A serious case of Pack mentality
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com January 16, 2011 11:06PM
Bears tight end Greg Olsen smiles after catching a first quarter touchdown pass to give the Bears a 7-0 first quarter lead during the Bears 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: April 8, 2011 4:59PM
Here are your two options:
A) The Bears are really good, and the Seahawks are truly mediocre.
B) The Bears are pretty good, and the Seahawks are truly mediocre.
Oh, wait. There’s a third option, advanced by the chanting crowd at Soldier Field toward the end of Sunday’s playoff game:
C) Green Bay sucks.
Can I see a show of hands? That’s what I thought.
In Packer-hating Chicago, critical mass is about to be reached. There’s not going to be enough newspaper ink for the buildup to the NFC Championship Game between these two rivals. There might not be enough cyberspace for the buildup to this game.
Bears-Packers, with everything that goes with it. They came out of the primordial ooze together, and they haven’t liked each other since.
The winner goes to the Super Bowl. The loser will seriously consider moving to Iowa.
The Bears didn’t play their best game Sunday, not even close. And they still won 35-24 against Seattle, which until the fourth quarter didn’t look as if it belonged anywhere near the playoffs.
Dominance on display
The Bears obviously played a role in making the Seahawks look so ordinary. They jumped to a 28-0 lead without the benefit of a Seattle interception or fumble. They piled up 437 yards of total offense. Jay Cutler passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more. The offensive line played well.
What does it mean? It means that the Bears were dominant, or at least dominant when it mattered. And it means that when the Bears play in the NFC title game, it will have been three weeks since their last live action.
I don’t know what the Seahawks are, but the word “live’’ doesn’t come to mind.
So consider the Bears very, very rested for Green Bay.
Give them credit for not taking Seattle lightly, which in hindsight, they easily could have done. But they knew that if they jumped to a fast lead, there was a decent chance the Seahawks would go away.
On fourth-and-one from the Seattle 3-yard line and a 7-0 first-quarter lead, Bears coach Lovie Smith decided to go for it rather than settle for the field goal. Cutler ran for the first down, and two plays later, the Bears had a 14-0 lead. Seattle’s neck was feeling the full weight of Chicago’s foot.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,’’ Cutler said. “We came out of the gates quick.’’
Packers really on a roll
Were there problems? Yes. The defense seemed more than a little uninterested in the fourth quarter, leading to three Seattle touchdowns. It didn’t help that one of those scores came about because the Bears’ Matt Forte threw an interception out of the wildcat formation. What was dumber — the call or the throw?
“I don’t know what that was,’’ a stunned Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said afterward.
It looked like a Bear playing with its food, Matt. It looked like sheer boredom. That won’t be a problem in the next game.
Smith’s decision to play his starters against the Packers in the final game of the regular season looks even better now. The Packers know what they’re up against, thanks to a hard-fought 10-3 victory in Green Bay, and the Bears know they belong on the field with them. It feels like a lifetime ago that the Bears were truly challenged.
So bring on the hated Packers, who enter the NFC Championship Game on a huge roll. If their blowout victory in Atlanta on Saturday means anything, it’s that they’re not the Seahawks.
“They’ve been in playoff mode for the last four weeks now,’’ Bears safety Chris Harris said. “They’ll definitely be ready, but we’ll definitely be ready, too.’’
The Bears spent the last three seasons out of the playoffs. They seemed to come perilously close to getting their head coach fired after last season. But now here they are, one game away from the Super Bowl, against the franchise that’s connected to them by a state line and a long, long history.
“Hopefully, we’re peaking at the right time,’’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
No doubt about it: It’s time
Bears-Packers, Packers-Bears: However you want to look at it. The two teams have met in the playoffs just once before in their 90-year rivalry. The Bears won 33-14 in 1941.
So bring on those Packers. It’s about time for a rematch, wouldn’t you say?
The Bears have led a charmed life this season, and the fact they’ll have home-field advantage in the NFC title game fits that theme. But there will be nothing lucky about a victory over a team as good as Green Bay.
To get to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to beat a team that already has won playoff road games against Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Bring on those Packers.
“They can’t get here fast enough,’’ Harris said.