February 21, 2018

Bears 21, Buccaneers 13: Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Team With More Touchdowns

The NFL is sort of like a nudist colony in that you always hope to find someone who looks worse than you.

And so for the second straight week the Chicago Bears discovered the football equivalent of that fat naked guy with more hair on his back than his head and, for the second straight Sunday, the Monsters of the Slowly Upward Mobility squeaked out a victory.

This time the unwashed farm animal was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a team that makes a corpse look spry, as the Bears won 21-13 at Chicago’s soggy Soldier Field to improve to 5-6.

But even though the Bucs are sloths with thigh pads the Bears once again had to fight back. The Bears, because they’re silly little rascals, again started out a bit sloppy and unsure and trailed 10-0 at halftime, just as they did the week before against the Vikings at Soldier Field but, just like they did against the Vikes, Chicago rallied in the second half and even beat Tampa by the exact same 21-13 score that did in the Vikings.

Marc Trestman’s halftime speeches must be getting quite saucy.

To say that the Bears needed this victory is like Aron Ralston saying he’s really glad he didn’t have to cut off his other arm, too, because while the Bucs are bad they’re a different kind of bad. The Bucs came to Chicago coached by Lovie Smith, the man who roamed the Bears’ sideline for nine years and took Chicago to a Super Bowl after the 2006 season, and Tampa is quarterbacked by Josh McCown, who was Jay Cutler’s backup with the Bears last year and often was much better.

If the Bears had lost to those guys Chicagoans would not have been clamoring to get them back, they would have been clamoring for an icicle in the eye.

If you look at (some of) the numbers, McCown looked better than Cutler again on Sunday, compiling 341 yards through the air with two touchdowns while Cutler only put up 130 yards and one score. But McCown, whose greatest trait with the Bears last year was probably that he almost never turned the ball over, was picked off twice by the Bears on Sunday while Cutler was not intercepted at all.

McCown also lost a fumble, so did Cutler, so the old pals have something to talk about.

Chicago’s defense, which has more haters than Nickelback, kept the Bears in the game, bending but not breaking and making some big plays until the offense awoke in the third when Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery for a two-yard score. A few minutes later it was ‘ol reliable, running back Matt Forte, who scampered for a 13-yard TD run and then, after a Ryan Mundy interception of a poorly thrown McCown pass deep in Bucs’ territory, it was #22 again, this time for a one-yard TD, and the Bears suddenly led 21-10.

See, that’s how you do that.

This was one third quarter we were glad not to be stuck in the bathroom.

The Bears dodged the rain and fog and a few threats from Tampa in the fourth, most notably forcing Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson to fumble at Chicago’s seven yard line, killing a great scoring chance, before the clock eventually hit zeros and could it be that these Bears are really still alive?

Sure, they’re beating bad teams but that’s what not-bad teams do.

Our Bears are 5-6 and now head to Detroit for Thanksgiving to break bread with the Lions, a team with a lot of star power but not a lot of consistency. Sound familiar?

After that the Bears host the Saints, then the Cowboys, then are visited by the Lions before finishing 2014 in Minnesota.

The Bears need to win all of those games to finish 10-6 and have postseason hope. So which one of those games is a probable loss? Which of those teams is absolutely better than the Bears?

The answer is: the Cowboys. But that game will be in Chicago, at night, in December.

These Bears cannot do it, can they? They cannot make it three straight victories by winning in Detroit and keep alive the prayer of winning seven straight to rally from the depths of football folly to reach the playoffs.

They just can’t, they can’t and they can’t.

Can they?

It’s worth watching.


Rams 42, Bears 21: Dome and Doubtful

The Chicago Bears played their worst game of the season on Sunday, losing 42-21 to the Rams in St. Louis but still held ground in the playoff race because the NFC North is about as solid as Derrick Rose’s knees.

The Bears should have won this game if you consider several things: One, they were playing the Rams.  Two, they were playing the Rams.  And three, Bears quarterback Josh McCown completed 36 of 47 passes for 352 yards, two touchdowns and one interception whereas Rams signal-caller Kellen Clemens completed just 10 passes for 167 yards, one score and no picks.

