Monday, October 16, 2006

As the fourth quarter of this evening's NFL Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals winds down, it looks like a fair number of pundits and commentators might be calling in sick tomorrow. Physical therapists across the nation will be treating them for a variety of minor injuries like muscle pulls and joint sprains associated with awkward landings. The Chicago Bears bandwagon might have some good seats available this week.

I have complained a time or two that the media make too much of the most recent performance when they do their analysis. The Bears look awful on offense tonight, and the defense hasn't made enough plays to beat the Cardinals. As I write this, the Edge has fumbled and Charles Tillman took it in for the TD. They are not done yet.

It was only a matter of time until Rex Grossman came back to Earth. He take a lot of chances, he doesn't have much game experience. He hasn't had to battle through a bad road performance like this has been to this point (3:27 and counting, now). The Bears, as a group, don't have that much big game experience. Yes, they made the playoffs last season, and there are some holdovers from the team Dick Jauron took to the playoffs.

In those years, they didn't have to battle their way into the playoffs. Their division just sort of opened up for them. Right now, it looks like the NFC North is going to open up for them again. Green Bay is dreadful. Detroit is four back in the loss column. Minnesota has shocked me thus far, by winning a couple of games. I thought they were going to be much worse (and they aren't very good). Chicago has one game remaining against each of their division rivals, and there is no reason to doubt that the Bears could go 5-1, or even 6-0 in the NFC North.

Devin Hester has just returned a punt for a TD with about 3:00 remaining, giving the Bears a 24-23 lead, in a game where Rex Grossman threw 4 picks, and the offense managed to score all of 0 points. If you are a glass half full person, then you see visions of the 2000 Ravens who weathered a multiple game stretch in midseason without an offensive TD. If you're a glass half empty type, the Bears were overrated and Arizona exposed them tonight. Neil Rackers just missed the kick, the Bears won the game.

I am a pessimist, as a general rule, but I'm also a contrarian. The NFL season, as cliche tells us, is not a sprint, but a marathon. The thing is, to get through the season, a team needs some help at different points along the line. Yes, the offense did nothing, or less than nothing when you factor in the six turnovers. Yes, they needed a 21 point effort from their defense and special teams. But is that a reason to abandon the bandwagon?

To those who say that it is a reason to jump off the Bears' bandwagon, I can't deny they looked bad on offense tonight. It made one think with longing of the glory days of Kyle Orton. But I think it's too soon to forsake them. I would like those who want to stop believing in Chicago breakdown the 1972 Dolphins' perfect season. I haven't looked at it myself yet, but I'm sure there must have been one game they could have lost somewhere along that storybook season. At the end of the day, unless you're Billy Beane or Peyton Manning, it's the win that matters.

I posed the question two weeks ago, and it is going to be a running theme as the season progresses. Can the Bears win the Super Bowl? I didn't have a definitive answer then, and I still don't. Believe it or not, I am more inclined to say that these Bears can win it all than I was then. Adversity is important in the shaping of a team's character. Depending on how the Bears come out from their bye week (not just the San Fran game, but the two or three following it), I think I will be ready to give my answer by mid November.

If they can get a more consistent offensive performance, this Bears team could be unstoppable. If they don't calm down a little bit, they are eminently beatable. There is no way this team can go undefeated. I said it to a friend (believe it or not, I have friends) on the blower before the game tonight. They have to play St. Louis in the Edward Jones Dome, and the Bears have not been a good indoor team in their history. There is the three game stretch in November where they play both New York teams and the veritable gods among men that call Gillette Stadium their Valhalla.

The Cardinals were up by 20 in the second half, and collapsed. Some of the better opponent's who will face the Bears as the season progresses will not collapse under the same pressure. The Bears need to learn from this game, and temper their confidence. Perhaps a wave of refugees from the Chicago bandwagon will wake them up.

As a fan of My Name is Earl, I think there is a lot to be said for the effect karma can have. One reason I am reluctant to wholeheartedly endorse this Bears team is that a lot of negative karma is still hovering over the Chicago football landscape. The premature demise of a Bears team that should have become a dynasty atoned for the Super Bowl Shuffle video. For those a more serious punishment should have been meted out, remember that the proceeds from the video went to charity.

There is some negative karma lingering from the Bears Super Bowl team that may never be exorcised. There is a video from the Super Bowl season featuring Harold Washington, then mayor of Chicago with a group of women dressed as cheerleaders. The women sing a song that goes: "Should we give them the finger? Yeah, yeah. We're number one, we're number one, we're number one, one one." I tried to find it on YouTube, with no luck tonight. But you can see it from time to time on extended highlights of the 85 season on ESPN. I'll look again, and if I find it I'll post the link to it.

1 comment:

Piston said...

Let me know if you find it. I've been looking for that for about a week, to no avail.