August 27, 2016

The Fat Lady Fights No More

December 20, 2015

Vikings 38, Bears 17: All I Want For Christmas Is An Identity

The Fat Lady did not just sing for the Chicago Bears on Sunday in Minnesota. She also belched, farted, used profanity and spit in the eye of happiness.

It’s over for the beloved Bears. They are nice fellas with broad shoulders and good hearts but a mistake-filled game against a good Vikings team following two slippery efforts against bad teams has left the Monsters of the Morbid in a shocking three-game slide and officially out of playoff contention.

What went wrong? A lot.

All season long no matter what the Bears did Chicagoans have said that they’re still better off than last year. Were we right? What if this team finishes 5-11 just like in the Trestman days?

The Bears, we are sad to convey, have not had a decent team since 2010, a good team since 2006 an exciting team since 1988 and a championship team since 1985.

But it’s Christmas. So back off, Scrooge.

And get healthy. — TK

 

 

 

 

Redskins 24, Bears 21: Skinned, Beaten, Buried

December 15, 2015

Redskins 24, Bears 21: Skinned, Beaten, Buried

For the second straight week the Chicago Bears lost a game at home they should have won and, for the second straight week, much of the blame falls on a guy who, for a decade, has been the Bears’ most reliable player.

Placekicker Robbie Gould whiffed on a 50-yard field goal attempt with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter, a score that would have tied things up. Instead, it was all over but the whisker-scratching as the Bears fell to a bad Washington Redskins team, 24-21.

We hate Christmas, we fear puppies and sunsets make us puke.

After the Bears beat the Packers on Thanksgiving – a game that feels like it was played in 1988 – we all thought Easy Street was wide open, free of potholes, gay and bright.

But what has followed is consecutive home losses to the 49ers and Redskins, leaving the Bears at 1-6 on their home mud.

Maybe they should start playing home games in Gary. Or Green Bay.

Losing back-to-back home games to Blaine Gabbert and Kirk Cousins reminds us of the time Dane Cook got more laughs than Kim Jong-Un.

The Bears are 5-8, which is also my height, and that’s not going to get any better before January, either.

The Monsters of the Misstep have now also put receiver Kevin White on injured reserve so the rookie first round receiver’s season is over before it ever started. I still want his jersey.

What do we have to play for now besides pride, money and mistletoe?

The 8-5 Vikings are up next. In Minnesota.

Bundle up. Bear Down. Believe in Santa. Say a prayer. –TK

Remembering The Day of the Bear

December 8, 2015

The Day of the Bear

Think of December 8, 1940.

Europe is at war, so is Asia, but the U.S. is not.

The nation is still in the Great Depression and while things are getting better, the unemployment rate is still 14.6%.

Baseball is the most popular sport in the U.S. along with boxing, horse racing and college football. The NFL is a Sunday distraction for many, but not most.

The Chicago Bears arrive at Washington’s Griffith Stadium and 36,034 fans pour through the gates for the league championship game and the Bears, “The Monsters of the Midway” destroy the Redskins in a score that still seems unfathomable and remains the most lopsided game in NFL history, 73-0.

For the Bears, it is their first title since 1933 and they would go on to repeat as champs the next season. That year they beat the New York Giants in a game played on December 7, 1941.

That football game can be considered the last one ever played before the U.S. entered World War II or the first one played during World War II as Pearl Harbor was attacked that very same day.

As Chicago celebrated that ’41 title it must have done so knowing that the NFL, America and the world would never be the same.

And many probably longed for that afternoon 364 days earlier when a crazy score on the gridiron was the biggest story of the day.

49ers 26, Bears 20 OT: An Early Frost

The 2015 season may have hit the wall of irrelevance for the Chicago Bears on Sunday with a 26-20 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

This stunning, puzzling and insulting defeat leaves the Bears at 5-7 as they once again failed in an attempt to reach the .500 mark and firmly grip playoff contention.

After the Bears beat the Packers in Green Bay on Thanksgiving night everyone thought a victory over the woeful Niners was a foregone conclusion. But the other guys, even when they’re bad, get paid too and the Bears probably feel like giving back their paychecks after this one.

The Bears outgained San Francisco 364-291, dominated time of possession 37:24 – 24:46 and have much nicer uniforms and more cultured fans. But Chicago’s first two drives stalled and resulted in field goals when they should have been touchdowns, then Jay Cutler threw a terrible pass that Jimmie Ward plunked out of the Christmas season sky and lugged 29 yards for a score and just like that it was a ballgame.

