Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Really, could it have played out any other way?
No, it couldn’t have.
The Bears, these soldiers of good fortune, will face sub-.500 Seattle in their first playoff game because the Seahawks stunned the defending-champion Saints on Saturday and because the Packers beat the Eagles on the road Sunday.
Improbable? No, these are the Bears. Everything is probable with these guys.
If there’s a path of least resistance, the Bears will be given it and courtesy cars. That’s just how they roll. And so the team that wasn’t expected to do much this season will play the team that didn’t do much this season. The game will be at Soldier Field this Sunday, and we’ll be waiting to see what else falls in the Bears’ favor the next several days.
Let’s open the betting with the possibility of Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck coming down with German measles.
Nobody should be surprised if the Packers upset the Falcons this week so that the Bears can play the NFC Championship Game at home.
And, yes, that would mean the Bears would play Green Bay for the chance to go to the Super Bowl. That wouldn’t be luck or providence or serendipity.
That would just be very, very cool.
In a season in which most everything has gone the Bears’ way, more went their way Sunday. They got help from the rival Packers, who did enough to hold off Michael Vick and the Eagles in a 21-16 victory. When Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson hurt his left knee in the first quarter, the attentive Bears fan nodded his head: Of course. The Bears have benefitted from injuries to opposing players all season.
(When Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch avoided eight would-be tacklers en route to a 67-yard touchdown run to put Saturday’s game out of reach against the Saints, the Bears had to nod, too. That looked like the sort of thing that would go their way.)
Jackson went off script by coming back for the Eagles in the second quarter, but by that time, it was 14-0 Green Bay. It would’ve been 21-3 Green Bay at halftime if the Packers’ James Jones hadn’t dropped a wide-open pass just before the end of the second quarter.
The Bears need to mail some thank-you cards.
They need to thank Packers rookie James Starks, who gave Green Bay a running game it hadn’t had much of the season. He rushed for 123 yards Sunday. He had 101 yards in four regular-season games.
They need to thank the Green Bay defense for doing a nice job on Vick & Co.
They need to thank Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for being as steady as a metronome.
They need to thank David Akers for missing two field goals.
And they need to thank Packers cornerback Tramon Williams for picking off a Vick pass in the end zone to all but end the game.
That the Seahawks beat the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 6 probably will be a footnote in Chicago this week. That was before Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense found themselves. That was two weeks before the bye week, before the Bears went on a five-game winning streak.
And it does seem like ancient history. Cutler was sacked six times in that game, and Matt Forte averaged 1.4 yards on eight carries. The offensive line has improved since then. So has Forte.
That was those Bears, not these Bears.
To be clear, in an anybody-can-beat-anybody-else league, the Bears could have beaten any of the three potential divisional playoff opponents — New Orleans, Seattle or Philadelphia. They already had beaten the Eagles this season. New Orleans at Soldier Field in January? Doable.
But the Seahawks are the opponents that best reflect how this season has gone for the Bears. Scuffling out of the weak NFC West, Seattle comes in with the lowest degree of difficulty. No one is saying the Bears are a juggernaut. No one is saying they can take any opponent lightly.
But if they can win a game when a Calvin Johnson touchdown is taken away on a bizarre rule; if their next opponent after a Cutler head injury happens to be woeful Carolina; and if they are fortunate enough to face third-string quarterbacks in three consecutive road games, then the 8-9 Seahawks are the perfect playoff opponents.
By the time coach Lovie Smith is done talking this week, Seattle will be a phenomenal team with the exact kind of momentum that toppled the former Soviet Union.
But come on. These are the Seahawks, not the Patriots.
And these are the Bears. They make things happen, and, more to the point, good things have a way of happening to them.