Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There's no place like home

NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 35, Seahawks 24

Though Forte fell just short of the goal line here, he led a potent Bears rushing attack that racked up 176 yards.

I tapped my heels three times, but it turns out this is no dream--the Bears really are going to be in the NFC Championship this Sunday, and they really will be playing the game at Soldier Field. It's sort of hard to wrap your mind around. But suddenly it all feels so ... real. One win from reaching the Super Bowl. Two wins away from being Super Bowl champions. So it's official, then: this is an Awesome Fucking Season.

The Bears got to this point by introducing Seattle to the back of their hand on Sunday. I started letting my brain think of little other than the game at about, say, 10 o'clock Saturday night. I was awoken by an uncontrollable sense of anticipation around 8 a.m. Sunday morning. I was boiling over with excitement at noon. ... And the game was basically over at about 1:30. A laugher. The Bears put it in drive and pressed the cruise control button, covering the big 10-point spread despite not really so much caring about the fourth quarter.

In his first playoff game since, like, elementary school, Jay Cutler avoided mistakes and helped the Bears with both his arm and his feet. He wasn't superbly accurate (15-for-28), but he amassed 274 yards, found two different tight ends for passing touchdowns and ran two in himself. It was nice to see that the Bears still had some tricks up their sleeve even in their 17th game of the season: since when do they call a QB draw from six yards out? Since when do they stretch the field using Greg Olsen, who had a beautiful 58-yard touchdown grab on the Bears' third offensive play en route to a career-high 113-yard day? The whole Forte Throwing the Ball to the Other Team Experiment was not good, though. Not good at all. No more of that, please.

The real story was the defense, though. Sure, they gave up some junk points late in the game, but they maintained a shutout till late in the third quarter and looked very much like a championship defense. Not until the game was out of hand did the Seahawks do anything noteworthy on offense. I said the game was basically over at 1:30--in reality, it was over when it started because Peppers, Urlacher and Co. had no intention of doing anything other than metaphorically throwing the Seahawks to the ground and stomping on their chests repeatedly. Quite effective, that metaphorical chest-stomping.

So while the Bears sent the Seahawks packing, the Bears themselves will go Packing. An epic match-up with their biggest rival will determine the NFC's Super Bowl nominee, and the Bears get the advantage of playing on home soil. When I bet on the Bears to exceed Vegas's posted total of eight regular season wins earlier this year, I must admit that I didn't exactly think they'd be playing in their third NFC Championship of my lifetime come late January*. But here we are. Bears vs. Packers. It doesn't get any better than this. Unless ...

Enjoy the week, and see you on Sunday.

*My sister Mandy did, though. She had me put money on the Bears to win it all, and I talked her down from a $20 wager to $10. Sorry about that, Mandy. I hope to feel really guilty in three weeks.

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