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The “Windy City Flyer” aka Devin Hester returns one against the Cardinals.

It’s so close, the city can taste it.

Just one more game. One more obstacle in the form of the New Orleans Saints and my beloveds will be bound for Miami and the Super Bowl two weeks hence.

Everyone in town is talking about the Bears. The story dominates the local news on both radio and TV. They’re front page news on both the Trib and the Sun Times all week. The suburban dailies have gotten into the act as well, running 3 column stories below the fold and giving the local angle on the game.

On sports talk shows, the gloom is palpable. It seems most of the “real” fans – you know, the ones who wanted to feed Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman to the lions prior to last week’s game – have given up on the boys in burnt orange and blue while making the Saints out to be the second coming of the San Francisco 49’ers whose Joe Montana led teams dominated the game in the 80’s.

I can understand their trepidation. On offense, the Saints are loaded. A trio of excellent wide receivers and the double doom combination of Deuce McCalister and rookie sensation Reggie Bush at running back make it a difficult task for any defense to stop them.

But there are several factors that mitigate against a Saints victory today, not the least of which is the weather forecast. It will be cold (temp in the upper 20’s) and a fierce wind that will probably play havoc with both the passing and kicking games. And if that’s not enough, there’s a 90% chance that snow will fall during the game. With 1-3 inches expected today, the ground crew at Soldiers Field will keep the field covered until almost game time. This will make the turf a little slick. Generally, this favors the offense since the receivers know where they’re going while defenses must react to the play.

A slick field will also favor the offensive lines for both teams since they will have the advantage of a push off at the snap of the ball. All told, this is where the game will be won or lost; in the trenches.

While this is a truism for any NFL contest, on a cold, snowy , wet day like today, the war at the line of scrimmage will become even more vital. And largely because of that, I have to pick my beloveds to squeak by the Saints in a close contest dominated by the running game and field goal kickers for both sides.

Here’s how I see the key matchups:


Can the Bears stop the run? Probably not. But they must avoid the big play. They have proven in the past few weeks that even if a running back gains yardage on them, the defense has been able to stifle the opponents offense in other areas. And where my beloveds must absolutely stop the Saints is in the short passing game.

If conditions are as anticipated, Saints quarterback Drew Brees will use the flat pass to both Bush and McCalister as a way to extend the running game beyond the hash marks. Bush had 88 catches during the season and is a deadly weapon on the outside in the flat. And to counter this, Bears corners are going to have to be sure tacklers today. If Bush can get by the cornerbacks on a regular basis, it may end up being a very long day for my beloveds. Charles “Peanut” Tillman is an excellent run defender and a sure tackler. But the other cornerback Nathan Vashar is suspect. Both men must step up and be at the top of their games if the Bears are to stay in the game.

The Saints make devastating use of Reggie Bush by lining him up in several positions. He’s been at tailback, in a split set, in the slot, a motion man, and he’s even lined up at wide receiver. What the Saints try to do is isolate the youngster against a linebacker. Ordinarily, this is excellent strategy. But this would be playing directly to the Bears’ strength. Few linebackers are faster than OLB Lance Briggs and virtually none can beat Brian Urlacher. Brees might get a nasty surprise if he tries sending Bush up against one of those gents. Look for Bush to stay pretty much in the backfield and take those flat passes from Brees while trying to break one for a big play. They may try a few screens with Bush but the Bears have defensed the screen extremely well all year so they probably won’t get anywhere with it.

The Bears will probably employ a nickel package for most of the game. This will put enormous pressure on the defensive line to effectively rush the passer. With 5 defensive backs, they will try and keep blitzing to a minimum – unless Brees begins carving them up in the secondary. If that happens, look for Urlacher to come hard and come often.

In fact, the key to this game for the Bears is Brian Urlacher. If he plays as he’s capable of playing – if he dominates the game as he has shown he can do – there’s a very good chance that the Bears will win regardless of what the offense does. And if they can create some turnovers, it will be a long day for Brees & Co.

If conditions are bad, the Saints advantage at wide receiver may be blunted somewhat. Also, veteran Joe Horn is questionable with a sore groin. All told, I think the Saints will win or lose the game in the backfield. If Bush has a big game, they win.

But in the trenches, I think the Bears defensive line has a chance of dominating the Saints offensive line. New Orleans has a solid if unspectacular bunch protecting Brees but I believe by the fourth quarter, the Bears will have worn them down and will begin applying effective pressure to the quarterback. And if the game is close, that will be a difference maker.


