History, heart, good fortune and, yes, talent = Bears win
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org January 21, 2011 12:24AM
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may not be quite as good as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, but he has similar size, style and running ability. | Jim Prisching~AP
Updated: April 21, 2011 4:47AM
The Bears can beat the Packers.
And they will — if history, heart and good fortune have anything to do with it.
The Bears have talent.
I am reminded here of what Joe Namath told me 35 years ago when I asked him if his underachieving, way-below-.500 Jets had talent.
‘‘If you win, people say you have talent,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re not winning, so I guess we don’t.’’
The Bears are 12-5, and you don’t win 12 games with walk-ons.
That they played the weaker-than-water 8-10 Seahawks in Chicago in the divisional playoff game is not their fault. That they have had good breaks all along, including getting home-field advantage throughout the postseason is, again, not their fault.
That the Bears whipped the Cowboys 27-20 down in Arlington, Texas, in the second game of the season — back when everybody thought the Cowboys were Super Bowl-caliber — is not their fault.
This thing called luck is what happens in the NFL. No unlucky team has ever won anything.
If you don’t get some breaks — like having teams punt to Devin Hester — you’re screwed. But then, if those teams don’t kick to Hester, they lose field position by aiming out of bounds or maybe even shanking punts. Their bad luck? No, your talent.
The Packers have All-Asteroid quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is so hot he couldn’t be extinguished if a carbon-dioxide truck fell on him.
But Rodgers did not get voted to the Pro Bowl, if that counts for anything. And wasn’t Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the hottest thing on earth until the trash-talking Jets shoved his pretty face in the coals?
And who beat the Jets 38-34 the day after Christmas?
The Bears have a quarterback, Jay Cutler, who may not be quite as good as Rodgers, but who has similar size, style, running ability and ‘‘escapability.’’
Not as good as Rodgers, but close. And that’s high cotton.
If Cutler is in sync with offensive play-caller Mike Martz, and the Bears run the ball about half the time and Cutler doesn’t force passes — why can’t the Bears win?
Remember how Cutler cut up those Cowboys that September day in their glorified Vegas casino, completing 72 percent of his passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 136.7 passer rating?
He can do stuff like that.
He can do it again. He can match Rodgers zip for zap.
The Bears and the Packers split their regular-season games, each winning at home. And no matter what anyone says, the Bears could not have mentally tried their hardest up at Lambeau Field in the last game of the season, when they knew they already had the division clinched.
Yes, the Packers went down to Atlanta last week and smoked the No. 1-seeded Falcons 48-21. Terrific.
Last week the Bears roasted the Seahawks 35-24.
That’s a combined 82 offensive points scored by the teams in their most recent games.
Think that will happen Sunday?
No way. This will be a game that could be decided by a fumble, a dropped pass, a blown field goal in the last seconds, and it will have a score closer to the 13 total points scored when they last met.
‘‘We know each other,’’ said Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on Thursday at Halas Hall. No secrets.
So there’s one last chance to make that familiarity work.
If veteran stars Urlacher, Hester, defensive end Julius Peppers and outside linebacker Lance Briggs don’t realize how this game is key to their legacies, they’re fools. And I don’t think they’re fools.
Cutler, who had never played a postseason game in college or the NFL until five days ago, can change his image, too. He could become almost . . . cool?
Coach Lovie Smith, more placid than ice, has to be boiling with desire inside. Coach your team to two Super Bowls? In NFL lore, that’s real big.
This is a big game for Chicago, for all those screaming fans who should count for at least a point or two.
The Bears are on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, and that’s a jinx?
Not when you’re fighting invaders in The City That Works.
Bears 16, Packers 14.