The Bears luckily – or maybe skillfully –blocked Phil Dawson’s extra point attempt so it was only 6-6. But football’s kicking Gods got revenge later on as Chicago’s normally reliable Robbie Gould ended up missing two field goals – a 40-yarder in the third and a 36-yarder in the final seconds of the fourth – either one of which would have proven the game winner.

The Bears actually switched long snappers this past week so did that have an effect?

Any team can miss a field goal. Playoff teams don’t miss two. And they don’t lose to Blaine Gabbert who connected with Torrey Smith on a 71-yard score in overtime for the walkoff game-winner that left Chicagoans quiet, cold and thinking about hockey.

But then again the Patriots lost to the Eagles and when you lose a game like this you just have to try to compare your team to Tom Brady’s.

In Chicago we thought December was going to be an Advent calendar of contention and anticipation. Now it might be more like Arbor Day in your cousin’s camper. You know, booze, smokes, tears and snowballs.

Arbor Day is OK.

 

Poop on the Packers – Bears Win on Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015

Bears 17, Packers 13: Thanks

We were surprised and thankful to have a rare holiday off and so the day was filled with football, food and frequent thoughts of just how lucky we are.

After a sumptuous dinner of turkey, pasta, potatoes, rolls, cookies, pie and just about everything else delicious and fattening, and after watching the Lions devour the Eagles and the Panthers splatter the Cowboys, a quick drive brought us back home just in time for the primetime event and main course: Bears-Packers, for the first time ever on Thanksgiving.

If only it were that easy.

The smell attacked as soon as the door opened. The beautiful little black lab puppy, Dakota, has been with me for less than a week and has presented many challenges but, until Thursday, had kept her cage clean. Was she left alone too long this time? Did she get some Thanksgiving goodies on the sly?

Whatever the reason, this cute little pup had taken the Browns to the Super Bowl with extreme prejudice, just as the Bears and Packers were getting underway in the cold and rain in Green Bay. We took the dog out and apologized to her profusely for the mess she made because really it wasn’t her fault and so instead of watching the game the first quarter was spent cleaning up poop while listening to the play-by-play.

That was OK; the first quarter was a bit of a pooper anyway as Aaron Rodgers hit Eddie Lacy for a 25-yard score while the Bears offense still looked stuck somewhere between the rain and Kenosha.

Packers 7, Bears 0 and a clean cage.

The dog still had to be fed, though, and the little white and brown domestic short hair cat, Charlotte, who also came home from the shelter just last weekend and, we must add, has just one eye (it makes her look tough) appeared a bit uneasy, too. Maybe the dog crap made her nervous. Maybe her squint made the dog queasy.

By the time Jay Cutler hit Zach Miller for a three-yard score in the second quarter to tie the affair at 7 the dog’s bed had been pulled into the living room so she could be watched while we watched the game.

Her response? She peed on the bed. So it was time to clean the bed, spray it, scrub it, wipe it and dry it while the Packers marched down and Mason Crosby booted a field goal.

Packers 10, Bears 7 and nearly a whole roll of paper towels gone in a flash.

As the Bears fought back through the cold and rain on a 7-play 58-yard drive in just 1:28 and ending in a Jeremy Langford one-yard score Dakota, this sweet, loveable, humble, adorable little pup, looked us in the eye and peed on the doormat.

Bears 14, Packers 10 – get out the paper towels and Lysol again.

Rodgers and the Packers had little time and wasted none of it, taking just 30 seconds to get into field goal position and the puppy took even less time than that to, we’re really not kidding, sprint into the kitchen and unleash a smelly brown and yellow explosion on the kitchen rug and floor.

Halftime: Bears 14, Packers 13 and the Lysol, paper towels and patience have about evaporated. The house smells like poop and pee and we think the dog is getting revenge for the insult of being left alone for more than four hours on a national holiday.

By the time the second half started and Brett Favre had been honored by the Packers with his number retirement – something he richly deserves but we really didn’t mind missing because Favre has ruined a thousand Chicago Sundays – the poop was gone, the dog was calm, the cat was cute and now all the Bears had to do was win this damn thing.

They did, they did, and they did.

It wasn’t pretty but it was filling and fulfilling. It was sort of like putting your whole Thanksgiving dinner in a blender and swigging it down with a Cherry Coke chaser.

Cutler outplayed Rodgers (not by a lot but by enough) and the Bears defense, after letting the Packers march down the field in the final moments, forced Rodgers into four straight incompletions from the 8-yard line and the Bears had this thing won.

The dog looked at the cat, the cat swatted at the dog and we can’t believe we ate two whole plates of food at dinner – plates the size of Goodyear Tires, too.

