Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So this is what we've been missing

Week 16: Bears 36, Vikings 30 (OT)

I was excited about the Bears-Vikings game for three reasons:

1) I was allowing myself to be. Though the Bears have given their fans zero incentive to get jazzed up for their games this year, I figured the Monday night affair was essentially their last game of the year. Even if they beat the Lions this coming Sunday ... meh. The game against the Vikings would be the last chance of the season to hope for something unexpected, so I decided to buy in just for fun.

2) Sure, beating teams like the Ravens or Eagles would have been nice, but this game provided some real juicy storylines. With Adrian Peterson struggling, Favre and Childress bickering and the Vikings having lost two of three coming in, the Bears had a chance to throw a nice stomach punch at their already-reeling rival. On top of that, a loss would eliminate Minnesota's chance at the 1 seed and keep alive the possibility that they could fall as low as the 4 seed.

3) Granted, I was practically begging for someone to give me a reason to believe the Bears could actually win the game, looking for something, anything in which to ground my manufactured hope, but I found it on the Chicago Now Website. Brad Palmer, aka The Professor, explored the extreme variance between Favre and the Vikings' play on turf vs. grass. A couple examples: Favre was 12-2 his last 14 games at Soldier Field, and both losses were in December; the Vikings had outscored opponents by 16 points a game on turf, but on grass it was even.

So in front of the TV I sat, armed with pretend hope, buoyed by a bevy of anti-Favre and anti-Vikings sentiment, and comforted by a dash of reasons that the Bears might actually come out on top.

And what do we have here? A 16-0 halftime lead? Adrian Peterson running into a wall of tacklers every time he gets the ball? Pressure on Favre, in one case resulting in a sack and a fumble?

I'm glad I found a way to go into this game believing this type of performance was actually a remote possibility, because otherwise, my brain would not have been able to translate the images I was seeing on the screen. Since when do the Bears play hard for four quarters (plus overtime!)? Since when do they commit just three penalties through an entire game (including overtime!)? Since when does Jay Cutler throw four touchdowns (and only one pick!) and finish with a higher QB rating than Favre?

The answer's easy: since Monday. This instant classic of a game teased Bears fans with what could have been this year.
  • Cutler did miss some wide open receivers and tried to force it a few times, but he had solid protection all day and threw for over 250 yards, the aforementioned four TDs and "just" one interception.
  • Devin Aromashodu, playing because the other Devin--Hester--was out with an injury, made us wonder again why it took this long for him to see time. He piled up 150 yards receiving on seven catches, including the game-winning 39-yard TD reception in overtime.
  • The Bears won the all-important turnover battle by forcing a Favre fumble and by scooping up A.P.'s fumble in OT, which set up the Aromashodu touchdown.
  • Though the Bears couldn't hold a 17-point lead in regulation, they remained focused and played hard in overtime, eventually getting the best of a team that had a lot more to play for.
Unfortunately, we've seen far too little of this type of effort this season. While this game may have been a small work of art in the eyes of the Bears faithful, the big picture remains the same. Congrats to everyone involved on a surprising and thrilling victory, but I hope this doesn't provide the McCaskeys with a reason to stay the course. They may have been searching for any reason at all to justify keeping Lovie and saving $11 million, and I hope this exciting victory doesn't lead them down the wrong path.

My dad wanted to write a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to cancel the game, and I couldn't blame him. As I stated in my game preview, it was frustrating to think that the Vikings got to beat up on the Bears at a crucial point in their season. Was there really a need to play the game and make us suffer through another lackluster performance? Couldn't we just alter the standings accordingly?

But thank you, Bears, for showing up and caring for once. For being disciplined, and focused, and displaying the positive characteristics that any fan has a right to expect from his/her favorite team. It took you 16 weeks to do so, but thanks nonetheless. I'm speaking specifically to the Week 16 version of the Bears when I say: I look forward to seeing you next year.

1 comment: