mark Lee and Ken Stills intensified the game after Lee sent Payton over a bench and Stills leveled Matt Suhey. With the Bears in trouble and trailing 10-7 in the 4th quarter, a Steve McMichael safety proved to be the key play that turned the game. This cut the lead to 10-9 and the Bears got the ball at midfield following the safety free kick. On the ensuing drive, Walter Payton sealed the victory with a 27 yard touchdown run, putting Chicago up for keeps 16-10.
The Bears defeated the Lions 24–3, while Walter Payton and Matt Suhey ran for 105 and 102 yards, respectively. As of January 19, 2015, this was the last time the Bears had two 100-yard rushers in a game.
In a student vs teacher matchup, the Bears shut out the Cowboys, handing them their worst loss in franchise history, as well as the first time they were shut out in 15 years. The win also gave the Bears the NFC Central division title.
The Bears’ hopes for a perfect season were thwarted when Dan Marino and the Dolphins defeated the McMahon-less Bears on Monday Night Football, 38–24, and kept the '72 Dolphins the only undefeated regular season in league history (it wouldn't be until 2007 when the 2007 New England Patriots were able to tie this record). Miami struck first when Marino hit Nat Moore for a 33-yard touchdown. Bears backup Steve Fuller then threw a 69-yard pass to Willie Gault, and eventually snuck in for a 1-yard touchdown. After a Fuad Reveiz field goal to put Miami up 10–7, Marino hit Moore again that set up a Ron Davenport touchdown to increase the gap by 10 points. After the Bears scored on a Kevin Butler field goal, Marino hit Mark Duper on a crossing pattern for 52 yards. On 3rd and 7, he connected with Mark Clayton for 26 yards down to the Bears 1-yard line. Davenport then ran in, and the Dolphins led 24–10. Later, the Dolphins would increase their lead to 31–10. The Bears had not allowed 31 points in one half since the 1972 season opener. The Bears then scored in the third quarter, but any momentum they gained was lost when Butler muffed the ensuing kickoff, which Dolphins rookie Alex Moyer recovered at the Bears 46. Dan Hampton then tipped a Marino pass into the air, but it sailed downfield for 30 yards before landing in the hands of Clayton, who went into the end zone to make it 38–17. Fuller hit Ken Margerum for a 19-yard touchdown, but that would be the last score of the night for the Bears. Mike Singletary said in America’s Game: 1985 Chicago Bears:
Well needless to say, there was something different about that game, and there were some things happen that night, that were really strange. I mean balls ricocheting off guys heads and flying into receivers hands. You couldn't buy a break, it was like a nightmare, when something is happening and you’re in the middle of it, and you’re thinking this can’t be happening, please let this be a dream.
The 12-1 Bears hosted the 3-10 Colts and were heavy 20-point home favorites in week 14. However it looked as if the Bears were suffering from a hangover due to their previous week's Miami defeat, as the Colts marched the ball 72 yards to the Chicago 1 yard line on the very first drive of the game. But on 3rd and goal, Gary Fencik stuffed a pitch play for a 5-yard loss and The Colts' kicker doinked a 22-year field goal attempt wide left. Both teams struggled to a 3-3 halftime score as Indianapolis actually outgained Chicago in the half. Chicago finally pulled ahead on a 16-yard Walter Payton TD run near the end of the 3rd quarter, and held on in the 4th for a 17-10 victory.
CHI – Dennis McKinnon 20 yard pass from Jim McMahon (Kevin Butler kick). Bears 21-0.
The Bears' defense dominated the game by allowing only 32 rushing yards and sacked Giants quarterback Phil Simms for 60 yards. Simms was 14/35 for 209 yards while running back Joe Morris, the NFL's regular-season touchdown leader, finished with 32 yards on 12 carries. Chicago's first touchdown resulted on a New York punt attempt from their own 12-yard line. The wind, blowing at 13 mph, caught the ball just enough for punter Sean Landeta to completely miss it, and Shaun Gayle picked it up and ran 5 yards for a touchdown. Bears quarterback Jim McMahon later threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter, both to Dennis McKinnon. McMahon finished the game with 216 passing yards, while running back Walter Payton rushed for 94 yards.