Rodgers was a little banged up, the Packers offense has not been sharp lately and the conditions were decidedly defensive but, despite all that, credit must be given to the Bears and especially their defense, a crew as resilient and confident as it is resurgent.

Everyone in Green Bay, and 90% of the people in Chicago and the rest of America, thought Rodgers and the Packers were going to score on that last series. And the 10% who didn’t were so lost on Tryptophan they really don’t count.

But in the last three games Vic Fangio’s defense has allowed 13 points, 15 points and 13 points. Two of those games have been victories. The Bears kept Rodgers and friends off the scoreboard in the entire second half and out of the endzone after the first quarter. They’re making plays, getting after the quarterback and backing down from no one.

What nice fellas. I bet their puppies never poop where they’re not supposed to.

Beating the Packers in Green Bay on Thanksgiving night is even more fun than watching a Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Pieces of April and Avalon marathon with your best gal – or your favorite cat and dog – at your side.

The Bears are now 5-6 and still in the hunt for the playoffs but man if only they had beaten the Broncos last week when they really, really, really could have, they’d be firmly sniffing January football.

Now, the postseason is a distant aroma. It’s like the whiff of turkey when you first walk in the house.

Or will the rest of the year be like the aroma of puppy droppings as you regret that fourth Pabst Blue Ribbon?

Thanksgiving is joyous, football is fabulous, and God, family, friends, country, dogs and cats are glorious.

And the Bears drive home in the rain from Green Bay with a game ball. And bragging rights. And the possibility of a happy Christmas not too far down that dark, damp holiday road. – TK

(PS – Why the hell didn’t Snoopy and Woodstock get invited to Grandma’s condo? And what did Lucy, Schroeder, Patty, Violet, Shermy and Pig-Pen do for Thanksgiving? We’ll always wonder.)

Broncos, Bears, Rams, Chargers, London, Fries, Never Forgetting

 

November 23, 2015

Broncos, Bears, Rams, Chargers, London, Fries, Never Forgetting

The Chicago Bears could have beaten the Denver Broncos on Sunday at frigid Soldier Field. Victory, a three-game win streak, a .500 record and a great storyline heading into the Thanksgiving night showdown against the Packers were all just a chilled breath away.

Instead, it was a 17-15 loss to those stubborn, Peyton-less Broncos and the Bears are 4-6 and feeling like cold turkey. And not the good kind that you get to pour hot gravy over. More like the kind that’s the only shard left after your uncle Maury inhales half the frickin’ bird while you’re still on your third pre-dinner Schlitz.

The Broncos didn’t have Peyton Manning at quarterback because he’s older than Sammy Baugh and creakier than a hardwood floor in a haunted house and it’s difficult to say whether this hurt the Broncos or helped them. Denver turned to the young and tall Brock Osweiler who played well and the Broncos’ defense played even better and those were the major storylines.

At least in Denver they are.

But here in the land of hot frustration and heavy disappointment, the narrative is that the Bears could have tied the game in the final minute but failed and did so in a question-raising fashion.

Jay Cutler had marched Chicago down the field and Jeremy Langford scored on a two-yard plunge to make it 17-15 with 24 seconds to play. Then on the two-point conversion the Bears gave it to Langford again and he scampered right between the tackles and hit a brick wall like a drunken crash test dummy.

Broncos 17, Bears 15.

Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase is catching heck for running it instead of rolling out Cutler. Doing so would have given the Bears two, three, four chances of getting into the endzone? Instead, it was Langford or nothing and the Bears got nothing and man, is it easy to second-guess when you’re not on the sidelines.

The Bears are also being questioned for going for it on fourth down earlier in the fourth quarter from Denver’s four-yard line when trailing 17-9, and failing. If the Monsters of the Maddening had kicked a field goal instead it would have been 17-12 and then Langford’s late score would have won it.

That’s football math for you and it’s the kind we fans always get an “A” in but it doesn’t always apply between the lines on Sunday.

What we’re trying to say is the Bears have a banged-up roster, (they played without Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery again) are still gelling under their new coaching staff and faced one of the most talented teams in the league – one that John Fox used to coach – and the contest came down to the final seconds. And the Bears committed no penalties. None.

So yes, we can always question the decisions, but we must also acknowledge that this Bears team plays with confidence and bravado. And discipline.

And those things don’t matter much if not guided by sound decisions but how happy would we run-loving, snow-eating, Bears fans have been if Langford had shouldered his way in?

The Bears lost and deserve to be second-guessed. But the season, while on life-support with the mortuary on speed dial, is not over yet. A win in Green Bay on Thanksgiving night will be better than watching Avalon, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving back-to-back-to-back while downing Schlitz, pumpkin pie and Cherry-Vanilla Coke while Maury snores on the couch.

