I should probably start out by saying that while a rabid Bears fan, I for one was never talking that 16-0 noise. Of course I’ve wondered aloud about how cool it would be to stop hearing stories about some Dolphin’s team with Bob Griese at quarterback and even hypothesized about it being possible if they could just make it out of Gillette Stadium alive. Luckily, the Dolphins ended any of that silly discussion that was even infecting the major media. On the flip side of that, I realize the Bears lost to the Dolphins, but suddenly they are terrible? Come on, even great teams lose games they probably shouldn’t, so expecting merely a good Bears team to not stumble is ridiculous. So what are we left with after their victory in the Meadowlands on Sunday night?
The simple answer to that question is we are left with a pretty good football team in the Bears, and as things stand right now they are probably the class of the NFC. That seems pretty clear to reasonable people as the Bears have their division pretty much in hand, and the inside track on home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They have beaten the favorite to win the NFC West (Seahawks) and they have beaten the first placed team in the NFC East (Giants) which many were picking to be a serious Super Bowl contender. Am I trying to say the Bears haven’t had an easy schedule, absolutely not. Merely by virtue of playing in the NFC North this year, added with the scheduling gods placing them up against the NFC West has provided the Bears with one of the easier schedules in the league. That being said, they have pretty much handled their business thus far. Aside from the Miami game, they have won the games put in front of them, many of them very impressively I might add. I don’t know how much more we can ask for them.
As for how they are winning, it seems that because the Bears win on “fluke” plays, a lot of sports “experts” aren’t sold on how good they are. First of all, I only see one win that can be attributed to so called fluke plays, that being the Arizona game. Some people have been lumping in the Giants game because of the Devin Hester return of the missed field goal, but more on that later. So, assuming they lose both those games, instead of 8-1, they are 6-3. That still puts them a full 2 games clear in their own division and tied for second place in the NFC with New Orleans and Seattle. They would still only have one really bad loss (Miami), a loss against the Giants in Giant’s Stadium, who would now be the team leading the NFC, and a loss at Arizona who one can assume would be having an at least somewhat better go of it if their season hadn’t exploded in that Monday Night game against the Bears.
I know a lot of teams that would take 6-3 with only one loss that they had no business losing (Where all my Detroit fans at?). How is it that the Bears are 8-1 and are getting less credit than a 6-3 Giants team? Can we all imagine if a Eli lead Giants’ team was 8-1 how nuts the media would be going with that. The Giants have easily looked as shaky as the Bears have at time, yet we here more talk about how the Bears are not as good as 8-1 and more talk about how the Giants are probably the best team in the NFC. I’ve never really bought into the whole East coast bias thing, so you can probably substitute any other team for the Giants in that hypothetical and get the same point. For whatever reason, the national media loves to hate Chicago sports teams. Even when they are playing well, which to be perfectly honest, isn’t that often nowadays, more of the focus is on their shortcomings than their strengths.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m out here saying the Bears are going to win the Super Bowl and no other team has a shot. I clearly recognize that the AFC is the much stronger conference and likely whoever their representative will be, will be heavily favored over any NFC team. The real point is, can anyone honestly say that the Bears lack the ability to go to the Super Bowl. They, in all likelihood, will have home-field advantage throughout and their defense gives them a chance to beat any team in the league on any given day. But yet, sportswriters refuse to be rational about things. They say that Rex Grossman is looking to inconssitent to QB a Super Bowl wining team. They say that the Bears win games on fluke plays. They say the defense is overrated. Really? Let’s think about this for a minute.
- Rex Grossman is too inconsistent: This is probably the most valid point against the Bears having a chance to be successful in the playoffs. In reality, it may not be as big a deal as people think. Hmm, playoff football in Chicago in the middle of winter. . . sounds like running the ball is going to be a lot more important than the passing game, call me crazy. I would also argue that Rex hasn’t been inconsistent at all. He has been perfectly consistent in that when he has time in the pocket, he looks like a Pro-Bowl QB, when he has pressure in his face, well he looks a lot like Ryan Leaf. A couple of things about that: 1) He’s just now playing the equivalent of a full season, so he should become more accustomed to dealing with pressure in the second half of the season and 2) The offensive line has been banged up and has had a tough time with speed rushers (I.E. Jason Taylor). So either the offensive line needs to get healthy, or Lovie needs to design better protection packages; both of which are extremely likely to happen.
