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Lovie Smith scoffs at suggestion his decision to fly Bears in on Friday could hurt team

Coach Lovie Smith thinks Bears will have plenty time adjust after arriving Londbut history suggests otherwise. | Tom Hevezi~AP

Coach Lovie Smith thinks the Bears will have plenty of time to adjust after arriving in London, but history suggests otherwise. | Tom Hevezi~AP

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BEARS
VS. BUCCANEERS

Time: Noon at Wembley Stadium, London
TV: Fox-32 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa)
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM. • Line: Bears by 1.

Updated: November 24, 2011 8:05AM



LONDON — Lovie Smith is amazing.

The Bears coach has a tremendous antenna for any disrespect, any doubt, any perceived insult he can use to confirm his own perception of the media as the enemy and fuel his team’s need for something else to fight for.

And while it was not a big surprise to discover that Lovie’s antenna works just as well overseas, it was a bit startling that just 63 seconds into his first public appearance in the European Theater, the British press got hit with the first salvo.

‘‘Do you think coming over later [in the week] might affect how your team prepares getting ready for Sunday?’’ asked a reporter from Sky Sports, an ESPN-like pay-TV network in Great Britain.

‘‘You seem to think so,’’ Lovie responded. ‘‘I had a chance to watch the telecast and what you had to say about that.

‘‘No. I don’t think [so]. I felt like it was better for us to have a regular work week in Chicago. Same dressing room, meeting rooms. Surroundings that we know. So that’s what we did.

‘‘We feel like we have plenty of time [to adjust]. It’s like 48 hours or so before we play. We’ll be rested and ready to go. The best football team will win the game.’’

Maybe. Maybe not. The effect of a seven-hour flight, the adjustment to a five- or six-hour time difference in a foreign country and the disruption of the normal routine in a profession that thrives on routines might not make any difference when the Bears (3-3) play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) today at Wembley Stadium. But it’s almost impossible to say absolutely that it won’t have any impact.

When the Bucs played in this game in 2009, they arrived on Friday night — less than 48 hours before kickoff — and lost to the New England Patriots 35-7. This time they arrived on Monday, four full days earlier. Just that they would go from one extreme to the other tells you somebody who has actually participated in the London game thinks the late arrival might have made a difference.

Bears fans have to hope Smith is right, because aside from the hoopla of an NFL game in Europe, this is a huge game for the Bears against a team they could be battling for a playoff spot in December. It would be a bloody shame if jet lag is a factor.

Smith insists it won’t be. But if the Bears prove him right, they’ll be disproving a significant amount of evidence that indicates the earlier you get here the better.

To wit:

◆ In the first four years of the London game, the three teams that arrived on Monday averaged 31 points. The five teams that arrived on Friday averaged 16.2.

◆The three teams that arrived on Monday had a combined two giveaways. The five teams that arrived on Friday had 10.

◆ After the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins arrived on Friday and played a 13-10 game that made soccer look like pinball, the NFL had the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers arrive on Monday the next season. The Saints won 37-32 in a game that made soccer look like soccer.

◆ There appears to be an adjustment factor for all teams in the London game. The offenses have scored 19 points in the first quarter and 63 in the fourth quarter. In 2007, when the Patriots arrived Friday morning and the 0-6 Bucs arrived Friday night, the teams combined for six interceptions in the first half — including two by Tom Brady.

◆ The only other time one team arrived on Monday and the other on Friday, the 1-6 San Francisco 49ers (Monday) beat the 2-5 Denver Broncos (Friday) 24-16 at Wembley last year. The Broncos didn’t score until the third quarter against a team that had been allowing more than 24 points a game. Hmmm . . .

So therein lies the challenge for the Bears today. They have a chance to beat the odds and prove that Sky Sports guy wrong. If the motivation of vindication is a cure for jet lag, they just might be in business.



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