NFC Championship: Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears – Game summary
The Bears defense dominated the game by limiting Rams running back Eric Dickerson to 46 yards, and holding quarterback Dieter Brock to 10 out of 31 completions for 66 passing yards. Los Angeles only gained 130 yards of total offense. Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon scored on a 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and later threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Willie Gault in the third quarter. Kicker Kevin Butler kicked a 34-yard field goal in the first period. In the fourth quarter, defensive lineman Richard Dent forced Brock to fumble, and linebacker Wilber Marshall picked up the loose ball and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
CHI – Safety, Steve Grogan tackled by Henry Waechter in end zone. Bears 46-10.
The Patriots took a quick lead after linebacker Larry McGrew recovered a fumble from Walter Payton at the Chicago 19-yard line on the second play of the game, setting up Tony Franklin's 36-yard field goal 1:19 into the first quarter. The Bears struck back with a 7-play, 59-yard drive, featuring a 43-yard pass completion from Jim McMahon to wide receiver Willie Gault, to set up a field goal from Kevin Butler, tying the score 3–3.
After both teams traded punts, Richard Dent and linebacker Wilber Marshall shared a sack on Eason, forcing a fumble that lineman Dan Hampton recovered on the Patriots 13-yard line. Chicago then drove to the 3-yard line, but had to settle for another field goal from Butler after rookie defensive lineman William "Refrigerator" Perry was tackled for a 1-yard loss while trying to throw his first NFL pass on a halfback option play. On the Patriots' ensuing drive, Dent forced running back Craig James to fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Mike Singletary at the 13-yard line. Two plays later, Bears fullback Matt Suhey scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 13–3.
New England took the ensuing kickoff and ran one play before the first quarter ended, which resulted in positive yardage for the first time in the game (a 3-yard run by James). But after an incomplete pass and a 4-yard loss, they had to send in punter Rich Camarillo again, and receiver Keith Ortego returned the ball 12 yards to the 41-yard line. The Bears subsequently drove 59 yards in 10 plays, featuring a 24-yard reception by Suhey, to score on McMahon's 2-yard touchdown run to increase their lead, 20–3. After the ensuing kickoff, New England lost 13 yards in 3 plays and had to punt again, but got the ball back with great field position when defensive back Raymond Clayborn recovered a fumble from Suhey at their own 46-yard line. Patriots coach Raymond Berry then replaced Eason with Steve Grogan to see if he could spark the Patriots offense. But Grogan could only lead them to the 37-yard line and they decided to punt rather than risk a 55-yard field goal attempt. The Bears then marched 72 yards in 11 plays, moving the ball inside the Patriots 10-yard line. New England kept them out of the end zone, but Butler kicked his third field goal on the last play of the half to give Chicago a 23–3 halftime lead.
The Bears had absolutely dominated New England in the first half, holding them to 21 offensive plays (only 4 of which resulted in positive yardage), −19 total offensive yards, 2 pass completions, 1 first down, and 3 points. Meanwhile, Chicago gained 236 yards and scored 23 points themselves.
After the Patriots received the second half opening kickoff, they managed to get one first down, but then had to punt after Grogan was sacked twice. Camarillo, who punted 4 times in the first half, managed to pin the Bears back at their own 4-yard line with a Super Bowl record 62-yard punt. But the Patriots defense still had no ability to stop Chicago's offense. On their very first play, McMahon faked a handoff to Payton, then threw a 60-yard completion to Gault. Eight plays later, McMahon finished the Super Bowl record 96-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make the Bears lead 30–3. On New England's second drive of the period, Chicago cornerback Reggie Phillips intercepted a pass from Grogan and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 37–3.
On the second play of their ensuing possession, the Patriots turned the ball over again, when receiver Cedric Jones lost a fumble after catching a 19-yard pass from Grogan. A few plays later, McMahon's 27-yard completion to receiver Dennis Gentry moved the ball to the 1-yard line, setting up perhaps the most memorable moment of the game. William "the Refrigerator" Perry was brought on to score on offense, as he had done twice in the regular season. His touchdown made the score 44–3.
The Patriots finally scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, advancing the ball 76 yards in 12 plays and scoring on an 8-yard pass from Grogan to receiver Irving Fryar. But the Bears defense dominated New England for the rest of the game, forcing another fumble, another interception, and defensive lineman Henry Waechter's sack on Grogan in the end zone for a safety to make the final score 46–10.
