To have chance vs. 49ers, Bears will take chances

January 07, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Dave Wannstedt has beaten the odds on the road in the past.

He'll have that in mind today when his Chicago Bears attempt what is supposed to be an impossible mission -- playing the San Francisco 49ers in a second-round playoff game at Candlestick Park.

Wannstedt's team, a 17-point underdog, is given little chance against the team that is the odds-on-favorite to win the Super Bowl and has nine Pro Bowl players.

Even though the Bears don't have a Pro Bowl player, Wannstedt is preaching an upbeat message to his team.

After all, he was the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, when they brought a 6-5 record to Washington to face the 11-0 Redskins.

Coach Jimmy Johnson decided that the Cowboys had to do some unorthodox things and take some gambles if they were have a shot to pull an upset.

Facing third-and-15 at the Washington 32 in the first half, Johnson called for Emmitt Smith to run a draw instead of going for the pass. Smith ran 32 yards for the team's first touchdown. The second came at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary pass.

The Cowboys also tried an onside kick and three times went for it on fourth down, making it twice.

The result was a 24-21 Dallas victory that ruined the Redskins' bid for a perfect season.

Wannstedt sounds as if he's going to try to borrow from Johnson's playbook today.

"I hate to make a lot of changes, but at the same time we're such a big underdog that you just feel you might have to take some chances in certain situations," he said.

When Wannstedt was reminded of the 1991 Washington game, he said, "We took a few chances, but we played extremely good defense that day."

He knows the Bears will have to play good defense against the 49ers, but he can't even think about trying to stop a team that has Steve Young throwing to Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters carrying the ball.

"You go in saying how can you slow them down," he said.

Wannstedt likes to use the underdog status as a motivational tool. He calls it the Bear factor.

"We kind of kid about it, the Bear factor. We can't throw the ball deep, we can't do this, we can't do that. Everything is what we can't do and we have found a way [to win]. I think one advantage that we have is that the only way we can win is if we play well in all three areas [offense, defense and special teams].

"We're not good enough to come in and score 45 points or come in and expect to shut them out. That's kind of been our deal all year long. It's kind of been a team effort," he said.

Steve Walsh will start at quarterback, but Wannstedt said he won't hesitate to use Erik Kramer if he thinks the team needs a jump start.

"Our football team is confident where we're at right now," Wannstedt said. "When you look at San Francisco, you'd be an idiot for anybody to think you have a whole lot of confidence after watching them perform on film. We're not basing our confidence on watching them. We've got to feel good about ourselves and what we can do and then go in and play the best we can and see what happens," he said.

About the only thing the Bear players have going for them is that the 49ers may take them lightly and look ahead to the NFC title game next Sunday, when they are expected to play the Dallas Cowboys, who take on the Green Bay Packers tomorrow, in what is expected to be the real Super Bowl.

Coach George Seifert of the 49ers is doing his best to say good things about the Bears. Maybe he's trying to convince his team Chicago is a worthy opponent.

"People can stop talking about them as a bunch of overachievers and start talking about them being a bona fide playoff club," Seifert said. "So we have our hands full from that standpoint. One of our concerns is they are more talented than people suspect."

The Bears seem to be taking a cue from Wannstedt as they talk as if they're not awed by the 49ers.

Running back Raymont Harris said: "I won't get overwhelmed. The way I look at it, they're my peers, men just like me. They're great, All-Pros, big names. They have great commercials and I like to watch them. When it comes to line it up and it's me going against them, they're no different than me."

Defensive back Donnell Woolford said: "We're human and they're human. Jerry Rice, Richard Dent, Deion Sanders. They're human and they bleed."

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