1987 Chicago Bears season
Head coachMike Ditka
Home fieldSoldier Field
Division place1st NFC Central
Playoff finishLost Divisional Playoffs (vs. Redskins) 17–21

The 1987 season was the Chicago Bears' 68th in the National Football League the 18th post-season completed in the NFL, and their sixth under head coach Mike Ditka. The team was looking to return to the playoffs, win the NFC Central Division for the fourth consecutive year and avenge their loss in the Divisional Playoffs to the Washington Redskins the year before when the team finished 14–2.

However, the Bears failed to improve on their 14–2 record from 1986, with the team finishing at 11–4 in the strike-shortened season. Their record was once again good enough for the division title and the #2 seed in the conference, as the team had done the year before. The team also saw the same result as 1986 as the Bears suffered a second consecutive loss to the Redskins, who went on to win Super Bowl XXII, in the Divisional Playoffs.


1987 Chicago Bears draft choices

Round Pick Name Position College
1 26 Jim Harbaugh QB Michigan
2 54 Ron Morris WR SMU
4 101 Sean Smith DE Grambling State
5 120 Steve Bryan DE Oklahoma
5 138 Will Johnson LB Louisiana Monroe
6 154 John Adickes C Baylor
7 193 Archie Harris T William & Mary
8 221 Paul Migliazzo LB Oklahoma
9 249 Lakei Heimuli RB BYU
10 277 Dick Chapura DT Missouri
11 305 Tim Jessie RB Auburn
12 333 Eric Jeffries DB Texas

Undrafted free agents

1987 Undrafted Free Agents of note
Player Position College
Sean Payton Quarterback Eastern Illinois

A frustrating season

The 1987 season proved to be a frustrating one for not only the Bears, but probably for most associating with professional football. The league endured its second strike-shortened season in the last 6 seasons, and this was a strike that truly divided teams, including Chicago.

In the windy city, the strike divided its players and tarnished its coach, and the season would be the last for greats such as Walter Payton, Gary Fencik (both of whom retired), Willie Gault (dealt to the Raiders), Wilber Marshall (signed as a free agent by the Redskins), and for all intents and purposes, Otis Wilson.

The makings of the 1987 strike

1987 started with the usual drama in Platteville-everyone wondering if Jim McMahon would play at all during the year, McMahon openly feuded with coach Mike Ditka, upset over the new signal-caller Jim Harbaugh that the team picked in the first round. Tension was also building due to strike talk that loomed- always a bad omen for a team.

First up for Chicago in 1987 was a matchup with the defending world champion New York Giants. As if this game wasn't tough enough in and of itself, it would be played on Monday Night Football, and the Bears would be led by 3rd-year QB Mike Tomczak. McMahon and Fuller were injured, Doug Flutie was traded, and rookie Jim Harbaugh needed to be groomed for a few years before he would be ready. The Bears pulled it out in their typical fashion, however, trouncing the world champs by a score of 34–19 behind a remarkable performance by Tomczak who completed 20 of 34 passes for 292 yards. Dennis McKinnon delighted the Soldier Field crowd that night by returning a punt 94 yards for a touchdown, it was the longest TD Punt return in the NFL in 1987. The Bears, it appeared were back. The club won their second game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 20, then the strike of 1987 was called, forcing the cancellation of all NFL games the week of September 27.


During the first days of the strike, the league pondered what to do, as most teams' players were deeply divided over whether to strike or not. This was not 1982, everyone learned, as the league decided to hire replacement players (referred to as "scabs" and "spare Bears"), as cancelling half the season was not an option.

Mike Ditka decided to make his feelings public about the strike, as he fully backed management on the work-stoppage. He referred to the spare players as his "real" players, a move which angered the true Bears out on strike and forced the team to spend the night in Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium before their first game, to avoid crossing the pickets. This turned out to be a wound not healed easily or quickly in the months to come.

Defensive end Steve Trimble was the last Bear to wear #40 as the number was later retired in honor of Gale Sayers.