Which Wonder Dog shows up today will be immaterial. Good Rex or Bad Rex won’t matter in snowy, windy conditions, because it will be the running game that will score points. And while New Orleans has two outstanding backs, the Bears also feature two effective runners of their own. Thomas Jones will start the game. But I really think this will be Cedric Benson’s game.

Benson is a bull. Unlike Jones who falls backward when hit, Benson is always moving forward. And that extra half yard that Benson is able to get out of runs may spell the difference in difficult playing conditions.

And if Benson (or Jones) can move the ball on the ground, look for Wonder Dog to try a few passes in the middle of the field. Otherwise, Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner will have him on a short leash, having him throw flat passes to the backs, quick slants, and quick out patterns to Desmond Clark. In fact, Clark may be another key in this game. If he catches more than 5 balls, Rex is probably playing well enough to win.

The Saints have two good defensive ends in Wil Smith and Charles Grant who are more than capable of blowing up plays. My beloveds will probably double team Grant given right tackle Fred Miller’s less than stellar play lately.

But the rest of their line is somewhat undersized. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, look for the Bears to try and ram it down their throats and pound the ball using Benson as the battering ram.

It is not likely that Rex will take too many shots down the field. But if he does, speedster Bernard Berrian will have the edge on the Saints corners and safeties. Saints CB’s Mike McKenzie and Fred Thomas are adequate but scouts say they can be beat using a double move. Both Bears wideouts Berrian and Mushin Mohammed excel at the double move- especially Mohammed. If Wonder Dog can get them the ball in the windy conditions, my beloveds have a chance for some big plays.

It goes without saying that if Grossman throws two or three interceptions, the Bears will lose. Ron Turner will probably do everything he can to prevent that by keeping the ball underneath. Unless the Bears are getting beaten badly.

The Saints linebackers are quick to the ball and speedy. Any running game the Bears can muster will depend on downfield blocking by the guards who pull often. Rueben Brown is especially effective here and All-Pro center Olin Kruetz will also pull on occasion. If the Bears offensive line can knock the linebackers back a yard or two, the running game should open up a little. Otherwise, expect New Orleans to make Rex Grossman beat them by stacking 9 men close to the line and daring my beloveds to pass.


Forget the fact that New Orleans is a dome team. With the Super Bowl as the prize, both teams will forget about the cold and snow and give it everything they’ve got. There will be no advantage to either team in that respect.

The Bears special teams may decide the ballgame – either way. Devin Hester looked scared last week and fumbled a punt while allowing both kickoffs and punts to hit the ground before he picked them up. He is perfectly capable of turning the ball over deep in Bears territory.

That said, he is also perfectly capable of bringing one back every time he touches the ball. He is an extraordinary weapon. And the Bears could really use a couple of long returns by Hester today.

If the game is decided by field goals, New Orleans must get the edge with the experienced John Carney. Robbie Gould may be going to the Pro Bowl but Carney has the leg to make the ball cut through the wind and split the uprights. Both men have proven themselves when the game is on the line however, so the edge is extremely slight.

And I think the punting game will play a role today. For that, the Bear’s Brad Maynard has it all over Steve Weatherford. In a field position game, the Bears will have a slight edge there as well.

When all is said and done, it will be a good game; hard hitting, good defense, and probably a couple of great plays by Reggie Bush. But in the end, the Bears will force the Saints into kicking field goals while the Bears should score a couple of touchdowns.

Final score: Bears 23-19.



Ed Morrissey picks the Saints – partly because of their special teams?

Perhaps I’ve forgotten which Saint returned 6 kicks for touchdowns or which Saints field goal kicker is going to the Pro Bowl. My bad…


Fifteen minutes to kick off and I just checked the radar. There’s a band of precip headed for downtown that should arrive by halftime. It’s light but appears to be a combination of sleet and snow.

Footing will be treacherous in the fourth quarter….


Halftime: Bears 16-7.

Bears pressure has thrown Brees off slightly – until that last drive when they moved down the field with ease.

Storm is still moving toward Chicago but still appears around an hour away, Could be that the 4th quarter is played in snowy, windy conditions.

If the Bears are smart, they’ll try and build some confidence for Grossman (3-13 for 37 yards) by having him make short tosses to the backs in the flat. Right now, he’s a non factor.

Saints will come back but Bears will still win – maybe by 10 points.


