Bears

Can the Eagles save the Bears from themselves?

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Can the Eagles save the Bears from themselves?

Monday, Dec. 27, 2010
1:54 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Philadelphia Eagles can do the Bears a favor by winning Tuesday night. They may be saving the Bears from themselves.

Some teams benefit from bye weeks in playoffs. The Lovie Smith Bears are not one of them. If the Eagles lose, the Bears will have the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which is good, and they would have it in advance of their final game, which is not good.

A little background setup here first:

A Philadelphia win over the Minnesota Vikings in the special weather-induced Tuesday Night Football event is in fact pretty likely. The Vikings have (literally) been traveling around with a thundercloud hanging over them and dumping snow and worse all over them the past few weeks. The dome collapse forced them over to Detroit and a thrashing by the New York Giants (insert joke here).

Then the Bears hang 40 points last Monday night despite Drama Queen Bretts Willis Reed impersonation with the can-you-believe-hes-going-to-start?! Nonsense. Now the perfect storm plays out with the postponement out east.

All of which makes Minnesota that perfect Bears partner.

By losing to the Eagles, the Vikings would ensure that next Sundays flexd Bears game will matter for the Bears quest for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Perversely, this is a good thing, because the Bears have not handled these situations, where because of byes you can rest key players in final regular-season games, at all well recently under Lovie Smith.

The Bears had a first-round bye clinched in 2005, rested Rex Grossman and others against Minnesota, had their week off and then couldnt get the engines re-started in The Great Steve Smith Embarrassment in the divisional round.

In 2006 the Bears rested players in a meaningless sleepwalk against (coincidentally) Green Bay. Then, again they could not get find the On switch after their week off and needed two fourth-quarter defensive stops and overtime to escape at home against the Seattle Seahawks, a team they had beaten 37-6, at home, in the regular season.

The bye week is a good thing. The early clinch and resting players is decidedly not. (And repeating a clarification from earlier this season: The Bears have not had a bye week yet. What they had back in October was an off week. A bye is when you advance in a tournament, like the NFL playoffs).

Predictably perhaps, Smith doesnt see the pitfalls and perils of taking his foot off the gas in last regular-season games.

I think we kept the pedal down then, he said. In 05, we lost. In 06, we went through the same schedule and we won. Either way, you can get the job done. I think the 06 team was better, and thats why we won. I think it still comes down to that.

But that actually makes my point. The 06 team was better, yet barely defeated a team it had previously destroyed.

Still, Smith has lived by things like rotations of players and limits on contact as ways of keeping players fresh, and thats worked pretty well. So hes not likely to deviate from the fresh guys approach at this point.

I think by resting a few guys, I dont think you all of a sudden -- if guys get 20 less plays or something like that in a game -- that all of a sudden they stop playing good football, he reasoned. I just dont see it that way. If we were in a position where we didnt play our guys the entire game, I dont think that has a whole lot to do with what would happen that next week.

Well see. The Eagles can take the issue out of Smiths hands Tuesday night, and they might be doing him a favor ultimately.

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.

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

The Bears did their part to keep hope alive for a playoff berth in Week 14, defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night and moving to 7-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they didn't get the help they needed around the league to enter Week 15's game against the Green Bay Packers with legitimate post-season juice.

The Minnesota Vikings, who currently hold the final NFC wild card that the Bears are chasing, handled their business against the Detroit Lions with their 20-7 victory in a game that was never close. Now 9-4, the Vikings' have a two-game lead over the Bears with one head-to-head matchup remaining in Week 17. Chicago needs to defeat Minnesota in the season finale and hope the Vikings lose one of their other two remaining games against the Chargers and Packers. Otherwise, it's on to 2020.

The bigger blow to the Bears' playoff hopes came in Los Angeles, where the Rams moved to 8-5 with their 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. This was a game Chicago needed the Rams to lose, considering they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker and play only one more game on their schedule that seems like a likely loss (49ers in Week 16). Los Angeles' other two games are against the struggling Cowboys and lowly Cardinals, and if they win both and end the year with the same record as the Bears, they'll have the advantage because of Chicago's loss in Week 11.

So what does all this mean? Week 14's results have the Bears' chances to make the playoffs at just 2%, according to FiveThirtyEight.  Essentially, nothing's changed, even after a win. Football Insiders is a little more optimistic; they have Chicago's chances at 4.4%.

Sunday's game against the Packers has meaning. The Bears are still alive, and a victory in Green Bay coupled with some upset losses by the Vikings and Rams could change the playoff picture quite a bit. If both Minnesota and Los Angeles lose, Chicago's playoff chances jump to 14%, per the New York Times' playoff predictor.

One game at a time. It's a mantra that's worked for the Bears over the last month of the season, and one they'll continue to preach until there's nothing left to play for.

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Devin Hester is on NFL 100 All-Time Team, now only the Hall of Fame awaits

Devin Hester is on NFL 100 All-Time Team, now only the Hall of Fame awaits

Football lists usually leave me feeling a bit cringey.

I don’t like being asked to rank players of different eras because of our collective historical ignorance and quite frankly my own. Even if we take a look at statistics or happen upon film of the player, it’s hard to compare.

I don’t like being asked my opinion on these matters because slighting someone who deserves praise is inevitable. The Bears 100 list was an excruciating exercise for all involved. Watching the reveal of the list was difficult. As hard as Don Pierson and Dan Pompei tried to be measured and fair in their assessments, worthy players were left out.

Our own Alex Brown felt obliged to defend his life’s work. Watching him go through that, quite honestly felt icky. For the record, A.B. ranks in the top 5 all-time in Bears history in sacks. The fact that he isn’t on the list is a shame, but I digress.

As football continues to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, I’ve been intrigued at the way the NFL Network has devised their ranking system and put together their “All-Time Team” of 100.

Now comes the part in the column where you can ignore almost every bit that comes before this sentence: I’m really happy that Devin Hester is on this list. It literally made me smile that his inclusion on the team was without any real debate.

Hester came along in my third full year covering the Bears beat. He was this quiet, shy kid who let his play do the talking. Watching him that first year was mesmerizing. In the ‘06 season he had five return touchdowns (three punts, two on kickoffs).

The most famous, until the Super Bowl, was his role in the Monday Night comeback against Arizona. What we were all watching was impossible. It’s a game that will live on in not just Bears history, but NFL history because the team somehow overcame Rex Grossman’s six, yes SIX, turnovers to win a game.

It was a win that prompted one of the most famous post-game rants in 100 years of the NFL.

Hester’s return in the Arizona game and his return to kick off Super Bowl 41 are both iconic moments. What I remember most about Hester is a bit more abstract.

I imagine that any Bears fan of a certain age can relate, but when the steel drums of Soulja Boy’s: “Crank That” start, it was an event. Hester adopted that song as his kickoff theme and the energy that would overtake Soldier Field before each kickoff was intoxicating. It was a call to arms for the 61,500 fans packed into the stadium.

There was Hester in the end zone-unaffected, dancing, waiting for a chance to make a play. You had to take notice because there was the opportunity to see something special, something you’d never seen before.

On top of hating lists, I hate Hall of Fame debates, but allow me to contradict myself once more. Hester’s inclusion on the All-Time Team list will go a long way towards his induction into Canton.

He shouldn’t have to beg or wait for his gold jacket. Everyone knows what they saw and what they saw was the greatest returner in the history of this league. This list affirms that.

The Hall of Fame is a museum, right? Well, how can a football museum keep out the Basquiat of returns?

Oh and A.B. should be on that Bears top 100 list. If we’re keepin’ it 100.

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