Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
By John Mullin
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris just slowly nodded his head at the question: Are the New England Patriots really that good?
Oh yeah, said Harris, who was returned to the starting job hed lost after the second game this season. Theyre that good.
But if the Bears were indeed bent by the New England onslaught on offense and defense in Sundays 36-7 embarrassment, they were far from broken. Harris followed his frank assessment of the Patriots excellence with a de facto prediction:
The Bears and Patriots will face off in Super Bowl XLV.
I feel like well see those guys again down the road, Harris said. Yeah. I feel like we will see them in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots clinched a playoff berth with their win. The Bears could clinch the NFC North division next Sunday with a victory over Minnesota, wherever that game ends up being played, and a Green Bay loss at New England.
But what the Bears take away from Sundays humiliation at the hands of a ranking member of the NFL elite will perhaps be the most important lesson they learn or fail to learn.
The Patriots in the 2001 regular season lost to the St. Louis Rams, then coached by current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Patriots, left at 5-5 at the time by the loss, did not lose again and in fact did see the Rams again that season, beating them in the Super Bowl.
New England on this day, however, showed the Bears a very harsh reality that the Bears may have lost sight of during their stretch of five straight wins before Sunday.
Sometimes you need a good whipping and thats what we got, said linebacker Lance Briggs. A good whipping helps us get ourselves back to where we need to be. A loss like this can be good if it comes at the right time.
The 2010 Bears would not be the first team to be bashed late in the season and move from that loss to a championship. The 1985 Bears were embarrassed in Miami and then not again that season. The 2010 Bears are at their own fork in the road and know it.
If you want to be world champs, theres a difference in the level of play, said center Olin Kreutz. Every once in a while when youre climbing to the top in something, somebody at the top shows you what it takes to be there. If you learn from them and next time you see them you close the gap on them, then this could be a great thing for us.
They showed us today how far we have to go to be world champs. If we accept that challenge, who knows where we could be. We have high-character guys in here. But its easy to be pretty good and its hard to be great and guys have to decide if they want to be great.
Critics, skeptics and doubters may not see the Bears playing more than their scheduled 16 games in 2010 but at least one of the Patriots does.
They are a playoff-caliber team, said nose tackle Vince Wolfork.
Because of the Packers loss to Detroit, Green Bay will have at least two division losses for 2010. If the Bears defeat Minnesota next weekend they will stand at 5-0 in the division and win a tiebreaker with the Packers based on division records, the second tiebreaker after head-to-head, in which the Packers can do no better than a split with the Bears.
Maybe this was all a Bill Belichick-Mike Martz thing. The 40-22 win in 2004 by Belichicks Patriots at the expense of Martzs St. Louis Rams was the worst home loss suffered by the Rams in five seasons.
The last time the Bears faced Soldier Field in-game precipitation like Sundays was on Halloween 1994 and they did not fare much better in the sheets of rain that night either. The Packers buried the Bears 33-6 on the night that the franchise retired the uniform numbers of Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
General Manager Jerry Angelo has never seen a final four games on a schedule to rival the Bears closing stretch of New England, Minnesota, the New York Jets and Green Bay. But as difficult as it may be, Angelo likes the thinking behind the situation. The commissioner had a great idea, putting our division games at the end, Angelo said on WBBM-AMs pregame show. Should be great football.
As positive as much of the offensive line performance has been through the Bears five-game winning streak, the line is still a work in progress and its probably going to be that way to the end, Angelo said.
Rookie defensive end Corey Wootton was a surprise active for Sunday, his third game this season, taking the place of defensive tackle Marcus Harrison in a move to add height in the pass rush against a quick-release quarterback like Tom Brady. The Bears made repeated use of three tight ends in a power-run plan early, using Kellen Davis, Brandon Manumaleuna and Greg Olsen together. Tight end Desmond Clark, however, remained on the inactive list for the ninth game in the last 10..
Nick Roach opened at strong-side linebacker in place of injured Pisa Tinoisamoa for the third time in the last four games. But Roach and Rod Wilson were rotated on alternating series.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.