After falling to a dismal 5-9 in the standings in 1964, the exceptional play of rookies Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus along with the brilliant season of veteran quarterback Rudy Bukich vaulted the Chicago Bears to a solid 9-3 mark in 1965.
Chicago Bears Football History
Led by the magic wand of owner/coach George Halas the Bears had won the 1963 NFL Crown. However, tragedy struck the team early in '64 when during summer training running back Willie Galimore and end John 'Bo' Farrington were killed in a auto crash in rural Indiana. And, as the season progressed key injuries limited the playing time of many veterans and a 5-9 record resulted.
Then in 1965, returning veterans fullback Ronnie Bull, tight-end Mike Ditka, linebacker and place kicker Roger LeClerc, punter Bobby Joe Green and line stalwarts Ed O'Bradovich, popular center Mike Pyle, and defensive back Richie Petitbon provided a springboard to winning again - a 9-3 record in '65 - third place in the NFL Western Conference.
1965 Season Highlights: - 9 Wins and 3 Loses
* Gale Sayers, Halfback/Running Back - ranked by most historians as the greatest season of all-time, Sayers flew by opponents in 1965, scoring 22 touchdowns during his first NFL season - including six in one game... and led the football world in points with 132. His 22 TD included 14 rushing, 6 pass receptions, one on a punt return and one on a kickoff return.
* Dick Butkus, Middle Linebacker - an All-American at the University of Illinois, his style of play terrorized on-field opponents right from the-get-go. He intercepted 5 passes, collecting 84 yards, and stopped numerous first down attempts by making solo tackles. There were some great linemen in this era, but none could halt the ferocious charging Butkus... and that's a fact.
* Rudy Bukich, Quarterback - a second-tier passer for most of his career which started back in 1953, Bukich's standout '65 season included completing 175-of-312 attempts, totaling 2,641 yards, 20 for touchdowns, just 9 interceptions and finished first in NFL rankings for 1965.
1965 Chicago Bears Roster:
Jon Arnett... Doug Atkins... Charlie Bivins... Rudy Bukich... Roonie Bull... Dick Butkus... Jim Cadile... James Caroline...
Mike Ditka... Dick Evey... Joe Fortunato... Bill George... Larry Glueck... Dick Gordon... Bobby Joe Green...
John Johnson... Jim Jones... Stan Jones... Bob Kilcullen... Ralph Kurek... Roger LeClerc... Herman Lee... Dick Leeuwenburg...
Earl Leggett... Andy Livingston... Joe Marconi... Billy Martin... Bernie McRae... Johnny Morris... Larry Morris...
Dennis Murphy... Ed O'Bradovich... Richie Petitbon... Jim Purnell... Mike Pyle... Mike Rabold... Mike Reilly...
Gale Sayers... George Seals... Ron Smith... Rosey Taylor... Billy Wade... Bob Wetoska... Dave Whitsell... footballhistorian.com - Professional Football History - Chicago Bears 1965
December 2, 1963... from Newsweek Magazine Actual Wording of Article: The Chicago Bears in recent seasons employed a dozen different defenses, each with endless variations, and shifted so often from one to another that inevitably they confused the opposition. The only difficulty was that they confused themselves more. Football History 'A lot of us said that as long as the Bears' defense kept jumping around before the ball was snapped, they'd charge themselves right out of the league,' says Green Bay defensive halfback Jesse Whittenton, who helped the Packers crush the Bears five consecutive times, from 1960 through 1962, by a total score of 183-48.
This season (1963) the Bears stopped jumping and, instead, started one of the most phenomenal reversals in sports history. They won eight of their first nine games (including a 10-3 opening victory over Green Bay) by blending a mediocre offense with a mighty defense that led the entire National Football League in interceptions, least points allowed, and least yards allowed. Were they really that good? Last week the question was answered. The Bears played a rematch against the defending champion Packers, who averaged 33 points a game in eight straight victories since their opening.
Always on Sunday: Before the key game, members of the Bears' defensive team faithfully followed their regular Sunday rituals. Tackle Earl Leggett, a Baptist, went to a Catholic Mass with teammate Joe Fortunato; safetyman Richie Petitbon wore his black suit; and co-captains Fortunato and Larry Morris walked on the field for the coin flip with linebacker Morris on the right, left linebacker Fortunato on the left. Then, just before the kickoff, Fortunato and Petitbon knocked each shoulder pads twice. For the rest of the gray day, the Bears knocked the visiting Packer around Wrigley Gum Field. Roger Leclerc kicked four field goals and quarterback Bill Wade directed a solid running attack, but Chicago's stars in the 26-7 victory, unquestionably, were the new Monsters of the Midway - the Bears' defensive unit. Rushing and tackling brutally, they pounced on two Packer fumbles, intercepted five passes, and allowed only 71 yards on the ground. 'They just beat the hell out of us,' conceded Packer coach Vince Lombardi. George Halas, the Bears' owner and head coach, didn't seem surprised; 'I could sense victory when our offense started going and our defense holding.' Systems Go: The Chicago surge actually began last season when the 67-year-old Halas and 70-year-old Clark Shaughnessy, his defensive coaching advisor, disagreed on tactics.
Shaughnessy quit, and with him went his complex system of defensive formations and signals (a bewildering code of names, numbers, letters and colors). Under the new system (seven basic formations), which defensive coach George Allen calls an 'offensive defensive' because 'we try to take the ball away,' veteran linebackers Fortunato, Morris, and Bill George blitz or red-dog far less than they used to. This makes each charge far more effective and closes gaps in the defensive secondary. Chicago's simplified defense has gone hand in hand with a solid, unspectacular offense that may present 'Papa Bear' Halas with his seventh NFL championship and his first since Sid Luckman sparked the Bears in 1946. Unlike passing great Luckman, quarterback Wade would rather control the ball by running for short yardage and throwing short, sure passes than gambling on the long touchdown 'bomb.' 'It may be exciting to the fans to have the ball in the air,' explains Wade, 'but it's just as exciting to have a team win.' Note: The Chicago Bears went on to win the 1963 NFL title. footballhistorian.com - the History of Pro Football