May 31, 2013

MVP Profile: Walter Payton, 1985

Running Back, Chicago Bears

Age: 31
11th season in pro football & with Bears
College: Jackson State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 202

Chosen by the Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft, Payton played hurt during his rookie season (and missed the only game of his career) as he accumulated 679 rushing yards. He broke out in ’76, running for 1390 yards on a league-leading 311 carries and scoring 13 touchdowns, and followed that up with a MVP season in 1977 in which he rushed for 1852 yards, including a then-record 275 in a single game. Over the course of the next seven seasons, Payton rushed for over a thousand years in all but strike-shortened 1982 and led the NFC in rushing for five straight years, despite being part of a lackluster offense that had opposing teams keying on him. In 1984 he surpassed Jim Brown’s NFL career record of 12,312 rushing yards. Payton was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a consensus first-team All-Pro on four occasions prior to ‘85.  

1985 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 324 [4]
Most attempts, game - 28 (for 192 yds.) at Green Bay 11/3, (for 53 yds.) at NY Jets 12/14
Yards – 1551 [3]
Most yards, game – 192 yards (on 28 carries) at Green Bay 11/3
Average gain – 4.8 [8, tied with James Brooks & Eddie Lee Ivery]
TDs – 9 [8, tied with Roger Craig & Larry Kinnebrew]
100-yard rushing games - 10

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 49      
Most receptions, game – 6 (for 37 yds.) vs. Tampa Bay 9/8
Yards – 483
Most yards, game - 69 (on 4 catches) vs. Detroit 11/10
Average gain – 9.9
TDs – 2

Attempts – 5
Completions – 3
Yards – 96
TDs – 1
Interceptions – 0

All-Purpose Yards – 2034 [4]

TDs – 11 [9, tied with Mike Quick]
Points – 66

Postseason: 3 G
Rushing attempts – 67
Most rushing attempts, game - 27 vs. NY Giants, NFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 186
Most rushing yards, game - 93 vs. NY Giants, NFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 2.8
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 8
Most pass receptions, game - 7 vs. LA Rams, NFC Championship
Pass receiving yards - 52
Most pass receiving yards, game – 48 vs. LA Rams, NFC Championship
Average yards per reception – 6.5
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: NEA, Bert Bell Award
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Bears went 15-1 to finish first in the NFC Central with the conference’s best record while leading the NFL in rushing (2761 yards) and NFC in scoring (456 points). Won NFC Divisional playoff over New York Giants (21-0), NFC Championship over Los Angeles Rams (24-0), and Super Bowl over New England Patriots (46-10).

Payton played two more seasons, and was selected to the Pro Bowl once more in 1986. Not only a productive ground gainer, he was an outstanding blocker and receiver out of the backfield, as well as an accomplished passer on option plays (he was even the club’s emergency quarterback). Payton ultimately totaled 10 thousand-yard rushing seasons. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro five times and was chosen to nine Pro Bowls. The even-tempered player known as “Sweetness” was also an unselfish team leader and hard worker, and was popular not only with Bears fans, but throughout the league. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards and also topped the list in carries (3838) and rushing TDs (110); his total of 125 touchdowns ranked second. Payton also caught 492 passes for 4538 yards and exceeded 2000 yards from scrimmage in four seasons. The Bears retired his #34 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1993. 


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).