One oddity in the Bears victory was that Payton had a relatively poor performance statistically running the ball and never scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX, his first and only Super Bowl appearance in a Hall of Fame career. However, if one views the game and watches the Patriots' defense, it is clear that their primary goal was stopping Payton and he frequently had three and four defenders keyed on him on nearly every play. This allowed the rest of the Bears' offense far more opportunities to score than had the Patriots employed a more balanced defense. Ultimately Payton was the Bears' leading rusher during the game, but the Patriots defense held him to only 61 yards on 22 carries, with his longest run being only 7 yards. He was given several opportunities to score near the goal line, but New England stopped him every time before he reached the end zone (such as his 2-yard loss from the New England 3-yard line a few plays before Butler's second field goal, and his 2-yard run from the 4-yard line right before McMahon's first rushing touchdown). Thus, Chicago head coach Mike Ditka opted to go for other plays to counter the Patriots defense. Perry's touchdown and McMahon's rushing touchdowns are widely considered as scoring opportunities that were denied to Payton. Ditka has since gone on record stating that his biggest regret of his career was not creating a scoring opportunity for Payton during the game.
McMahon, who completed 12 out of 20 passes for 256 yards, became the first quarterback in a Super Bowl to score 2 rushing touchdowns. Bears receiver Willie Gault finished the game with 129 receiving yards on just 4 receptions, an average of over 32.2 yards per catch. He also returned 4 kickoffs for 49 yards. Suhey had 11 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown, and caught a pass for 24 yards. Singletary tied a Super Bowl record with 2 fumble recoveries.
Eason became the first Super Bowl starting quarterback to fail to complete a pass, going 0 for 6 attempts. The Bears also dominated Patriots starting running back James, holding him to 1 yard on 5 carries, with 1 fumble. Grogan completed 17 out of 30 passes for 177 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions. Although Fullback Tony Collins was the Patriots leading rusher, he was limited to just 4 yards on 3 carries, and caught 2 passes for 19 yards. New England receiver Stephen Starring returned 7 kickoffs for 153 yards and caught 2 passes for 39 yards.
The Bears were first in scoring defense, allowing only 198 points in the regular season with an average of allowing only 12.4 points/game, as well as scoring more points than given up. The 198 points allowed were 65 less than the second-most allowed that year, while the point differential of plus-258 is 110 more than the second-ranked differential and the third-highest in NFL history. They were also second in scoring with 456 points (28.5 points/game), trailing only the Chargers that season. They also led the league in turnover differential at plus-23. The team also had 4 shutouts, two in the regular season over the Dallas Cowboys, and Atlanta Falcons, followed by the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams in the postseason.
The Bears' iconic 46 defense (Named after former Bears' safety, Doug Plank), led by mercurial Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan, was an "attack from all angles" scheme that resulted in, arguably, one of the greatest overall team defenses in league history. With future Hall of Famer Mike Singletary (#50) flanked by the supremely athletic Wilber Marshall (#58) and Otis Wilson (#55), the linebacking unit ranked in at #5 of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history in NFL Top 10. Coupled with a solid backfield anchored by safeties Gary Fencik (FS) and Dave Duerson (22), and a defensive line that included future Hall of Famers Richard Dent (#95) and Dan "Danimal" Hampton (#99), along with the gritty Steve McMichael (#76) and breakout media superstar rookie, William "The Refrigerator" Perry (#72), the Bears were famous (or infamous) for getting to the quarterback early and often and completely disrupting their opponent's offensive game plans.
As a testament to their toughness, a hit by Marshall where he knocked Detroit Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson unconscious is still replayed as just one example of the ferocity with which this team played.
The irony of the defense's success was that two of the Bears top defensive players, linebacker Al Harris and strong safety Todd Bell, missed the entire season due to contract disputes. Additionally, the team possessed several talented offensive players to back up their defense.
After the loss to the Miami Dolphins, most of the team recorded the song The Super Bowl Shuffle (defensive lineman Dan Hampton refused to participate due to the song's arrogance), becoming the first sports team to record a rap song (The 49ers recorded a post-disco song the year before). The song's popularity led to it being #41 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and the song funded $300,000 in profit for the Chicago Community Trust to help needy families in Chicago with clothing, shelter, and food, hence Walter Payton's rap lyric: "now we're not doing this because we're greedy, the Bears are doing it to feed the needy".
In 2011, the Bears made their visit to the White House, 25 years after their originally intended visit was cancelled due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. President Barack Obama is a Bears fan. At that time, Obama called them the greatest team ever; however, he called his own words into question when hosting the 1972 Dolphins, the only NFL team with a perfect season. Obama noted that the only loss the 1985 Bears had was to the Dolphins.