Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, 6 feet and 228 pounds, says his team, the winner of the National Football League division nicknamed for the color of a bruise, plays "fearless football."
Who would even consider arguing?
The defense the Washington Redskins will face at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at RFK Stadium would make Dick Butkus proud indeed. Black and blue has turned a deeper shade in the NFC Central. In the absence of any consistency on offense, the Bears turned to their defense to take them to the playoffs.
And the defense has placed them at the doorstep to RFK. The Bears, led by Singletary, whose 116 tackles lead the team, broke the NFL record for quarterback sacks with 72, including 12 in the final game of the season against Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple to tie an NFL record for most sacks in one game.
They led the league in total defense, allowing only 241.4 yards per game. They allowed the fewest rushing yards of any NFL team (86.1 per game) and were second against the pass.
But what about John Riggins, Joe Theismann and the Redskins?
"We don't fear (the Redskins)," Singletary said yesterday by telephone from the Bears' Atlanta practice headquarters.
"We don't really fear anything," said Singletary, who nevertheless said the Redskins are "one of the elite teams" in the league and the Bears are not. "We feel like we're the Bears and we play some good football, some fearless football.
"The Redskins' running game with John Riggins is something to think about, but not to fear.
"John Riggins is not Eric Dickerson, but I'll tell you, he's a great running back and a class guy the way he has come back (from injuries)," Singletary said.
Singletary, one of three finalists this year for United Press International's defensive player of the year award, knows an injury-ridden season when he sees one. He has had a sideline view of the Bears' horrifying quarterback show. The Bears have used six people at quarterback this season, even Walter Payton, who is much better with handoffs and pitchouts than snaps.
Payton gained 1,684 yards rushing this season, and remains the Bears' most potent offensive weapon.
Some might say he is the only one. A glance at the numbers seems to indicate the Bears must play defense on their offense.
The Bears, who finished with a 10-6 record but lost two of their final three games, lost 583 yards attempting to pass this season, a team record. It seems to follow that their 675 rushing attempts and the 2,965 yards they gained rushing also set team records.
But, as Singletary said, "we have our quarterback back," and the days of Payton and Greg Landry (brought out of retirement to start the final game) seem to be over.
Steve Fuller, who separated his shoulder in the first exhibition game in August and reinjured it a month ago against San Diego, is healthy now and scheduled to start against the Redskins. "Right now, he's stronger than before the San Diego game when he was hurt," Coach Mike Ditka said after practice yesterday.
Jim McMahon, the No. 1 quarterback in Chicago, is out for the season with a lacerated kidney.
"The quarterback situation has been a big deal with us," Singletary said. "We had some of the same things happen to us as happened to them. We had to overcome adversities with injuries, and our defense had to be the thing that kept us together."
The Redskins were second in the league this season in sacks with 66, but, on offense, Theismann was sacked 48 times -- 14 times in the final two games, both Redskins victories.
Singletary believes the way to stop the Redskins is to not allow Theismann to throw. Sacks would help.
"We will try to control them," he said. "I don't think anyone can really stop them with the great receivers they have."
Singletary doesn't buy the all-defense, no-offense line on the Bears.
"I didn't really listen to what people were saying about us, but I think we do pretty decently on defense," he said.
The Bears, who have not been in the playoffs since 1979, were expecting to play the San Francisco 49ers before the New York Giants upset the Los Angeles Rams, 16-13, last weekend. Ditka has since had to rewrite his game plan for the Redskins.
"It didn't matter to me," Singletary said. "There's not much difference between Washington and San Francisco in terms of skill.
"I think we've made the first step," Singletary said. "We've gotten to the playoffs, whether we win or not from here.
"Naturally, we'd like to win."