McCown’s rating was 102.4, Clemens tallied 86.7.

The NFL is supposed to be a pass-happy, quarterback league and when your guy nearly doubles the other guy you should win.  However, someone forgot to tell the Bears that you can still do something called run the ball and the Rams obliterated their northern visitors in this regard, outrushing Chicago, 258-80.

The Rams rush parade began on the their third play from scrimmage when receiver Tavon Austin sprinted untouched for a 65-yard score leaving Bears defenders grasping and gasping in his wake.  It was pretty much downhill from there.

Actually, the Bears didn’t play too badly for stretches of this thing.  McCown, whose solid play is now expected and not surprising, kept Chicago close and the Bears were only down by six with seven minutes to play after Michael Bush ran for a one-yard score.  But it was a run by Mr. Bush a few minutes previous which may have sealed the Bears’ fate.

The Bears trailed 24-14 midway through the third quarter when, after a very long, impressive drive to open the second half, they had first-and-goal from the St. Louis four.  What followed was two incomplete passes, a McCown scramble to the one and then a Bush run.  Or rather, a Bush pancake.  Michael got hogtied and assaulted by Rams linebacker Jo-Lunn Dunbar for a four-yard loss.  The Rams took over on downs and marched for a field goal and a 27-14 lead.

Can’t score from the four?  Can’t get it in from the one?  Didn’t want a good ‘ol field goal?  The shame in this for the Bears is it keeps happening.  Two weeks ago the Bears lost to the Lions, 21-19, because they couldn’t convert a two-point conversion when Bush got destroyed in the backfield.  The Lions seemed to know exactly what was coming and the Rams must have watched enough tape because Dunbar did, too.  Bears coach Marc Trestman has made his bones over the years by authoring solid passing attacks and making smart decisions.  He hasn’t suddenly gotten dumb but he is suddenly being caught making the wrong call far too often.  And when you keep making the wrong call it looks like you’re guessing.  And guessing badly.

It seemed over at this point but it wasn’t.  Devin Hester came to the rescue when the future Hall-of-Famer returned a punt 62 yards for a score to make it 27-21.  But wait, there’s a flag.  Holding on Bears blocker Craig Steltz.  The Bears would then end up scoring on that drive on Bush’s touchdown but it was seven minutes later.   And Bush’s TD was a minute after a McCown TD pass was called back because of a holding penalty.

The Bears racked up 84 yards in penalties on Sunday to just 39 for the Rams.  This was one week after the Bears out-flagged Baltimore 111-46 (but won.)  The Bears suddenly look like a sloppy team.  And, considering the Bears’ onslaught of injuries, when you put sloppy on top of unlucky you either get a really funky sandwich or a suddenly slipping football team.

Those injuries are a big part of the reason the Bears cannot stop the run.  It’s a reason, but not an excuse.  And if it is an excuse, well then just shut up because this is the NFL which stands for No excuses you whining little Fink, you just Lost again.

A St. Louis gentleman by the name of Benny Cunningham ran 13 times for 109 yards and a score against the Bears.  He then signed up for two weeks of standup in the Catskills.

Cunningham is a rookie out of Tennessee State who had never run for more than 72 yards in an NFL game.  His jersey number is 36.  And he torched the good kids for 109 yards?

Zac Stacy dinged the Bears for 87 yards and a TD on just 12 carries.  At least he wears #30 which looks a little more like a running back number and less like a third string safety.   Stacy is also a rookie.  From Vanderbilt.  Ouch and ouch.

Next week the Bears go to Minnesota to play the Vikings and a certain chap named Adrian Peterson.  Mr. P. ran for 146 yards against the Packers in a 26-26 tie on Sunday, (Sidebar: How do you feel about ties?  Who wants to sit in the cold for four hours in Green Bay and then go home not a winner nor a loser but just a victim of frostbite?  This, of course, almost happened in the Broncos-Patriots game as well but, thanks to Wes Welker, someone finally lost.  Sorry, Wes.  You’re a good player.  Still can’t decide, though, whether New England’s victory was epic or Denver’s collapse was pathetic. But should the NFL change to college rules for overtime?  Heck no, Old Man NFL doesn’t like things like that.  Why not?  It would be fun as hell to see teams trade scores.  The league wants to emphasize offense anyway so why not?)