I’ll have a recap of the game tomorrow but what we long suffering Bears fans are feeling right now is beyond description. The 1985 team was expected to go to the Super Bowl. In fact, they were expected to dominate the NFL for at least a few years. But injuries to the punk quarterback Jim McMahon and the flight of Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan along with some key players made the hill a little too high to climb.

This year’s team was expected to get to the playoffs but the Super Bowl? There aren’t too many pundits who predicted it at the beginning of the year and here they are. And given the angst of the fans and the media over the last few months as the defense disintegrated, the domination of the Saints makes this trip to Miami even more of a shock.

The Saints did not play their game. Field position had something to do with it but it seems like Coach Payton lacked patience when he was down by only two points. Instead of trying to get the running game going (holes were opening up in the 3rd and early 4th quarter) he continued his downfield play calling. He got yardage but no points. And of course, the Bears defense came up with huge play after huge play.

The conditions surprisingly seemed to bother the Saints. As the game went along, Brees got progressively less accurate while Grossman, who started out an unbelievably bad 7-22 ended up completing his last 6 passes – including the miracle to Berrian.

What about Rex? Let’s see how he does in the warmth of Miami. His best games were in the heat of September and October. We’ll see how he responds to this definitely sub par performance. It must be said that he threw no interceptions, no fumbles, and was smart with the football.

At this moment, I don’t really care. Everything else is forgotten as my beloveds – my dearly beloveds – are going to the Super Bowl.

By: Rick Moran at 10:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

Captain's Quarters linked with The Penultimate Bowls

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Mike Ditka in a familiar pose.

The winds blow cold off of Lake Michigan in Chicago this time of year. Snow swirls around lamposts and street signs in ever widening eddies making little white vortexes as the city’s inhabitants, inured to the arctic cold, hustle along the broad avenues to their appointed tasks.

Grant Park is almost deserted these last few days as the temperature has dipped into the low twenties. On balmier winter days, you can usually find a couple of pick up touch football games to watch, the kids trying to imitate their gridiron heroes who cavort at Soldiers Field just a short distance away and who are usually done playing by this time every year.

Not so this year. For the first time since 1988, My Beloveds are going to play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The city is beside itself. Productivity has plummeted. Absenteeism has skyrocketed. Anything and everything with a Bear on it has been grabbed off the store shelves and displayed on cars, in the workplace, on front lawns and from apartment balconies.

Alternating psychotically between bouts of uncontainable excitement at the prospect of going to Miami for the Big Game and the cold, palpable fear of a devastating loss, Bears fans are in need of one gigantic Xanax or there is a danger that the mental health infrastructure of the city could collapse in a massive Chicagoland nervous breakdown.

And into this charged up atmosphere comes a betrayal so shocking, so shattering that some of the callers to the sports talk radio shows have actually wept in anger and sorrow.

Mike Ditka doesn’t care who wins the game this Sunday between the Bears and Saints:

It has been nearly 21 years since Mike Ditka led the Bears to the Super Bowl, and 14 years since he last walked the sidelines as their coach.

Yet on the eve of the Bears’ biggest game since 1989, “Da Coach” has his unique grip on this town again.

Many Bears’ fans were in an uproar over Ditka’s comments that he doesn’t have a rooting interest in the NFC championship game Sunday between the Bears and New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

He has ties to both teams, spending three forgettable years (a 15-33 record from 1997-99) as coach of the Saints. But it was in Chicago where Ditka became an icon; first as a Hall of Fame tight end and then as a larger-than-life coach who guided a larger-than-life team to glory in 1985.

The latest flap began Tuesday when Ditka told the Tribune, “I never root for anybody, really.”

Allow me to take you back in time to the year 1985 when the “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears were not just beloved of the fans – any Bears team can make that claim. The relationship between the fans and the 1985 Bears was a sociological phenomena. I would venture to say that there has never been anything like it in the history of professional sports in America. The entire city, both football and non football fans, took that team and literally adopted it. The people adopted their swagger, their braggadocio, their kookiness. I daresay for a couple of months, the people of Chicago must have been insufferable louts.

And at the top of the crazy collection of characters who made up the team was Da Coach. Ditka with the jutting chin, the chest thrust forward in unspoken challenge to any and all who would question his team’s abilities or greatness. Ditka with the pugnacious prowling of the sidelines during games, smoldering like a volcano about to erupt and then exploding in anger or joy depending on the play of his charges. Ditka in the ref’s face. Ditka snarling at the opposing coach. Ditka and his assistant coach Buddy Ryan almost coming to blows during a game.

