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MORRISSEY: Bears’ real season starts Monday

Quarterback Jay Cutler’s numbers aren’t thimpressive but Bears’ defense has been outstanding. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Quarterback Jay Cutler’s numbers aren’t that impressive, but the Bears’ defense has been outstanding. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:22AM



Nothing against the Colts, Rams, Cowboys or Jaguars. A check of the standings indicates all are real NFL teams doing business in actual cities, though Jacksonville is less a metropolitan area than a life sentence of T.G.I. Friday’s, tanning salons, cellphone stores and Walmarts.

 Did I mention all four teams are fine examples of organizations that play American football? Good.

The Bears’ season begins Monday night against the Lions at Soldier Field.

That might seem unfair, seeing as how the Bears are 4-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Doesn’t what came before count for something, if not a lot? Of course it does. The Bears have taken care of business against the aforementioned teams, with the only blip coming against what will end up being a very good Packers team by the time the season is over. Lots of teams haven’t taken care of business so far.

But let’s try to inject a little restraint into the conversation — a conversation that last week had local sports-radio yakkers putting “Bears” and “Super Bowl’’ in the same sentence, quite likely the result of mood-enhancing substances.

Besides Green Bay, the Bears haven’t played anyone of consequence yet. It’s why the real season starts Monday night. In the next month, they play, among other teams, the Lions, who are better than their 2-3 record suggests, the 6-1 Texans and the 5-2 49ers.

Eight of the Bears’ 11 remaining games are against teams with records at .500 or above. Of the five teams the Bears have played, only the Packers are over .500.

That’s not pessimism talking. That’s not an example of looking at the glass as half-empty. It’s an example of looking at the glass and saying, “That’s a glass with liquid in it.’’

We’re going to have a much better and much more realistic idea of what this team is by the time December rolls around. I’m not sure we have a very good idea now, as the clock ticks toward kickoff against Detroit.

 Let’s see what the Bears’ defense does when the turnovers dry up — and they will at some point. No team can keep returning so many fumbles and interceptions for touchdowns, though the Bears will say space travel once seemed impossible, too. They lead the NFL with five pick-sixes in five games. That’s a ridiculous number.

“They’re scoring points at the same rate as we are,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said in wonder.

Let’s see if the Bears can continue to win at the pace they’re on with Cutler’s passer rating at 78.7 and his completion percentage at 57.7. Going into Sunday’s games, he was ranked 25th and 28th, respectively, in those categories.

And let’s see what Cutler will do when he has to win a game by himself in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Monday night? It certainly helps that the Lions’ secondary has been awful.

I’m not trying to be a buzz kill here. I’m trying to point out that the Bears will have to raise their game, especially offensively, as the challenges get harder and the generosity of the opponents disappears.

You’d prefer to be lifted up? OK. The Bears lead the NFL in scoring defense, Brandon Marshall is really good, the running game is better than expected and the formerly old, creaky defense doesn’t look so old and creaky anymore.

These are all good things moving forward into this new season.

The Lions are the Bears’ real archrivals these days, and it’s a rivalry built on cheap shots and post-whistle high jinks. That’s a good thing for the Bears because there’s a natural tendency to look down on a last-place team. The Lions haven’t blown out anybody or been blown out.

Thanks to a bye week, this will be the Bears’ first game in more than two weeks. Is that good or bad? What does it mean? It’s like a double rainbow: I don’t know. If they win, we’ll say you never want to give coach Lovie Smith that much time to prepare. If they lose, we’ll say Smith let rust take over.

It was cool in Chicago last week, which is why Smith was smiling and talking about “Bear weather.’’

The temperature at kickoff figures to be in the 60s, and there could be some rain. Sounds like weather any football player would like.

Fine conditions for a season opener.



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