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New Orleans Saints can learn from 1985 Chicago Bears

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; New Orleans Saints can learn from 1985 Chicago Bears By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune December 27, 2009, 4:00AM Some might think it ludicrous for the best team in New Orleans Saints history to find counsel in Mike Ditka. After all, ...

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Old 12-27-2009, 12:00 PM   #1
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New Orleans Saints can learn from 1985 Chicago Bears

New Orleans Saints can learn from 1985 Chicago Bears
By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune
December 27, 2009, 4:00AM
Some might think it ludicrous for the best team in New Orleans Saints history to find counsel in Mike Ditka.


After all, the Saints have won almost as many games this season (13) as Ditka did in three tumultuous years (15) as their coach from 1997 to 1999.
But Da Coach made a good point from his pulpit on the set of ESPN's NFL Sunday Countdown the other day. His advice to the Saints after their disappointing loss to Dallas -- Don't worry. Be happy.
Ditka's 1985 Chicago Bears are recognized as one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Like the Saints, they, too, started the season with an impressive winning streak. Led by a dominant defense, the '85 Bears won their first 12 games by an absurd average of 19.3 points per contest. And like the Saints, their run at an unbeaten season ended before a national television audience, when the Miami Dolphins bashed the Bears 38-24 on Monday Night Football.
The loss didn't destroy the Bears. It didn't damage their confidence or hurt their momentum.
It made them better.
"You know what it hurt?" Ditka asked rhetorically. "Our feelings. That's what it hurt. It helped us refocus, redirect. We went back to work, and that's what the Saints are going to do."
Two of the starting offensive linemen on that team, Tom Thayer and Jay Hilgenberg, said the loss to the Dolphins provided a much-needed wakeup call for the Bears at just the right time in the long 16-game season.
"It was an eye-opener, " said Thayer, a rookie guard on the '85 Bears and now a member of the club's radio broadcast team. "It didn't hurt our confidence. It was a slap in the face, a dose of reality."
"It was ugly, " Hilgenberg said. "It bothered everyone on our team. But sometimes it's just not your night. We had bigger stuff to think about. The ultimate thing is to win the Super Bowl, not go undefeated."
The Bears went on to blitz the rest of the league en route to the Super Bowl XX title. In the playoffs they dominated the Giants and Rams, 21-0 and 24-0, then they routed the Patriots 46-10 at the Superdome.
The loss to the Dolphins "made us regroup and say, 'OK, it's all about one thing now, ' " Hilgenberg said. "And we went on and won the Super Bowl. It'd be nice to go undefeated, but I'd rather lose one during the season than in the Super Bowl the way New England did (in the 2007 season)."
Indeed, the Bears went 18-1 and got a ring. In the end, the Patriots had nothing to show for their unbeaten regular season.
"The Saints can do what we did, no question about it, " said Hilgenberg, who played one season for the Saints in 1993 with his brother, Joel. "They can take that loss and spin it into a positive."
That was exactly the message being communicated around the Saints' training facility this past week. Yes, the loss to the Cowboys was surprising. But considering the way the Saints had been playing, their number of key injuries and the do-or-die desperation of the Cowboys, it could hardly be called shocking.
No one panicked on Airline Drive. In fact, the Saints sounded as confident as ever this week. But they also know they can't continue to make the mistakes they've made in recent weeks and expect to achieve their ultimate goal of winning Super Bowl XLIV.
"It has clarified things, " quarterback Drew Brees said. "We know that we win this game, then we are the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That's all that matters, and that was a big goal on our list of goals as a team. That's what's important. Obviously there's things from the team we've had a chance to look at and point at and say, check your ego at the door, these are the things we need to get better at. This is what got us beat, and we fix these things we're going to get back to where we want to be and even beyond where we were, and be playing the kind of football we want to be playing going into the playoffs."
Truth be told, the loss might be the best thing that ever happened to the Saints. A veritable blessing in disguise.
Now the Saints can focus on their ultimate goal unencumbered of the distraction of going unbeaten. Defensive end Bobby McCray said as much in his blog with the Times-Picayune this week. "That weight is off our backs, " McCray said in referencing the team's pursuit of perfection.
Sure, it would have been nice to be the first team to go 19-0. That truly would have been something special. But it also might have sidetracked them from their ultimate goal, just as it did the Patriots two years ago.
The Saints' season can still "Be Special, " as the mission statement T-shirts they distributed in the preseason say. Only three teams in NFL history have won 18 games -- the 2007 Patriots, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, and the aforementioned Bears. Only the Bears and 49ers went on to win it all. Those two teams, along with the 1972 Dolphins, 1962 Packers and 1979 Steelers, are universally ranked among the greatest teams in league history.
The Saints, too, will be in that number if they learn from their loss and follow the tracks of the '85 Bears.

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