Hipple: Wilber Marshall Scared Me The Most

Former Lions quarterback Eric Hipple reflected on playing against the '85 Bears

The DA Show
January 28, 2019 - 12:55 pm

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If you are not an NFL historian, just take it from the experts: passing the ball is a lot easier today than it was in, say, the 1980s.

“The biggest thing was the pressure: I have to throw the ball,” former Lions quarterback Eric Hipple said on The DA Show. “You can never take a sack. I have to throw the ball. If your guys are covered and the pressure is coming in, you got to find a place to throw it downfield – otherwise it’s intentional grounding. (There was) a lot more duress on the quarterback.”

Hipple would know. He played for the Lions from 1980-86 and again from 1988-89. Which means he had to play against the ’85 Bears.

“The year they won the Super Bowl with that defense, it was the defense that actually changed the game,” Hipple said. “We finally had to find a way to break it, which was just spread everybody out. So we shifted the tight end way out, we’d take the half back and put him way out – (it was) a spread offense. You could see it. Once you started seeing it, it started catching on. The nuts of the spread offense started coming in – spreading everything out and spreading the defense so you could see what was going on and turning it into an easier read.”

Still, the Bears defense got its licks on Hipple. In fact, he was once knocked out of a game.

“That was the one that really, really hurt,” he said. “That one hurt. When they came at you, they had a dead run if they got somebody free. Linebackers back then could just put their head down and just (come in) like a missile full-speed, dipping their head down. That was a tough one.”

Of all the great players on that Bears defense – Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, William Perry, Steve McMichael, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson – Hipple was most afraid of linebacker Wilber Marshall.

“Wilber Marshall by far,” Hipple said. “He would line up on the outside end, and if you didn’t pick him up, he’s coming free and he’s running at a dead sprint. To me, that was it. But usually the linemen like Hampton or Dent, when they came through, they maul you. It’s not like a guy running full-speed and dropping his head into you.

“What made that defense fun to play against was Gary Fencik back there at safety,” Hipple continued. “He just ran that whole thing. He was smart. He was checking in and checking out of plays just like a quarterback would. So you’re trying to play this chess game with him, trying to figure him out. That’s what made the game fun. What made it un-fun was when they came free.”