In 1995 the number one song on the Billboard year end charts was Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio, the highest grossing movie that year was Toy Story, and the highest rated television show was ER. Current Chicago Bears’ quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, celebrated his first birthday that year, and 1995 also saw the Chicago Bears go 9-7 and finish in third place in the NFC Central Division while led by record setting quarterback Erik Kramer.
That year Kramer started all 16 games for the Bears while throwing for a franchise best 3,838 yards and 29 touchdown passes. But there’s another record that was set by Kramer and that offense that I never realized until recently.
The quarterback sack was first recorded as a defensive stat in 1981, but sacks allowed by a QB was tracked beginning in 1969. The 1995 Bears set a franchise record by only allowing 15 sacks that year and their sack percentage of 2.8 is also a team record that still stands. Both of those numbers led the league. That’s a fantastic accomplishment, not only for Kramer, but also for the five offensive linemen that only missed one start between them that season. That type of continuity is always a plus for pass protection, because playing next to the same guy each and every play breeds familiarity.
Here’s how they lined up left to right in 1995.
LT) Andy Heck - The Bears signed Heck in 1994 and he started 14 games at left tackle. He only missed 4 games in 5 years with the Bears.
LG) Todd Perry - Perry only started 7 games his first two years in Chicago after being a third round draft pick, but once Mark Bortz retired it was Perry that stepped into his spot on the Bears o-line in 1995.
Perry was the one Bear o-lineman that missed a game in 1995 and it was Todd Burger that took his place.
C) Jerry Fontenot - From 1992 to 1996, Fontenot never missed a start with the Bears. He also took over for a legendary ‘85 Bear when he was the next man up when they released Jay Hilgenberg.
RG) Jay Leeuwenburg - From 1992 to 1996 he started 48 of the 60 games he played in Chicago. He was originally a 9th round pick of the Chiefs in 1992.
RT) James Williams - “Big Cat” is one of my favorite all-time Bears, and he’s the only one of this group to ever make a Pro Bowl. He made it in 2001, but I think he could have made a couple more. From 1994 to 2002 he never missed a game in Chicago, and he started 143 of their 144 games.
Pass protection is a total offensive effort, but it was these five guys that led the charge.
Kramer wasn’t the most elusive QB, but he was smart with the football and he knew how to subtlety move around the pocket. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner played to Kramer’s strengths that year and o-line coach Tony Wise had his men ready each week.
Chicago’s offensive line didn’t just excel as pass blockers in 1995, but they helped rookie running back Rashaan Salaam go over a thousand yards on nearly 300 carries. The Bears ranked 9th in rushing yards that season and 9th in total offensive yards.
Chicago’s pass pro was solid in 1994 (25 sacks allowed) and 1996 (23 sacks allowed), but in that 1995 season everything came together.
You can check me out talking Bears offseason and what to expect in 2019 with Ed Valentine on the Big Blue View Podcast. My segment starts at the 8:45 mark, so check it out!