His Bears may fall apart, but Dikta keeps his cool

December 10, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- Chicago Bears place-kicker Kevin Butler missed a field-goal attempt. Running back Brad Muster fumbled away the ball that set up the game-winning field goal. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh was intercepted twice, including once late in the game that would have made any head coach cringe. Plus, after 175 yards total offense in the first half, the Bears had only 113 in the second.

This was the kind of game that, in the past, might have upset Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. Instead, Ditka walked into the locker room after the Bears (10-3) were beaten, 10-9, by the Washington Redskins (8-5) before a crowd of 53,920 at RFK Stadium yesterday, and not one chair was overturned.

There were no veins bulging from his neck, no redness in his face. "Iron Mike" was 'Cool Mike."

Oh, so cool.

"I'm proud of this entire team," said Ditka, whose team also wasted a five-interception day by Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien. "I'm proud of the way we have played all year. We fought, scratched and played hard but came up short."

"We've come a long way with this team and we're going to go a lot further," said Ditka. "This is not the end of the world. It's just a game."

Ditka had promised earlier this week he would not lose his temper. Last year after a 38-14 loss to the Redskins, Ditka berated the Bears. He said his secondary, especially rookie cornerback Donnell Woolford, "couldn't cover anybody" and the Bears wouldn't win a game the rest of the season.

Yesterday, Ditka was nice.

"It's not easy for me to get up here in front of you guys and tell you why we lost," said Ditka. "If we had kicked a 42-yard field goal and won near the end, then I would be up here telling jokes.

"So what if we don't get a home-field advantage in the playoffs?" Ditka said. "We know how to pack our bags. We know how to catch planes."

There were some who thought Butler would be on the first plane out of Chicago this week with a pink slip. There have been reports that Butler thought Ditka was not impressed with his season, even though Butler had made 20 of 28 field-goal attempts before yesterday.

Butler scored on field goals of 29, 23 and 46 yards yesterday, but he missed a 46-yarder that hit the left upright on the first play of the fourth quarter.

When asked about the situation, Ditka said: "We had some chances, but we didn't make them. That's life. It happens, and there's not much else I can say."

You would figure that Muster's fumble that set up Chip Lohmiller's 35-yard game-winner with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game would draw some spark from Ditka.

Maybe Muster should have had both hands on the ball? Maybe he was running scared? Or with his head down?

Ditka had no response.

Next question please.

Surely, the ugly pass in the left flat Harbaugh had intercepted by A.J. Johnson with 1:54 left in the game would draw Ditka's ire.

The pass fluttered. It didn't have a chance. Harbaugh underthrew wide receiver Wendell Davis by 7 yards, and it was a dink pass.

"I thought Jim hung in there and played his heart out," said Ditka of Harbaugh, who completed 17 of 33 passes for 187 yards. "He tried to make the plays and he made a lot of them, but we didn't make enough to win it."

Ditka left his news conference as he came in -- calm, cool and with nothing but praise for his Bears.

"We tried, our guys played their hearts out," said Ditka. "We just didn't execute a few things. And as a result, we end up losing a very tough ballgame."

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