Friday, November 19, 2010
Grisly truth: Bears are lucky (if not good)
By Gene Wojciechowski
MIAMI -- No matter what happens between now and Sunday night, the Chicago Bears are going to be tied for the first- or second-most number of wins in the NFC.
I repeat, the Bears.
Not only that, but at the very least, they're going to be tied for the division lead and need maybe two, possibly three more wins to lock down a playoff spot.
But why stop there? The way things are going for the Bears, I can see them running the table on their schedule, capturing Osama bin Laden and brokering an airport pat-down compromise. A Super Bowl is a given. Bears fans, buy your plane tickets to JerryWorld now -- non-refundable.
If you want to win Lotto, hang out with the Bears. If you want to find gold doubloons at the bottom of Lake Michigan, hang out with the Bears. They have become the official NFL sponsor of rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers and rainbows.
The Bears won their seventh game of the season Thursday night. Beat the Miami Dolphins 16-0. It wasn't so much a game as it was a three-plus-hour colonoscopy.
"We're winning games," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "That's all that matters to me."
I don't want to say the Bears are lucky, but -- wait; yes, I do want to say they're lucky. And guess what? There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with being halfway to the holy grail of sports combos: lucky and good.
Of course, the Bears are a teensy-weensy sensitive about the subject. They're easily the most criticized seven-win team in the NFL -- deservedly so, at times. Then again, they have experience with getting ripped.
"We know we're 7-3," Bears center Olin Kreutz said. "What people are saying -- people are always going to say that. We went through '06, where we were 15-3 and every game we played
we sucked the whole year. So we ended up in the Super Bowl. We ended up NFC champs. For some reason, sometimes it's like that."
The Bears are really, really OK, but they're not elite. Not yet. They have those seven precious victories, but I still can't put them on the same bookshelf as the NFC's New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints.
But if there's a break to be had, the Bears have gotten it. And more important, they've taken advantage of it. Every single one.
On Thursday evening at Sun Life Stadium, they took advantage of a Dolphins team that featured an emergency third-string center (Richie Incognito) snapping the ball to a third-string quarterback (Tyler Thigpen). The Dolphins' Pro Bowl wide receiver (Brandon Marshall) missed the entire second half with a hamstring injury. The Dolphins' Pro Bowl offensive tackle (Jake Long) played with a shoulder harness apparently borrowed from farm oxen.
So the Bears did what they were supposed to do: They showed zero mercy. Thigpen spent much of the evening running for his life or peeling himself from the turf. The Bears recorded their first shutout in four seasons.
|With this hit on Miami's Davone Bess, Danieal Manning (38) put the exclamation point on the Bears' evening.|
It was painful to watch, but the W sure looked drop-dead gorgeous to the Bears. Where you see acne, the Bears see Clearasil.
"Seven wins -- as far as respect -- you can get respect when you have seven wins," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "A lot of people had a chance to see us tonight, but people's opinions don't really matter an awful lot."
First of all, a lot of people watched
until they fell asleep out of boredom. Second, don't believe the Lovie Doctrine on people's opinions. He notices who says what. And he'll make sure his team knows, too. I would.
The Bears have become grinders. Opportunists. Bottom-feeders. They aren't interested in style points. If they were, they would have done a catch-and-release on the undermanned and overmatched Dolphins.
"It's important to take advantage of any team, whether it's Peyton Manning or whether it's Tyler Thigpen," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said.
Thigpen wasn't Manning. He wasn't even Olivia Manning. The Bears' defense made him look terrible, but seriously, how do you judge the performance against a Miami offense decimated by injuries? It got so bad, I thought the Dolphins were going to ask Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson, who was part of a pregame and halftime ceremony, to suit up.
Jay Cutler was sacked three times, was intercepted once (and it could have been more) and threw for only 156 yards. But he did just enough. Everybody did.
The Bears are blessed. They beat the Detroit Lions in the season opener, but needed a Matthew Stafford injury and a bizarre, last-second nullified touchdown to do it.
They beat the spectacularly underachieving Dallas Cowboys on the road for their second win.
On the week they lost Cutler to a concussion, the schedule gods gave them the Carolina Panthers -- and a win. Carolina is 1-8 this season.
|The Bears think Jay Cutler can make a big leap forward in his second year in their system.|
Their fifth victory came against the then-winless Buffalo Bills. And they didn't even have to play the Bills in Buffalo. Instead, they faced them in Toronto.
They got Win No. 6 against a Minnesota Vikings team that can't stand its coach and is without its best wide receiver.
And then they threw a shutout against the Dolphins, who converted just one third down, had the ball nearly 16 fewer minutes than the Bears and saw Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams rush for a combined 11 yards.
The Bears have six games remaining, supposedly the toughest stretch of their schedule: Philadelphia Eagles, at Detroit, New England Patriots, at Minnesota, New York Jets and at Green Bay. I'm not buying it.
The way things are going for the Bears, Michael Vick will quit football to write his best-selling autobiography, the Lions will forfeit, Tom Brady will skip the Bears game so he can compete in a hair-off with Troy Polamalu, the Vikings will stage an anti-Chilly boycott, Rex Ryan will suffer an M&Ms overdose and Aaron Rodgers will injure himself while doing the Lambeau Leap.
Anything is possible with the Bears, including another visit to Dallas, this one in February.
"That's what we're saying," Kreutz said. "That's what we're saying now: 'Why not us?'."
You know what? Why not?
|Matt Forte rushed for 97 yards on 25 carries against the Dolphins.|
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.
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