If there was ever a personality who evoked such powerful feelings of civic identity I am unaware of one. The triad formed by the coming together of Ditka, the city of Chicago, and the fans and residents was unprecedented and has endured despite Ditka’s desertion of the city for warmer climes. He is far more popular today than Michael Jordan whose luster was tarnished after leaving the Bulls by bad mouthing the team and then playing for the Washington Wizards for a couple of years.

So when Ditka came out and said that he wouldn’t root for the Bears, the town temporarily forgot about the game and buried its collective head in its hands:

Ditka’s comments caused a furor, as angry fans ripped the former coach for not being loyal to the team. It was as if they felt abandoned by someone many consider to be the ultimate Bear.

“Everyone understands he has an argument with the McCaskeys; he can’t get past that,” North said. “But they don’t understand how he can’t pull for the blue and orange. Those colors transcend anyone who runs the team. I mean, can you imagine Bill Walsh not rooting for the 49ers?”

The passion that Ditka still elicits speaks to his incredible popularity. His in-your-face approach to football, as well as life, resonated with a town that prides itself on being tough. His colorful and unpredictable persona never dimmed with Bears fans. He remains very much in their consciousness with his analyst work locally and nationally for ESPN.

“If Mike Ditka is on one side of Ontario Avenue and [Bears coach] Lovie Smith was on the other side the day after the Super Bowl, Mike would be mobbed,” North said. “He’s still the face of the franchise.”

Never mind that Ditka probably feels constrained by his position as analyst for ESPN not to take sides. Nevertheless, radio host Mike North of WSCR pointed out the obvious:

North was surprised Ditka didn’t stick by the Bears.

‘’It surprised me a whole lot,’’ North said. ‘’Usually, he shoots from the hip. He said he doesn’t make any predictions, but he predicted the Indy game [against New England]. Bears fans are his bread and butter. He can disassociate himself with the McCaskeys. We don’t care. He has an ax to grind with the McCaskeys, and probably for a good reason. But that has nothing to do with this game.

‘’Mike Ditka not picking the Bears is like Bear Bryant not picking the Crimson Tide.’’

It’s hard to tell about Ditka sometimes. Toward the end of his run as coach of the Bears, he became a caricature of himself, emphasizing the snarling cynic rather than a sort of lovable grouch whose droll sense of humor made most of the media look forward to his post game press conferences. His over the top rants the last couple of years as coach proved grating to both players and management, although most fans never wavered in supporting him.

His neutrality may also have something to do with the way he exited the team:

Mike Ditka didn’t back down Wednesday from a shot he took at Michael McCaskey, again referring to the Bears chairman as a ‘’snake.’’

Ditka first made the accusation during an interview with the Sun-Times’ Rick Telander for a column printed Wednesday. Ditka, fired as Bears coach after the 1992 season, elaborated during an interview with ESPN Radio’s Sean Salisbury and Steve Rosenbloom on WMVP-AM (1000).

‘’I dealt with a snake in Chicago,’’ Ditka said. ‘’I don’t really respect people who do those things. When I still had the job as the head coach, they talked to somebody behind my back. That’s a little disgusting. He talked to the guy he hired [Dave Wannstedt] before he fired me.

‘’You just heard it, and you just read it. You can book it.’’

McCaskey is the son of Virginia McCaskey (nee Halas) who is still majority owner of the Bears. A classless twit, I wouldn’t put it past the younger McCaskey to have done something so underhanded although there’s no confirmation that indeed the Bears talked to anyone prior to firing Ditka.

Regardless of the past, there is real anger directed at him for the first time in memory. And if the Bears make it past the Saints, the story may get even bigger. This is one of those stories that will be driven by talk radio and bleed over into local news coverage not just sports. And judging by the messages left at Ditka’s website for his restaurant, he may want to keep a low profile while he’s in town for the game:

“My code-word for success is “ACE”: Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm.” Well, Mikey, Your ATTITUDE stinks, you have no CHARACTER, and your ENTHUSIASM towards the Bears is pathetic. You can’t have it both ways, FELLA

That “code word for success” is from one of Ditka’s best selling motivational books. He’s made a good living on the rubber chicken circuit, speaking at conventions and corporate gatherings about teamwork and improving yourself.

Is he in danger of losing all of this? No, but I believe that people in Chicago are looking a little bit differently at Ditka today than they were yesterday. And if the story continues into next week – and if Ditka can’t keep his mouth shut – he may do further damage to one of the most unique partnerships around. Ditka and the people of Chicago have come a long way together. It would be a shame if they parted company now.