- The Bears only win because of “fluke” plays: Like I said earlier, you might only be able to chalk two victories up to these, but I’ll address it anyway. The writers seem to be saying that the Bears only win on fluke plays, and you can’t count on them to be there consistently. Even if that was true, how many times does it have to happen before it no longer becomes a fluke? Eight? Eight sounds good to me. The Arizona game is a perfect example. Which play exactly was a fluke? The missed block that led to a fumble and touchdown return? Missed blocks happen all the time, maybe Mark Anderson deserves some credit for causing the fumble and Mike Brown has consistently shown that he has a nose for the ball and making big plays so him returning it for a touchdown isn’t really that hard to believe. Urlacher’s strip on Edge? Yeah, when the defensive player of the year creates a turnover I usually describe that as a fluke. The Devin Hester punt return? PLEASE, that man has been doing that shit since high school. If you hadn’t noticed he’s kind of made himself a nice little career returning kicks. So I understand the desire to want to call that comeback with no help for the offense a fluke, but really, when a defense is TRYING to score points more than just stopping people, and they have the personnel to do it, let’s just give them some credit for accomplishing their goals. Oh, and while we’re at it, the Hester missed field goal return against the Giants, did you think that he was back their for his health? The Bears practice that play because they know that coaches like Tom Coughlin will let their kickers talk them into poor decisions, especially when you play in a place like Chicago where the wind isn’t always conducive to kicking. I realize this is the first time since LAST YEAR that the Bears took a missed field goal back for a touchdown but calling a fluke implies that they were just kind of lucky and did something good that they weren’t actively trying for. Clearly not the case in any of these situations.
- The Bears’ defense is overrated: I’m really not going to lookup all the stats to tell you the Bears defense is the best in the league because I’m sure there are probably teams that give up less yards or less points or might even cause more turnovers, but does that mean the Bears’ defense is overrated? How is it that a mediocre hitter in baseball that seems to hit a little better with men on base or in the playoffs is automatically anointed clutch, but a football defense that makes HUGE plays when its team needs them most becomes overrated? This goes back to the defensive philosophy of the Bears. I can’t emphasize this enough, but they go out there with two goals: 1) hit you until you bleed from it and 2) score points. So what do they do, they hit harder enough to be considered an SEC team and they cause turnovers that they either convert, or they set their offense for easy points. There is something about the Bears defense that whenever the other team is inside either 20, they just become unreal. I can’t remember the exact stat, but last week I saw that the Bears only give up points about half the time the other team gets inside the red zone. If that is overrated then I am perfectly content with having an overrated defense.
So yeah, I’ll stick with my fluke plays and the inconsistency of my starting quarterback as long as the Bears keep winning games, which they haven’t given any indication they plan on stopping anytime soon. Despite what I’ve heard being discussed by certain Detroit and Minnesota fans, the Bears DO have their division wrapped up, so I’m going to go ahead and crown their ass NFC North Champions. They are probably 3 wins away from me crowning their ass the first seed in the NFC, and with a game against Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay left, I’m going to go out on a limb and crown they ass with home-field advantage until the Super Bowl. Maybe not as bold as you are used to here on Joboo, but I like to make my predictions rational.
PS. For any of you that watch Around the Horn and go “Well isn’t Jay Mariotti from Chicago and saying the same things everyone else is”, just realize that everyone from Chicago thinks that Jay is a giant joke, and we find it funny that people from other parts of the country actually take him seriously enough to value ANYTHING he says. Dude writes for the Chicago Sun-Times which ranks just above your local community college paper in the literary hierarchy. I’m just saying.