Thanksgiving dreams.

Part of what makes the Bears’ loss to the Broncos so frustrating is that it comes on the heels of a very impressive 37-13 victory over the Rams in St. Louis. The Bears looked so good in that game many of us thought they were the offspring of George Clooney and Margot Robbie.

And that game was on the heels of a thrilling 22-19 comeback win over the Chargers, a game that we must tell you about how we saw it.

We didn’t.

It was Monday night and good luck had taken us to London. Because it was London and we were trying to feel like it was London we saw a play, a magnificent staging of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape, and it let out and we made a mad dash on the London Underground across town to a bar I was led to believe would be showing football, American football.

It wasn’t. And the kind chaps in the bar didn’t even seem to understand what we were asking.

Still, it was an American-themed BBQ joint so we bought some fries, got back on the train and rode through the pregnant London night back to our hotel. We ate our fries and dozed off, dreaming of the Beatles and the Bears. One was born right next door, the other was half a world away marching down the field, bearing down, breathing fire, and creating dreams.

London, and Paris before that, were great. But it’s good to be back in the land where football doesn’t mean soccer. No offense, but we like what we like. And we like it a lot. — TK

Vikings 23, Bears 20: Silent Running

November 1, 2015

Vikings 23, Bears 20: Purple Pain

The Chicago Bears are now 2-5 after Sunday’s last-second 23-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, the fourth straight game the Bears have gone down to the wire.

Going down to the wire is fun. Until, of course, you trip over it.

The Bears are 2-5 and could be 4-3 as their last two down-to-the-wire losses could have easily gone their way instead of the other way. But we must be honest and say the Bears could also easily be 0-7.

The only thing that doesn’t require two different honest perspectives is that the 2015 Bears are a lot like Matthew Modine’s character “Joker” in Full Metal Jacket. “Joker,” if you remember, was described as “silly and ignorant but he’s got guts and guts is enough.”

John Fox’s Bears have plenty of guts. But it’s not enough. And we’re not saying the Bears are silly or ignorant but we like our little Matthew Modine metaphor so allow us to stick with it. What the Bears don’t have, despite their deep bag of guts, is a deep enough roster to overcome yet more injuries to the offensive line, the backfield and the receiving corps.

How many teams do? Not many. And not this team, this year.

The Bears let this one get away and Fox faces questions about his play-calling and clock management, which is fair. But sometimes it all comes down to one play and when you’re banged up like the Bears are that play has to go your way and this time rookie running back Jeremy Langford dropped a certain first down pass in the final minute and the Vikings got the ball back, Blair Walsh booted the winner and I am three weeks behind on The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead is what the Bears were a lot the past few seasons. This year they’re more like Silent Running. They’re moving, they’re trying, they’re grasping and they’re not giving up.

But they’re alone and cold in space.

And PS….the Vikings are pretty good. –TK

On The Offensive

A look at NFL team statistics through six weeks of the season (all stats below are prior to Thursday night’s Seahawks’ victory over the 49ers, kicking off Week 7) provides a reminder that we are in the age of offense.

The top seven teams in the NFL in scoring offense, starting at the top, are the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

The Patriots are 5-0, the Cardinals are 4-2, the Falcons are 5-1, the Bengals are 6-0, the Packers are 6-0, the Panthers are 5-0 and the Jets are 4-1.

So, of the NFL’s five unbeaten teams, four are in the top six in scoring.

The league’s fifth unbeaten team, the Denver Broncos, is tied for 13th in scoring offense. But Denver is fourth best in scoring defense and second in total defense.

If Peyton Manning were having a better year the Broncos might not just be good, they would be frightening.

Among the team’s ten worst teams in terms of scoring offense, only the 3-2 Minnesota Vikings have a winning record.

A look at the league’s top rated quarterbacks, among those who have appeared in at least three games, (our apologies to Kellen Clemens and Landry Jones) gives us Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Josh McCown.

The top five – Brady, Dalton, Rodgers, Palmer and Roethlisberger – play for teams with current winning records. The bottom five do not. Though the Steelers are 2-1 and have a two-game winning streak without Roethlisberger.

So, is great quarterback play not as important as a balanced overall offense and a respectable defense? We’ll have to check back at year’s end if not sooner to make a decision.

Other Offensive Stuff:

Chicago Bears running Matt Forte leads the NFL in total rushing yards with 507 for an average of 84.5 per contest. The last player to lead the NFL in rushing and win a Super Bowl, or even reach a Super Bowl, was Denver’s Terrell Davis in 1998.