…Anyway, where were we?  Oh yes, Adrian Peterson, who is second in the league in rushing, ran for 100 yards against the Bears in September and had two 100-plus yard efforts against Chicago last year when the Bears’ defense was actually good.  So what can happen this coming Sunday?  There is serious discussion among Bears fans (and probably Vikes fans, too) that Peterson could do something historic or, from the Bears’ perspective, tragic, and run for 300 yards.  This would break his own NFL record by four yards and, obviously, make him the first 300-yarder in league history.  Will it happen?  The Bears are allowing 145 rushing yards per game, worst in the NFL.  It can happen.

Despite Sunday’s kick in the grizzlies, which dropped the Bears to 6-5, they are not out of the playoff race.  In fact, they’re right in the thick of it because no one in the NFC North won on Sunday.  As mentioned, the Vikings and Packers settled for a draw and the Detroit Lions lost to the suddenly seaworthy Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21.  The Lions might be better than the Bears, they beat them twice, but they’re not good.

But in the NFC North good might not be needed.  Last year the Bears won 10 games but were left home for the playoffs.  This year, nine wins might get you fitted for the NFC North crown.  Maybe eight.

It’s a hill, not a mountain. But it’s full of rocks, broken glass, cigarette butts and bleeding dreams.  Be careful where you step.  But start running.  Tackle, too.

****Extra Football Writing At No Charge****

Let’s give some credit to Jeff Fisher’s Rams. They’re without their top QB, Sam Bradford, but have won two straight (including a 38-8 thumping of the Colts two weeks ago) and are now 5-6 and possess an outside chance at the postseason. Too bad they play in such a tough division.

Speaking of the Colts, what has become of them?  They were swinging big balls all season long but have now lost two of three, the blowout against the Rams and then this weekend getting eaten alive, 41-11, in Arizona by the Cardinals.  Let’s talk about those Cardinals.  How many NFL fans outside of Arizona, maybe even inside Arizona, realize the Redbirds are 7-4?  Problem is, like the Rams, the Cardinals are in the NFC West behind the Seahawks and 49ers.  Arizona plays those two teams in the last two weeks of the season and playoff possibilities could be at stake for all involved.

This past weekend’s NFL games were played in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Back in ’63, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made the decision to play a full slate of games two days after the President’s death and was roundly criticized then and in the years after and Rozelle later said he made a mistake.  Rozelle had been told that JFK would have wanted the games played.  The young President loved football.  He was due to flip the coin for the Army-Navy game that weekend.  That game was delayed.

Eventually everything went back to normal.  But it never went back to the way it was.   — TK


Bears 23, Ravens 20 – Strange Winds Were Blowin’

The Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens took a side trip through the Land of Oz on Sunday and their return ended in a wet and weird 23-20 overtime victory for the Bears that kept them in the hunt for the playoffs and left the Ravens in a very bad spot.

But none of that really matters.

It was just a football game but it could have been catastrophic and was, indeed, deadly for some people just several hundred miles away from Chicago’s Soldier Field.

The Ravens led 10-0 in the first quarter when severe winds, rain and dark clouds that looked like they were drawn in hell descended upon Chicago’s lakefront having already, in the form of tornadoes, cut a deadly path through southern and central Illinois, ripping houses to shreds, tossing cars like blades of grass and killing at least eight people.

No one at Soldier Field knew at that moment that the weather had killed people but everyone was well aware of the potential danger and the game was, rightly, delayed.  The officials sent the players into the locker rooms and Soldier Field staff told the 62,367 fans to move inside.  The delay lasted one hour and 53 minutes.

Then, it was time for football again.

The Soldier Field grass, which is widely considered the worst playing surface in the NFL, had been transformed into a muddy bog of potholes and the game became a test of which team could better handle the delay and navigate the striped minefield.

It proved to be the Bears.  It was close, but we’ll take it.