UPDATE: 1/19

Ditka spent yesterday afternoon backtracking furiously from his statements of neutrality, giving several different explanations why he didn’t come out immediately in favor of the blue and burnt orange:

‘’I’m pulling and I’m rooting—as I always have every game this year—[for] the Chicago Bears,’’ Ditka said Thursday on WMVP-AM (1000) from his restaurant. ‘’Now, I thought I’d make that announcement on my show, not somebody else’s show.’’

Ditka explained why he wouldn’t, at first, choose the Bears over the Saints, saying it was a smoke screen.

‘’Does anybody ever think the reason I didn’t want to say anything in the first place … maybe, maybe I didn’t want to jinx them?’’ he told Steve Rosenbloom and Sean Salisbury. ‘’Did anybody think that possibility?’‘

Frankly, that’s a load of manure. Ditka said on three different occassions and in three seperate interviews that he had no rooting interest in the game. It wasn’t until the firestorm broke that he suddenly became worried about “jinxing” the team.

Ditka, who coached (and was fired by) both the Bears and the Saints, said he would like nothing more than for the Bears to make it to Miami and win the Super Bowl. He dismissed any notion he would be jealous if coach Lovie Smith won the title.

‘’Yeah, I’m really worried about that,’’ Ditka said sarcastically. ‘’That is my biggest worry, believe me.

‘’No, I’m not jealous about anything. I want the Bears to win. I’ve been a Bear fan since 1961 when I started. And I’ve always been a Bear fan. ... If you’re asking me, the truth is that. And that’s how it is. People can assume anything they want to. I can’t control that. It becomes kind of humorous, really.’‘

What’s humorous is to watch as “shoot from the hip” Ditka spins, and spins, and spins his way out of trouble with his meal ticket – Bears fans.

Maybe he should re-read one of his motivational books, concentrating on the chapter admonishing readers to be honest with themselves.

By: Rick Moran at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


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Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman drops back against Tampa Bay last month.

It seems that everyone turned against the quarterback who came out of college so highly touted. Signed for an enormous amount of money, his first two season in the league were a disaster. Fans and sportswriters alike wanted his scalp. He was judged a bust, a has been before he had even gotten started.

Rex Grossman of the Chicago Bears? Nope. John Elway, Hall of Fame Quarterback from Denver:

For this man, the Denver Broncos gave up Chris Hinton, Mark Herrmann and a No. 1 draft choice?

For a man with a 47.5 completion percentage? For a man with twice as many interceptions (14) as touchdown passes (7)? For a man who was the lowest-rated quarterback in the American Football Conference?

For John Elway?

Where is the return on that investment?

It was called the Trade of the Century in May of 1983, when the Broncos obtained Elway from the Colts for Hinton, Herrmann and a first-round pick in the ‘84 draft. Bob Irsay’s pockets got picked, they said. The Broncos got Elway for far less than what other teams had offered the Colts before the ‘83 draft.

It still may be the Trade of the Century, but the emphasis may switch to the Colts. Hinton was an All-Pro guard in his rookie season in Baltimore. Elway was an all-low quarterback.

“I really don’t think it can get any worse than it was last year,” Elway said as Denver’s 1984 training camp opened.

It began in Minnesota in the last exhibition game of ‘83, his first as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Elway was sacked five times and was 100 percent ineffective. Denver lost, 34-3.

It ended in Seattle in the AFC wild-card playoff game, Elway standing on the sideline in favor of Steve DeBerg. The long day’s journey into night closed with Elway silently leaving town just after Christmas, accompanied by none of the hubbub and clatter that marked his arrival.

(Sporting News: 9/10/84)

I have never seen such manufactured controversy and useless hand wringing over anything in my life. The idiocy surrounding all the criticism of Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman – a player who will be starting his 23rd game of professional football on Sunday against Seattle – is beyond the normal griping and complaining that fans are wont to do. The invective heaped upon Grossman is especially shocking because not only has the guy won 13 games his first full year as a starter but he has passed for more yardage and thrown more touchdowns than any Bears quarterback in a single season save one – Erik Kramer.

Very few NFL quarterbacks come out of college and dazzle right off the bat. Dan Marino was one. Joe Montana was another. But Brett Favre threw 24 interceptions his second year in the league (only 19 TD’s). And Peyton Manning may have had 55 TD passes his first two years in the league but he also had 43 interceptions.

