Some history for the taking
By RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org January 16, 2011 11:06PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Every 70 years or so, the Bears need to play the Green Bay Packers in the postseason.
They did it back on Dec. 14, 1941, one week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and they’re doing it again this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
Back then the game was held at Wrigley Field; now it’s at Soldier Field, dedicated, in part, to those who fought in World War II, which started for the United States during the week of that last meeting.
History aside, this is some wild deal here.
After the Bears trashed the over-reaching Seahawks 35-24, coach Lovie Smith calmly — ever calmly, forever and ever — said he had thought it was not just possible the Bears would play the division-rival Packers in the postseason, but likely.
“Yes, I did,’’ he stated. “I thought that after we played them up there. I thought it could easily come to us. . . . A lot of people probably thought it could happen this way.’’
Not really. But the 70-year itch is comin’ round!
And what a scratch it will be when the Packers — who have played the Bears 181 times, the most meetings by any two teams in NFL history — come to town to play for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
“We don’t like them,’’ said Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, setting the mandatory tone for this archrival match, “and they don’t like us.’’
It may be true that the Bears aren’t supposed to like the Packers, and vice-versa, but it’s also possible neither team means that much to the other except as a stumbling block to success.
Fans, though, that’s different. Fans live in these places. They don’t speak lightly of, for instance, the Cheese Curtain, or forget that the Packers have tried to dismember certain Bears through the years or that the youthful, not-yet-battered or over-sexted Brett Favre made his fame in Green Bay.
Urlacher on Cutler: ‘Awesome’
In Sunday’s mismatched divisional playoff game, the Bears outgained the Seahawks 437 yards to 276 and held the ball for more than 14 minutes — nearly one full quarter — longer than they did.
Quarterback Jay Cutler’s play was outstanding, with 274 yards passing for two touchdowns and 43 yards rushing for two more TDs.
“Awesome,’’ Urlacher said of his quarterback’s play, mentioning that he didn’t know how a quarterback could play much better.
The passer rating of 111.3, the lack of interceptions, the beautiful spirals on long TD passes to tight ends Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis — all of it was sweet.
Cutler’s field decisions were proper, and the Bears running the ball 45 times was exactly the way it should be done.
But it’s likely that beating the Seahawks is not that much of a conquest. I mean, can you imagine a team making it this deep into the playoffs and finishing with 10 losses?
Moreover, the Packers, who once were barely over .500 and decimated by injuries, are now 12-6 and led by a quarterback who is at least as fired up as Cutler.
On Saturday, the Packers’ leader, Aaron Rodgers, demolished the NFC No. 1-seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21 — on the road — by completing 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers has the knack of being able to throw lasers, scramble to buy time, hit receivers you didn’t think were open, or even take off on his own. Indeed, he ran twice for 13 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta.
Sounds kind of like Cutler. Sounds just like him, when Cutler’s locked and loaded.
Two foes really quite similar
In fact, these two teams, with 24 wins between them, have styles of play that are remarkably similar, based on the premises of the Rust Belt/bad weather/Black-and-Blue Division — rugged defenses, intense special teams, all-out effort, and offenses that desperately want to run but usually end up throwing for the money.
“They know what we do,’’ Cutler said of Green Bay. “They know what we’re good at.’’
Same the other way.
So there it will be on Sunday afternoon, in the deepest part of winter — two teams of history so evenly matched and focused (they split their two regular-season games, the Bears scoring 23 total points and the Packers 27; Packers winning there, Bears winning here) that you have to think the result will come down to something silly, like a seagull bombing or crowd noise.
Home field means something, doesn’t it?
“It just doesn’t get any better,’’ Lovie said, calmly as ever.
But experts could detect a note of giddiness coming our way.