Josh McCown was at quarterback again for the Bears in place of the injured Jay Cutler and Mr. McCown continued to impress, playing about as well as a QB could amid challenging conditions and against a depleted but proud Ravens defense, completing 19 of 31 passes for 216 yards, one touchdown and, amazingly again, no turnovers.

In #12’s four games of action he has completed 60.4% of his passes for five scores, no turnovers, and a quarterback rating of exactly 100.0% which is higher than Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Alex Smith and, among others, Tony Romo.  If McCown keeps playing – Cutler is expected to be out at least one more game – he will certainly, at some point, throw an interception and make bad decisions.  But for now, he’s a joy to watch.  He’s precise and cautious, yet completely unafraid.  The Bears want Cutler back, to be sure.  But if Josh has a few more good games they might not be so vocal about it.

McCown’s best play of the game came in overtime when he connected with tight end Martellus Bennett for 43 yards setting up Robbie Gould’s game-winning 38-yard field goal about six minutes into the extra quarter.  Sixty-two thousand Bears fans, most of whom had gutted out the rain and wind, celebrated wildly and the Bears had their third victory of the year against the AFC North.

But the heroics of McCown, Bennett and Gould would not have been possible if the Bears’ defense, which has been criticized more than Rob Ford, had not come up big.

Chicago’s first touchdown came when defensive end David Bass intercepted Joe Flacco for a 24-yard interception return in the second quarter.  It was the fifth defensive touchdown for the Bears this year.  Since 2005, the Bears are 25-2 when the defense scores and have won 11 in a row when getting a defensive TD.

Those TDs are nice but you also have to do it the old fashioned way sometimes and just stop people, and the Bears, who are still missing Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Shea McLellin and just about every other defender who’s making big money, did that, too.

Baltimore won the coin toss to start overtime and the Bears were able to hold Joe Flacco and Ray Rice’s crew to one first down before forcing a punt.  Prior to that the Bears defense did allow Baltimore to drive down 96 yards at the end of the fourth quarter for the tying field goal. That cannot be denied.  But the Bears at least were finally able to come up with some clutch tackles and kept Baltimore out of the end zone.  Maybe they shouldn’t have been in that position but they were, and they got it done.

The Bears’ defense still has much to answer for.  Ray Rice, who is having a terrible season, got healthy on Sunday running for 131 yards and a score against the Bears who have running backs all over America licking their chops. The Bears are allowing 133.9 yards rushing per game, second worst in the NFL, and have given up 11 rushing scores, which is tied for fifth worst in the league.  Oh Henry Melton, where art thou?

The Bears are now muddied, bloodied, battered and 6-4.  The Detroit Lions lost on Sunday to drop to 6-4 and the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers also fell and are 5-5 so Chicago’s chances of winning the NFC North, which it will probably have to do to qualify for the playoffs, remain ripe.

The campaign continues with a trip to St. Louis to face the 4-6 Rams.  Some of the Illinois tornadoes struck near St. Louis so that city is feeling the pain of what happened on Sunday just as much as Chicago is.  Hopefully this coming Sunday’s game will help fans in both cities gain some solace and, at least for a few hours, forget a terrible afternoon when thousands had to take shelter.


Lions 21, Bears 19: It’s Better To Be a Wounded Bear Than an Annoying Lion

Just when the Chicago Bears thought they had it all figured out they get kicked in the groin, bitten on the ankle, pinched on the triceps and spat upon by a gang of worms.

The Bears followed up their electrifying Monday night victory over the Packers in Green Bay by returning to Chicago and falling to the Detroit Lions, 21-19, thus losing a chance to control the NFC North and giving Nick Fairley an ego boost he normally only receives in a buffet line.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was back in the saddle after missing the Green Bay victory with a sore groin and came out smokin’ – throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall on the Bears’ first drive for a 7-0 lead.

After that, it got a little grisly.

Cutler seemed out of sync and the Bears offense was stuck on “stun” and managed just two field goals for most the rest of the game.  Finally, with two minutes to play and trailing 21-13, Cutler, hobbled by a gimpy ankle, gave way to Chicago’s newest folk hero, Josh McCown.