And John Elway? After 26 games, Elway’s stats were very similar to Grossman’s (including a 76.8 passer rating his second year compared to Wonder Dog’s 73.9). Elway completed 57% of his passes for 2600 yards. He had 18 TD’s and 15 interceptions. Grossman completed 54.6% for 3100 yards with 23 TD’s and 20 interceptions.

He also showed flashes of brilliance, leading the league by racking up a QB rating of over 100 7 times.

And he showed flashes of awfulness by also leading the league in QB ratings under 40 (5).

While this would normally drive any football fan nutzo, what has my dander up is the jaw dropping stupidity of talk radio jocks (and pretend jocks) and many fans who actually think the kid is a bust after 22 games and should be benched or traded. The kid won 13 games, passed for 3,000 yards and fans want to trade him in for…what? A shot at drafting Brady Quinn or some other college phenom?

Or perhaps we trade for a better quarterback or sign one in the offseason via free agency? Who? Looks like Jake Plummer might be available, a guy who hasn’t won anywhere in his life. Or perhaps someone currently playing backup?

This is crazy!

And the Bear’s current backup, Brian Greise, has never won a playoff game. Greise will not, cannot take the Bears to the Super Bowl. But Wonder Dog can. Perhaps not this year. But if he can continue to stay healthy, Grossman will take his place among the NFL elite quarterbacks very soon. And if the Bears can maintain their high level of play on defense, there should be absolutely no reason why they can’t win a few Super Bowls in the next 5 years.

The mindless Rex-bashing is led by Ron Jurkovic, former player and current host of the most popular sports radio talk show on the air in Chicago:

“Rex cannot take this team to the Super Bowl, but most of the city knows his crappiness can stop them from going there,” said retired 10-year NFL veteran John Jurkovic, part of the “Mac, Jurko and Harry Show” on Chicago’s ESPN Radio 1000. “The defense will take them there, the special teams will take them there, but Rex just needs to go along for the ride and quit being a moron.”

Jurkovic is joined on the show by Dan McNeil who was fond of saying that Michael Jordan was finished as a basketball player the year he returned from his days playing baseball. Jordan went on to win the MVP of the league twice as well as 3 more world championships proving that McNeil knows about as much about sports as my pet cat Snowball.

And the fans who call in are even more ignorant – the big reason I stopped listening to sports talk radio years ago. Egged on my any number of hosts, the fans who call into these shows don’t know squat about the game and make fools of themselves railing against young Wonder Dog. After listening for about a half an hour in the car yesterday, I had to turn it off before I blew a gasket (not in the car, in my head).

With Grossman, the Bears will suffer through games where he will look like a junior college transfer from Iowa who just walked out of the cornfield. He will also have games where he dazzles. This is the price of youth. In a year or two, Grossman will be putting up all pro numbers and fans will forget they ever wanted to get rid of him. Or he will be gone and putting those numbers up somewhere else. And these very same fans who have directed the most vicious barbs at Grossman demanding his exit will then complain that the Bears should have hung onto the kid and waited until he matured.

Then again, if Wonder Dog doesn’t come through this Sunday, he may want to consider a disguise of some sort – at least until the season begins next year.


According to the Trib Sports Blog, there are still hundreds of tickets left for Sunday’s game.

There’s a good reason for that:

Maybe it’s the price. That aforementioned pair of tickets will run you $650—before Ticketmaster adds their convenience fees, handling fees, processing fees… and whatever else they tack on these days. At least it’s late enough in the game that you can pick your tickets up at Will Call rather than get stuck for shipping fees.

But the ticket brokers don’t think price is the problem—and they apparently don’t think Bears fans value education too much.

“Other teams’ fans just aren’t willing to spend that kind of money for a playoff game,” StubHub spokesman Sean Pate told the Daily Herald. “Bears fans are more passionate. They’ll put college tuition on hold for a big game.”

I went to a Redskins-Bears playoff game at old RFK Stadium in DC back in 1984 and paid $500 for two tickets. But that was from a season ticket holder not a ticket broker. Bears won as Walter rushed for more than 100 yards and the defense stifled the Redskin offense.

If the Bears can get by Seattle, I don’t think they’ll have any problem at all getting rid of tickets – at any price. This town is ready for a Bears run to the Super Bowl. And a chance to go to the big game by winning next week will have this town in an uproar – absolutely mad with Bear fever.

Be still my beating heart…The Bears and Jack Bauer all in one day. Can I stand it?

By: Rick Moran at 12:19 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


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Brett Favre: A classic quarterback in a classic pose.

