The NFL Network had a Top 10 Single-Season Performances in NFL History, and 2 Bears were on the list. This got me to thinking about the Top 10 Single-Season Performances in Chicago Bears History. Finding accurate info and stats on some of the old time guys was harder than I’d like. Some of their stats vary depending on the site I researched, but I think I have some of the older players well represented on the list.
I kept the 2 Bears listed on the NFL Network’s special listed as 1 and 2 on my list, #1 is a no-brainer, but #2 I wavered on. Ultimately I kept #2 intact because I figured the NFL "experts" can’t be that far off (or could they). These lists are so subjective, and I’m sure I’m biased by guys I saw play, but I’d love some feedback on some other seasons I may have missed.
Here are a few I considered, but narrowly missed the cut; Mike Brown 2002, Ken Kavanaugh 1947, Johnny Morris 1964, Mike Ditka 1961, Walter Payton 1984, Mike Singletary 1985, Gale Sayers 1966, & Doug Buffone 1968
Top 10 Single-Season Performances in Chicago Bears History
10 - 1954 Harlon Hill – There are Bears with more receptions in a year than the 45 Hill caught his rookie season (he actually ranks 65th), and players with more yards in a season (his 1,124 in ’54 ranks 6th), and his 12 TD that year is only tied for 2nd in Bears history. Even his remarkable yards per catch (25.0) is second. Considering he was a 15th round draft pick, I’d say the Bears got some solid impact from Hill his rookie season.
9 - 1995 Eric Kramer – No QB in Bears history ever had a season with more passes (522), had more completions (315), more yards (3,838 ), or more TD’s (29), than Kramer in ’95. More remarkable to me was his miniscule 10 interceptions he threw that year. He added a rushing TD and he was only sacked 15 times.
8 - 1985 Richard Dent – His 17 sacks in ’85 led the league, and he added 7 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions (1 for a TD), and 2 fumble recoveries. He capped off the year in style being named MVP for SBXX after his 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and constant pressure on the Patriot QB’s. Don’t forget his playoff run of 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles against the Giants, or his sack and forced fumble (that Wilbur Marshall returned for a TD) as the snow started to fall against the L.A. Rams.
7- 1934 Beattie Feathers – His 8.44 yards per rush in ’34 is 2nd all time. Feathers gained 1,004 yards on just 119 carries (the 1st RB to ever eclipse the thousand yard mark), he added 174 yards receiving on 6 receptions, and threw a couple TD passes. He led the league in rushing yards, rushing TD (8 ), total TD (9), and yards from scrimmage & all purpose yards (1,178 ). The only negative from the 13-0 regular season, was the loss in the Title Game to the Giants.
6 - 1965 Dick Butkus – The terror he brought to the field is well documented and the ferocity he played the game with is unmatched. I wonder if the NFL knew what they were getting when Butkus decided to play for his hometown Bears over the Broncos of the AFL? His rookie year he led the Bears defense in every statistical category. His 5 picks was a career high, as were his 7 fumbles recovered. Butkus was named a 1st Team All Pro at MLB, but he still lost out as Rookie Of The Year to #1 on my list.
5 - 1941 George McAfee – McAfee was named 1st team All Pro once in his great Hall Of Fame career, and it was his versatile 1941 season that gave him the honor. He rushed for 474 yards with a 7.3 average and 6 TD’s, 3 of his 7 receptions went for TD’s, he threw for a score, he added TD’s on a punt return and a kick return. Defensively he found paydirt on one of his 6 interceptions. Did I mention his 12 punts for a 35.8 average? "One Play McAfee" could do it all.
4 - 1977 Walter Payton – Payton led the league in rushing yards, rushing attempts, rushing TD, total TD, average yards per attempt, yards from scrimmage, all purpose yards, and he was second in scoring and total touches. He rushed for a then record 275 yards against the Vikings and averaged 132 rushing yards per game. No player ever played with a Bullseye on his back like Walter Payton, everyone knew he was the Bears offense, yet no one could stop him. Payton was named NFL MVP after his incredible 1977 season.
3 - 1943 Sid Luckman – In ’43 Luckman led or was near the top of the leader board in almost every passing category and was named NFL MVP. His yards per pass attempt (10.9), yards per pass completion (19.9), and passing touchdown percentage (13.9%) are the best for a season in the history of the NFL, and his 107.5 rating in ’43 places 10th all time. This was the 40’s so you know he wasn’t just a QB, he had 4 interceptions as a DB, he returned 4 punts and a kickoff, and he punted 34 times with a 35.9 average. He rushed for a score as well. Luckman capped of the year by passing for 286 yards with 5 TD’s, adding 64 yards on the ground, and intercepting 2 passes in the Championship Game, beating the Redskins 41-21.
2 - 2007 Devin Hester – For sheer impact I think his rookie season of ’06 was more memorable (his TD per touch was higher), but he had a better overall year in ’07. He brought his fumbles per touch down, and teams either kicked away from him or would simply kick out of bounds to avoid his threat, something that has rarely been practiced in the NFL, and he still managed to bring 4 punts and 2 kickoffs back for scores. He was "Must See TV"; everyone stopped what they were doing any time he had a chance to touch the ball. Hester added 2 TD receptions as he started to get some reps as a receiver for the first time.
1 - 1965 Gale Sayers – In 1965, in Gale’s rookie year, he scored twenty two touchdowns, a Bears single season record that stands to this day. Sayers had the ball in his hands on 232 occasions and scored a TD nearly every 10 times he touched it. He also threw a TD pass. In a huge win against the 49ers, he crossed the goal line 6 times, and some say he could have scored more had Halas left him in the game. He had more rushing yards and a better rushing average two other seasons, and more all purpose yards his sophomore year, but the impact he made his rookie year was truly ridiculous.