McCown, who played like the tallest kid on the block against the Packers and Redskins, engineered a precise two-minute drill, hitting Brandon Marshall for an 11-yard score with 40 seconds to play.

Then, with math being the obstructionist it often is, Chicago needed a two-point conversion to tie and that’s when Fairley, the Lions defensive tackle and the toughest guy in Michigan not named Suh or Seger, mugged Bears running back Matt Forte, threw him to the ground, said a few things about his hair and possibly his heritage, then performed a disturbing kick-type dance that would have been funny if the chunky Soldier Field turf wasn’t soaking with Bear blood.

The Bears should have thrown the ball on the two-point try, which they actually did do the first time, and failed, but a penalty gave them a second shot.  They should have tried again.  That’s easy to say now and many would say it was easy to see on Sunday.

The Bears also should have pulled Cutler earlier or maybe they never should have played him at all.  Cutler is a tough dude, a gamer, a warrior, a fighter and a bit bedeviled.  He actually wasn’t that bad for most of the afternoon but anyone could see he was hurting and, since the Bears lost, and just barely, (just “bearly?” just “Fairley?”) we cannot help but jump on the bandwagon that waves the banner that McCown should have started and Jay should have been given another week off.

There was more to the game than that, but not much more.

The Bears defense, which has been more maligned than healthcare.gov, played better than in previous weeks and only gave up the winning score on a pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson with two minutes to play in part because Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was hurt.  Really hurt. More on that in a minute.

But a team that has known nothing bad luck all year can’t afford a game with bad decisions and the Bears made a few of them.  First, the Cutler thing.  Then, within and around that, one week after heroically converting on fourth down against the Packers, the Bears went for it in the second quarter against the Lions on fourth-and-one and didn’t make it when a 44-yard field goal attempt was an easy option.

When you pass on a three-pointer and end up losing by two that’s tough to explain to the judge.  Fat, drunk and two points short is no way to go through life, son.

The Bears should have beaten the Lions because they were at home, have a better coach and a generally more pleasant disposition. Life’s tough when you play outside.

The Bears are now a very pedestrian and troubling 5-4 and can still make the playoffs but those who are betting on that are the same people who are determined to be Facebook friends with Abe Vigoda.

Up next for the Maybe Nots of the Midway is a visit from the Baltimore Ravens who won the Super Bowl last season but are now just 4-5 and refusing to answer Ed Reed’s text messages.  Cutler won’t play against Baltimore.  That’s OK.  He needs to rest and McCown knows how to drive stick shift, parallel park and only uses GPS at night.  But Tillman is also out, and he’s gone for the rest of the season.

The Bears defense has now lost Tillman, Lance Briggs, Henry Melton, Nate Collins, D.J. Williams and all their magic beans.  Cutler might be the Bears’ most important player but Tillman is their best player.  He’ll probably be ready for the playoffs but, again, think Abe Vigoda.

Or maybe not.  The Lions, c’mon comrade, are still not that good.  The Packers, at 5-4, are still without Aaron Rodgers.  And Green Bay is the only opponent in the Bears’ final seven games with a winning record.

A lot can change in a week.  Seven weeks can change a lifetime.


Bears 27, Packers 20: At Last

For the past 20 years the Green Bay Packers have dominated the Chicago Bears primarily because Green Bay’s quarterbacks have been Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers whereas the Bears quarterbacks have been Jim Harbaugh, Peter Tom Willis, Will Furrer, Steve Walsh, Erik Kramer, Dave Krieg, Rick Mirer, Steve Stenstrom, Moses Moreno, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller, (pause and catch your breath.  OK, start again.) Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Kordell Stewart, Rex Grossman, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese, Jay Cutler, Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Jason Campbell and Josh McCown.

But on Monday night the Bears beat the Packers, 27-20, in Green Bay because, for the first time since Johnny Carson retired, Chicago actually had a better quarterback and, just as surprisingly, a better plan.