The fact that Brett Favre may be retiring from professional football following the final game of the season against my beloveds tonight is not the end of the world – although I may get an argument about that from Packer fans. The title of this post, taken from Kate Wilhelm’s brilliant doomsday novel, refers instead to another theme brought out in her Hugo Award winning book; the original is always better than the copy.

The novel highlights a possible solution to keeping the human species alive following an environmental collapse; cloning. The problem is that eventually, the clones lose many abilities we humans take for granted – mainly spacial acuity and intuitive thinking skills but in other ways as well. Wilhelm doesn’t come out and say it but the reason for this is that the clones chose to forgo sexual reproduction. This idea is explored when two clones have a baby the old fashioned way – a strange and wonderful boy who possesses insight and abilities that the clones lack. He was not simply a copy of one of the other clones; he was an original, possessing the genes of two clones.

For much of Brett Favre’s 15 seasons in the NFL, scribes and pundits have touted this rookie or that as “the next Brett Favre.” The futility of such comparisons is born out in the fact that none has emerged nor is one likely to anytime soon. At 6’2. 225 lbs, Favre possesses size and strength that until he showed up, was a rarity among professional quarterbacks. Now, of course, we have monsters like Ben Roethlisberger (6’5”. 240), Daunte Culpepper (6’4”, 265), and Vince Young (6’5”, 235). I can remember when NFL defensive linemen were that size.

But Favre is more than simply a mold-breaker. He is a true throwback – an in your face, smash mouth, chip on the shoulder, swaggering gunslinger of a signal caller with the heart of a champion and the soul of a warrior. He is not enamored of football as a ballet or an art form as some who may take pride in the beauty of a well executed play or the breathtaking thrill of a perfectly spiralling ball arching over the hands of a DB into the waiting arms of a receiver hit in full stride.

It’s not that Favre is incapable of such play; it’s just that his brilliance lies not in perfection but rather in what might be termed anti-perfection. I have seen Brett Favre complete passes 20 yards down the field while in the grasp of two tacklers and on the way down to the ground. I have seen him throw a two handed, basketball-like chest pass for a first down. I have seen him throw the ball sideways, sidearm, underhanded like a bowler and pushed like a shot putter.

And he is as tough a customer as anyone who ever played football. I’ve seen him absorb titanic hits and get up laughing. I have seen him take off running for a first down and by the sheer power of his will, bull his way for the necessary yardage. He has started in 236 regular season games, more than any other quarterback in history. He has done this despite broken fingers, tender toes, twisted knees, cracked elbows, sprained ankles, and numerous other nicks and bruises too many to list.

He is older now, perhaps a little wiser in that he won’t expose his body to the kind of punishment he endured in his youth. The arm is still strong, which allows him to still try and force the ball into coverage; less often succeeding these days. And while still a god in Green Bay, the Packers themselves are torn between loyalty to their icon and the franchise necessity of having to develop a replacement for him.

All of this weighs on Favre as he contemplates his future. Should he buckle it up for one more year? Early this season as the Packers struggled, it almost seemed a foregone conclusion that Favre would hang it up after this year. But Green Bay has shown some life at the end of the year and will enter tonight’s game against the Bears owners of a three game win streak and perhaps an outside shot at a playoff spot.

With an improving team in a weak conference, Favre may feel that he could have one more shot at the brass ring before he retires in one or two years; the Super Bowl. But he is apparently weighing all of this against the fact that he has accomplished everything that a quarterback could possibly accomplish in a career; three straight MVP awards (only many ever to win more than two MVP’s in a career), a Super Bowl victory, passing records galore, and the certainty of a first ballot Hall of Fame induction.

In several interviews over the past two years, Favre has expressed a love for his 465 acre home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi that makes one believe he actually looks forward to the time that he leaves the NFL for days filled with hunting, fishing, and being with his family. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the competitive juices that make Favre the player that he is will not allow him to walk away until either he is carried off the field or his skills have diminished to the point where he can no longer help the team.

So I fully expect to see Favre adding to his Hall of Fame numbers next year as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers; a team I love to hate but a player who I and everyone else who loves the game of football will never forget.


As for the game tonight, my beloveds have nothing to play for, nothing to prove. Despite the optimism of Coach Lovie, I get the feeling most Bears fans are resigned to the idea that the team will not do anything in the playoffs this year. The secondary is a shambles (something Favre will probably expose in a shocking way tonight) and the defensive line is a shadow of its former self. The loss of Tommie Harris for the season seems to have taken something out of everyone on the line except Rookie of the Year candidate Mark Anderson whose 12.5 sacks is just two behind the rookie record.