The scabs held their foes to 29 points in three games, and posted a 2-1 record.

Chicago Spare Bears

After the league decided to use replacement players during the NFLPA strike, the following team was assembled,[1] and was given the name "Spare Bears" by the Chicago Tribune's writer Don Pierson.[2] The players were also known as "The Impostors of the Midway", "Bearlys" and "Chicago Bares". No regular players crossed during the strike.

1987 Chicago Bears replacement roster


Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Notable scabs

After the strike

The strike turned out to only last four weeks, encompassing three games, and the Bears went 2–1. The teams that hired the best replacement players did themselves a favor in the end, a group of which the Bears were a part of. When the "real" 1987 resumed, Jim McMahon was back at QB, and the Bears pulled off their biggest come-from-behind win in history, beating Tampa 27–26 after trailing 20–0. The victory proved to be inspiring, as they then won the next two games, including a 26–24 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. In this game, Chicago trailed with less than a minute left, when McMahon led the team down the field for a game-winning 55-yard field goal off the leg of Kevin Butler. After the kick, Butler turned and "flipped the bird" to Packer coach Forrest Gregg, in effect saying "see you later" to the coach who was finally axed after the 1987 NFL season.

After the inspiring Green Bay win, Chicago lost a close game at Mile High Stadium to the Denver Broncos 31–29 on Monday Night Football, then beat Green Bay at home and Minnesota on the road, in the infamous "Rollerdome" game (Mike Ditka referred to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome by this name, prompting the Vikings' cheerleaders to parade around on skates throughout the contest.) The Bears were 10–2 with three games left, but dropped 2 of them, and struggled into the playoffs. One of those losses was a 41–0 disaster at San Francisco at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, and Mike Ditka threw his gum at a heckling fan, prompting assault charges to be filed against him.


The Bears lost 21–17 to the Washington Redskins in the divisional playoffs. They took a 14–0 lead, but the Redskins rallied behind quarterback Doug Williams to win a playoff game in Soldier Field for the second straight season.

Final roster

1987 Chicago Bears final roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
49 active, 4 inactive

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 14 New York Giants W 34–19 65,704
2 September 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 20–3 63,551
September 27 at Detroit Lions Canceled N/A
3 October 4 at Philadelphia Eagles W 35–3 4,074
4 October 11 Minnesota Vikings W 27–7 32,113
5 October 18 New Orleans Saints L 17–19 46,813
6 October 25 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 27–26 70,747
7 November 1 Kansas City Chiefs W 31–28 63,498
8 November 8 at Green Bay Packers W 26–24 53,320
9 November 16 at Denver Broncos L 29–31 75,783
10 November 22 Detroit Lions W 30–10 63,357
11 November 29 Green Bay Packers W 23–10 61,638
12 December 6 at Minnesota Vikings W 30–24 62,331
13 December 14 at San Francisco 49ers L 0–41 63,509
14 December 20 Seattle Seahawks L 21–34 62,518
15 December 27 at Los Angeles Raiders W 6–3 78,019

Game summaries

Week 1

1 234Total
Giants 7 066 19
• Bears 3 71410 34


Week 15

1 234Total
• Bears 0 303 6
Raiders 3 000 3



NFC Central
Chicago Bears(2) 11 4 0 .733 7–0 9–2 356 282 W1
Minnesota Vikings(5) 8 7 0 .533 3–5 6–6 336 335 L1
Green Bay Packers 5 9 1 .367 3–4 4–7 255 300 L2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 11 0 .267 3–4 4–9 286 360 L8
Detroit Lions 4 11 0 .267 2–5 4–7 269 384 W1


See also: 1987–88 NFL playoffs

Round Date Opponent (seed) Result Record Venue Attendance
Divisional January 10, 1988 Washington Redskins (3) L 17–21 0–1 Soldier Field 58,153


  1. ^ "1987 Chicago Bears replacement roster". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  3. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  4. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2013-Dec-22.