Bears quarterback Josh McCown played terrifically, if not brilliantly, subbing for the injured Jay Cutler and was far superior to Packers signal caller Seneca Wallace.  Wallace, of course, was only playing because Aaron Rodgers was injured on the first series of the game after leading Green Bay down the field like a hot knife through knackwurst, effortlessly carving up the Bears’ defense before getting hurt on a sack by Bears defensive end Shea McLellin.

So in came Wallace, who was bad.  And the Bears topped the Packers for the first time since 2010 because, as an organization, they had put two capable quarterbacks on the roster while the Pack only had one.

Duh, right?  But amazing.  For frickin’ once the Bears had an organizational view, a game plan, field execution and a quarterback that, all told, were better than those of the Packers.

And it took all that to win by a touchdown.

The Bears got lucky.  Maybe that’s what we should have said first.  If Rodgers’ left (non-throwing) shoulder doesn’t go places it wasn’t intended to the Packers beat the Bears almost certainly, no matter how well McCown, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery played because Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football and the Bears’ defense is about as reliable as a Nicolas Cage movie.  Sure, it can surprise you but wait for it to show up on Netflix.

But Rodgers went down on a clean play and the Bears, who have known nothing but injuries this season, were finally in line to catch a break so stick that in your Winnebago and back off for a second, OK?

The Packers have had a ton of injuries, too, maybe even more than the Bears, but the NFL is largely about weathering injuries and making sure you have a decent quarterback and the Bears might actually have two of them.

McCown finished 21-of-42 for 272 yards and two touchdown passes: a 21-yarder on an acrobatic catch by Brandon Marshall in the first quarter on a ballsy throw just as McCown was about to be sacked, and another on a six-yard strike to Jeffery in the fourth.  And, just as importantly, McCown was not intercepted in this game, aiming low and away, putting his passes where only his receivers or the grass could touch them.  He was accurate and refused to be intimidated by the circumstances (he’s 34, after all) and thus let the Bears’ coaching staff stick with a game plan that looked very much like it probably would have if Cutler – or Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees – had been playing.

The Bears threw the ball on their first six offensive plays and only turned to the run not because they had to, which is probably what everyone expected from the very beginning, but when they wanted to.  This, in Bearsland, is revolutionary offensive stuff.

The exemplification of this attitude and execution came in the fourth quarter.  The Bears got the ball at their own 11-yard line with 9:48 to play and held the ball for the next nine minutes, perambulating down Lambeau’s green way with urgency, purpose, focus, attitude, serenity and success, resulting in a Robbie Gould 27-yard field goal that put the Bears up 27-20 and left the Packers in a bad spot, with little time.

The key play on this final Bears drive came early on and, if the Bears do end up making the playoffs, could be a season-definer.  It was fourth-and-one from their own 32 and Chicago went for it.  Forte ran left, was hit behind the line of scrimmage, but then punished his way for a three-yard gain and a first down.  Somewhere George Halas was smiling.  Vince Lombardi probably was, too.

The Bears are now 5-3, same as the Packers, and own the tiebreaker over the Pack as they get ready for the NFC North’s other 5-3 team, the Detroit Lions, at Soldier Field.  The word is that Cutler will be back from his groin injury for the Lions game but, with the way McCown has played over the last six quarters, the Bears can let Cutler take a little bit more time.  This is not to say that Chicago has a quarterback controversy.  Don’t be silly.  If McCown has another great game then it might be time to get silly, but not now.  But the victory over the Packers, and McCown’s charming competence, give the Bears a little breathing room.  If keeping Jay out another week lets him get back to 100% then do it.  That’s what Josh McCown is for.

The Bears still have a lot of bricks to lay.  They gave up 199 yards rushing to the Packers and can’t really be criticized for their tackling because they didn’t really tackle at all.  Running on the Bears is easier than farting in a cornfield and strong safety Chris Conte is the smelliest kernel in Chicago.

Mr. Conte was serviceable, promising, and sometimes pretty darn good in his first two seasons but, at the ripe old age of 24, seems to have lost a step, his grip and probably his starting job.  Bears fans have clamored for years to move All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman to safety and Conte is, regrettably, only providing more ammunition for this argument.  Move Tillman to safety and put the capable Zack Bowman in at corner.  Or, if you’re of the mind (understandably so) that you don’t make a great player learn a new position, then simply put Conte on the bench and bring in Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters or Sean Cattouse.  Or go shopping.

