January 3, 2014
Packers 33, Bears 28 – Agony and Epitaph
Any good will Chicagoans enjoyed on Christmas was quickly destroyed when the Bears lost to the Green Bay Packers, 33-28, in the season-ender at Soldier Field, a defeat which kept the Bears out of the playoffs, put the Packers in, and made Aaron Rodgers laugh harder than Kim Jong Un watching The Killing.
We know how it happened and really don’t want to talk about it but maybe doing so will be somehow therapeutic, like hitting oneself in the face with a chunk of yellow ice.
The Bears led, 28-27, with 46 seconds to play. The Packers had the ball on Chicago’s 48-yard line. It was 4th-and-8. The Packers had already converted twice on fourth down on that drive. Rodgers goes back to pass, the Bears blitz, the season and the good grace of God are on the line and then how the hell did Randall Cobb get so wide open?
Packers 33, Bears 28.
Once again the Bears’ defense found a way to not find a way and the result was the saddest Sunday night in Chicago history.
The Bears had an 8-6 record and were in the NFC North driver’s seat. All they had to do was win of their final two games and they were in. Instead, they drove Mom’s Pinto straight through the doors at 7-11 and asked for a rancid Slurpee.
The defeat to the Packers came 50 years to the day after the Bears won the 1963 NFL title by defeating the New York Giants at Wrigley Field and two days before the 25th anniversary of the “Fog Bowl” playoff win over the Eagles at Soldier Field.
This means there were Bear ghosts all over the place but, painfully, none of them could play safety.
A season that had such promise ended with a kick in the crotch, a pinch on the nose and a promise to aim better in the bathroom the next time.
One year after going 10-6 with a good defense and a suspect offense the Bears, in their first year under head coach Marc Trestman, slid to 8-8 with a good offense and a defense with slower reactions than a drunken gang of sloths.
The Bears finished with 445 points this year, second most in the NFL. They surrendered 478 points, tied for second worst in the league. They are schizophrenic, bipolar and odd.
So, what do the Bears do? The very thing they should have done. They re-signed quarterback Jay Cutler.
Some Bears fans love Jay Cutler, some hate him, and all would like to borrow some money from him. The Bears gave Cutler a new seven-year deal worth at least $50 million and are counting on him to continue to learn Trestman’s offense and become the Pro Bowl championship quarterback we have been waiting for for nearly 30 years.
Cutler is not as good as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Amy Adams but he’s good enough. The Bears have a dynamic offense and, in Cutler and Josh McCown, two good quarterbacks. The Bears did the right thing. They did not waste time. They are going head-on into their offseason with no uncertainty on offense and a determination and focus on using the draft and free agency to make the defense, seriously now, mediocre.
If Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and the offensive line perform as well in 2014 as they did in 2013 and, seeing as it will be their second season in this offense there’s every reason to think they might get even better, then all Chicago’s defense will need to do is be OK.
Cutler is coming back, so are guard Matt Slauson and cornerback Tim Jennings but many others will likely go, especially on defense and especially because Lovie Smith now coaches the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will likely bring in some of his old pals.
Bears defenders Chris Conte, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are likely gone, but Brian Urlacher is coming back. Just kidding.
The Bears will look a lot different the next time they take the field. They are heading into a brave new world of offensive football but cannot, like they did this year, completely leave their defensive roots behind. They must think back to that ’63 team that won by hitting hard. They must remember that ’88 team that won in a fog. The Chicago Bears must push on through the cloud of the future and the hiss of the past.
They must win 12 regular season games.
They must win the Super Bowl.
They have two more seasons of reasonably expecting this offense to be dominant. Two more seasons to fix the defense.
After that, the fog gets thicker. The past grows less forgiving. The future becomes stuck in fear.