Bear PAWS: Plenty at stake for Bears and Cowboys

Bear PAWS: Plenty at stake for Bears and Cowboys

Growing up in this world isn’t easy, and so we tend to look to the adults around us for guidance. These grown-ups, whether they be our parents, teachers or mentors, offer words of advice that matter.

Occasionally, they’ll use a phrase or two over and over, as if these “pearls of wisdom” will sink into our brains and clarify the universe’s mysteries. Personally, I still don’t quite get the phrase “a stitch in time saves nine,” but, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” makes sense to me as an adult. Looking at the 2019 Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, the saying “six of one, half a dozen of the other,” becomes crystal clear.

The Bears and Cowboys are alike in unusual ways, such that even their dissimilarities have incongruous similarities, reflected in mirroring 6-6 win/loss records. Basically, it’s hard to tell them apart, so I suggest we use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) to pry answers from two indeterminable teams with identical records.

Currently, Dallas is the only NFL team ranked in the top 10 in overall offense (eighth) and overall defense (eighth) that doesn’t have a winning record…or losing record. How’s that for “six of one, half a dozen of the other?”

The Cowboys on offense and defense are tied for sixth in passing TDs scored (23) and in TDs allowed (14). Strangely enough, they’ve rushed for 12 TDs while surrendering 11 TDs on the ground, further demonstrating a knack for being counterproductive.

In a weird confluence of karmic energies, Dallas’ margin of defeat in its six losses looks like this: away (-2), home (-2), away (-10), home (-4), away (-4), and home (-11). Clearly, we are dealing with universal forces beyond mere mortal comprehension, but, for the sake of trying, please keep reading. As fate would have it, both Dallas and Chicago have three home wins and three home losses, meaning they have exactly three road victories and been defeated three times on the road, too.

On the season, the Bears have passed for 2,631 yards; however, they’ve allowed teams to pass for 2,666 yards against them. Offensively, Chicago’s total of 24 TDs makes them the sixth-worst scoring team at 17.7 points per game. Conversely, surrendering 23 TDs defensively ranks them fourth overall at 17.3 points allowed per contest. Chicago, for all its mid-season woes, has won three of their last four games played and appears to be trending upward.

Collectively, both teams are puzzling and downright frustrating to understand. Last season, each team won their respective division and sent eight members apiece to the Pro Bowl.

Confounding defeats to losing teams decidedly below a .500 winning percentage (Chicago to Chargers and Cowboys to Jets) speak to a disconnect somewhere between the players and coaching staff.

Ironically, the Cowboys possess the only non-losing record in a division of sub-.500 teams, whereas Chicago is the lesser of three teams without a losing record in the NFC North. Thursday night’s contest for these two 6-6 teams may help determine which organization is ready to step forward...then again, it might not. If the Bears are going to take account of themselves and the rest of their season, this week facing the Cowboys they must:

● Contain Dak Prescott, the NFL’s passing leader in yards (3,788) and among the leaders in yards per attempt (8.5 y/a).

● Take advantage of their sixth-best punt return unit (9.3 y/ret) and use field position against Dallas’ sixth-worst punt return team (5.6 y/ret).

● Keep faith in Mitch Trubisky’s ability to win in the clutch (Mitch has two game-winning drives to Prescott’s zero this season).

Potentially, Chicago and Dallas still have a “playoff glass” to sip from if only shallowly. However, when Thursday’s game ends, one team’s cup might be a tad fuller than the other’s.

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Back in Miami for the Super Bowl, Devin Hester still remembers THAT touchdown

Back in Miami for the Super Bowl, Devin Hester still remembers THAT touchdown

It's been 13 years since Devin Hester took the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI back for a touchdown in one of the most electrifying moments in Chicago sports history. 

As the football world converges in South Beach for only the second time since that night, Hester –– who will be in Miami all week on behalf of the NFL-affiliated company On Location Experiences -- talked with NBC Sports Chicago about what it was like in that moment. 

"Oh man, it was nerve-wracking for me," he said. "Being a rookie coming into the NFL and then playing in the one of the biggest games of the year, the Super Bowl, and not only that, but to be the first one to touch the ball, it was intense."

"I was very nervous. At the same time, I was one of the players that always wanted the ball in my hands on big stages, so knowing that opportunity was a 50/50 chance of me getting it first, I just wanted to make that opportunity if I did get that chance to get my hands on the ball the first play of the game."

And if that wasn't impressive enough, the touchdown isn't even the clear-cut favorite for Hester's favorite play, and for good reason: 

"I would say it had to be in the top 2. My other one was pretty much the same thing, my first year in college, first game of the season. Pretty much the same thing, taking the opening kickoff back. Those two have to be the favorite moments of my career."

Bears Season in Review: Eddie Goldman

Bears Season in Review: Eddie Goldman

It seems like an annual talking point at this time in the offseason: Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman is one of the best yet most underrated players in Chicago. His performance in 2019 continued that career narrative. 

Goldman finished the year making 15 starts with 29 tackles and one sack. He earned the eighth-highest Pro Football Focus grade among all Bears defenders and remained the consistent run-stopping force in the center of Chicago’s defensive line. 

To be fair, Goldman wasn’t as dominant as he was in 2018, when his 89.1 PFF grade was one of the best at his position in the NFL. But in terms of his role with the Bears, he’s irreplaceable. 

Goldman is entering the third year of a four-year, $42 million contract and will quickly become a source of contract negotiations once again. If he has another strong season in 2020, GM Ryan Pace will have little choice but to lock him up on another extension. Sure, that seems like it’s way down the road, but big-time defensive linemen get paid big-time contracts; Pace has to be prepared. There are currently six defensive tackles making at least $14 million per season.

Quality nose tackles are hard to find. They don’t fill up the stat sheet and rarely do they ever become league-wide superstars; but the Bears’ defense simply wouldn’t possess the upside it does without Goldman anchoring the defensive line, and that remained true in 2019.