The Bears’ special teams remain an adventure.  Adam Podlesh averaged only 35 yards a punt and had one punt blocked and Devin Hester had no long returns.  Special teams in Chicago used to be quite special.  Now they’re a broken pencil.

But who gives a fly’s eye?!  Really!  We beat the stinkin’ Packers!  Yes, Rodgers was hurt and yes, if both teams were at full strength – which never happens in the NFL – the Packers probably are better.  But stop giving me that look, damn you, and hand me a Schlitz, light my cigarette, play some Clash on the jukebox and let us love this damn thing!

Bears 27, Packers 20.  Rejoice.  Revel.  Relax.  Repeat.

Christmas In Hell

Maybe Scrooge was right.

The only thing more depressing than getting pummeled mercilessly by the Packers in Green Bay is having it done on Christmas.  On national TV.  Wearing a new sweater.  And nothing else.

It was all over but the post-mortem for the Chicago Bears even before the Christmas massacre at Lambeau but the 35-21 nutcracker officially eliminates the Bears from playoff contention and allows all Chicagoans to spend the rest of winter giving love to the Bulls, Blackhawks and the ghost of John Belushi.

Starring under center this week for the Bears was Josh McCown who just a few weeks ago was coaching high school which is what Lovie Smith might be doing next fall.  McCown fared better than his predecessor, Caleb Hanie, largely because the Bears committed to running the ball even though they were also once again without Matt Forte and Marion Barber.  Kahlil Bell got the call and responded with 121 yards on 23 carries which makes Chicago supporters wonder why he wasn’t given much of a chance to be Forte’s caddy to begin with.  Maybe we never needed Barber.

McCown went 19/28 for 242 yards, was picked off twice and tossed a meaningless touchdown so late in the game that Lambeau parking lot bratwursts were already half price.  But putting McCown on the same field as Aaron Rodgers is like putting Ernest Borgnine on a Victoria’s Secret dating site.  Rodgers shredded the Bears defense going 21/29 for 283 yards, no interceptions, a career-best five touchdowns and six votes for Christmas King.

There was some hope for the Bears at various points in this one just like there was some hope at Jonah Hill’s house for a VD-free Hanukkah.  But every time the Bears got close it was like the kid who finally finds a good hiding spot in the darkened basement during hide-and-seek and then farts.

Six weeks ago looking forward to this matchup was like getting ready to unwrap a really big present under the Christmas tree: You didn’t know what you were going to get and the bigger the box could mean the greater the disappointment but whatever happened, it was going to be worth talking about.  Instead, with no Jay Cutler or Forte and the Bears coming off four straight losses and the Packers no longer in pursuit of perfection this one was about as fun as flirting with a member of the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Watching the Bears secondary against the Packers receiving corps makes Baby Jesus cry.

The Bears have now done something no NFL team has probably even attempted before: losing to the same team four times in one calendar year.  That’s right, last season’s regular season finale was in January and it was that loss to the Packers that allowed the Pack to sneak into the playoffs where they promptly jacked the Bears a few weeks later in the NFC title game in Chicago.  The Bears then fell to the Packers at Soldier Field again this September and now this, the Christmas Crapathon.

The Bears now get to ring in the New Year in Minnesota, which is sort of like losing your virginity to some knotty pine.  The Bears-Vikings New Year’s Day game won’t have Cutler, Forte, Adrian Peterson or any TV viewers.  Once the ugliness on turf is over the Bears will, instead of getting ready for the playoffs, prepare for an offseason in which they have to seriously consider firing their head coach, GM, offensive coordinator and traveling secretary.

The Bears need to make changes.  They need to draft better and get pissed off that the NFL’s charter franchise has not been the league’s best since 1985 and has only won two championships since 1946.

The Bears have a long, long way to go before they’re an organization anywhere near the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Ravens or Google.  But they owe it to us to try.  It’s the least they can do after ruining Christmas, crapping on Kwanzaa and giving Cris Collinsworth more excuses to talk.