Forte’s Bears are 2-4. His starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, who has played much better this year than anyone outside of Lake Forest, Illinois will ever give him credit for, is still way, way down on the list of QBs, though, with a rating of 86.3.

Still, that puts Cutler ahead of Carolina’s Cam Newton and the Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick who appear playoff-bound.

Who was the last quarterback to lead the NFL in total passing yards for a season and win a Super Bowl?

His name is Mr. Never. No one has ever done it.

The last NFL QB to lead the league in passing yards and win a title in the same season was Johnny Unitas for the Baltimore Colts in 1959, before the Super Bowl era.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Have as much fun with them as you possibly can. — TK

Bears Lose And Get A Week to Wonder Why

Lions 37, Bears 34 (OT): The Blue Lions Laugh Last

If the Chicago Bears had beaten the previously winless Detroit Lions they would be heading into their bye week with a three-game winning streak, a 3-3 record and a whole lot of sunny thoughts.

Instead, a 37-34 overtime loss in Detroit puts the Monsters of the Melancholy at 2-4 and facing a playoff road steeper than Daniel Murphy’s future contract demands.

Without including division leaders, there are five NFC teams with better records than the 2-4 Bears and another, the Seahawks, with the same 2-4 record. And the Bears lose any tie-breaking scenarios with the Seahawks by virtue of having lost to them in Week 3.

Having already made several in-season trades, do the Bears now approach the November 3 trade deadline as sellers? Could running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett or kicker Robbie Gould be getting ready to say goodbye? (Does anyone ever trade for kickers?)

Or do the beloved Bears look over their final ten games in which they will play four teams with current winning records – the Broncos, Packers (both unbeaten) and Vikings (twice) – and a bunch of strugglers and keep trying to improve and hope some dominoes in front of you sprain a few MCLs and fall down?

From our vantage point, these are more intriguing things to consider than the X’s and O’s of the loss to the Lions because while the game was high-scoring and went into overtime and was against two ancient rivals it really wasn’t that good of a contest.

Neither team played particularly well, there were 19 penalties, the Lions fumbled three times, losing two of them, there were questionable coaching moves on both sidelines and it took 13 and-a-half minutes into overtime before someone finally scored.

Ties don’t just make Duffy Daugherty cry.

Yes, the Bears did march down the field in the final moments of regulation to tie it at the gun and send it into the fifth quarter and that was darn fun at the moment, but so was that flower you sniffed just before stepping in raccoon poop.

What are the Bears planning during their week off? What does the rest of 2015 look like? A tunnel? A train? A Jared Goff primer? –TK

Bears 18, Chiefs 17: Just Bearly

As 37,182 runners struggled to the finish line at the Chicago Marathon, our beloved Bears were 500 miles away in Kansas City struggling to keep their season relevant.

Marathons are normally giddy at the beginning, ugly and insane in the middle and heartfelt and life-changing at the end. And this was sort of how it was for the Bears against the Chiefs.

OK, the beginning was not so hot as Kansas City sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the first quarter and Ramik Wilson pounced on it for a touchdown. So it was 7-0 in favor of the Chiefs and the Bears looked lost, felt desperate and no one in the land of Stram & Honey was going to help them.

This theme continued for most of the rest of the afternoon and the Bears found themselves trailing 17-3 at halftime and 17-6 with less than four minutes to play.

So, of course, they ended up winning.

Cutler, playing with fill-ins on the offensive line, backups at wide receiver, Rosary beads in his pocket and a song in his heart, orchestrated two late scoring drives which featured two amazing TD passes and, after Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos’ 5,000-yard field goal attempt at the final gun wobbled feebly to the ground like a chubby Irishman trying to keep up with a Kenyan Olympian, Chicago had an improbable 18-17 victory, a 2-3 record and a whole bunch of good vibrations.

We shall be honest about our situation. The Bears have played three good teams this year – the Packers, Cardinals and Seahawks (the Seahawks are good, right?) – and lost convincingly each time. And the Monsters of Sudden Merriment have played two bad teams – the Raiders and Chiefs – and won by a very short, pimply nose both times.

So, the Bears could easily be 0-5 and feeling worse than the guy who forgot the Gatorade at Mile 23. But they’ve gutted out two straight wins despite a bunch of injuries and, unlike last year, they never, ever show signs of giving up.

And it’s easier not to give up when you’re well coached, have a sound game plan and the Chiefs and Raiders are kind of stupid.

Now it’s on to Detroit to face the Lions who are 0-5 and need a victory worse than a dying mouse needs fresh cheese and a cigarette. The Bears are already believers. A win in Detroit makes them 3-3. It makes them contenders. — TK