Giving up more than 300 yards in total offense each of the last 5 games, the defense has allowed numerous big plays both in the running and passing game. The once fearsome pass rush has been missing for the last half of the season. In short, the Bears defense is now an rather ordinary group. This means the team will probably have to outscore their opponents in the playoffs in order to win. And given the inconsistency of Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman at quarterback, the prospects for advancing to the Super Bowl are bleak indeed.

But any Bears-Packers match-up is special. The weather will be rainy with possible snow showers later; a perfect throwback game as both teams will wallow in the mud at Soldiers Field before it’s all over.

I fully expect the Bears to lose. The line has dropped from the Bears being favored by 5 points to 3.5 in the last 24 hours – a sure sign the oddsmakers sense what I do. With nothing to play for, the Bears will probably lose big, perhaps by more than 2 touchdowns. And Brett Favre will prove once again why he is the best to ever play the game – as if we needed any more proof than he has brilliantly supplied over the past 15 years.

By: Rick Moran at 3:59 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

Doug Ross @ Journal linked with Welcome to the Joe Rago Pro Journalist Institute

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At 6’3” and 300 pounds, Terry “Tank” Johnson is a load. His low center of gravity and massive weight allow him to stand his ground in the interior of the defensive line during run plays thus preventing holes from opening up for the opposing running back. He’s what is known in the business as a “run stuffer.”

He is also an idiot.

No, I really mean it. There is no other way to describe Johnson’s stupidity over the past 18 months, during which time he has had run ins with the law three times – twice, including this latest transgression, over illegal possession of firearms. He also scuffled with a police officer outside a Rush street nightclub and resisted arrest. The other gun charge occurred in November of 2005 when he pled guilty to the illegal possession of a firearm in Cook county – one of the more draconian jurisdictions in America when it comes curtailing 2nd Amendment rights. He received probation for the gun charge and the charges relating to his scuffling with the officer were dropped – at the request of the officer. Somehow, I don’t think if his name had been Jamal Johnson from the ‘hood, the cop would have been so forgiving.

Hey! But Tank’s a good guy. He’s just made some bad choices, that’s all. That’s what Jerry D’Angelo, Bears General Manager said after Johnson held forth for two hours at a press conference, telling everyone how sorry he was, how embarrassed the pictures in the paper of his family had made him. He apologized to his team mates. He apologized to the organization. He apologized to the fans. If the old mascot of the guy in the bear suit had been there, he probably would have apologized to him too.

Fat lot of good it did.

Less than 12 hours after that press conference ended, Johnson was down on Clark street in one of the more notorious haunts in that area, known locally as “The Ice House.” He must have been celebrating putting one over on everyone. Instead, tragedy struck.

Arrested on Wednesday with Tank for the gun related charges, Johnson’s lifelong friend, supposed bodyguard, and ex con William Posey got into a fight over what the Chicago Tribune is reporting was the harassment of his “client.”

Witnesses told police that a man repeatedly bumped into Johnson, said a source familiar with the investigation. Posey intervened, striking the man, and both fell to the floor. When club security pulled them apart, the other man pulled a gun from his pants and shot Posey, the witnesses reported.

Sources said Johnson initially denied being at the bar, but he changed his story as he talked with police at Northwestern Memorial hospital early Saturday and later in the day at his Gurnee home. Police said he was not a suspect.

There are certain kinds of bars in Chicago (and I’m sure in other big cities) where most of the patrons are packing heat. Everyone knows this which makes for an interesting evening. It is a macho world where a lot of middle class and upper middle class whites and blacks try to play gangsta from da hood. They strut and pose, daring someone to call them out. Just last April, another shooting took place at the same bar, probably for the same reason. The smell of testosterone must be palpable in places like the Ice House.

What in God’s name was Tank Johnson doing there? More bad “choices?” Or simply a bad character?

A 15 or 16 year old kid makes “bad choices.” A 25 year old adult who has responsibilities to his family, his team mates, and yes, the fans of my beloved Bears who then ends up thumbing his nose at everyone is simply a loser. Recognizing those responsibilities and then going out and partying (maybe the mother of his two children would like to know who he was dancing with when the killing occurred), bespeaks a man who allows his passions to govern his actions. And knowing what is right, then deliberately doing what is wrong is the sign of a truly weak and ignoble character.

The Bears should simply bid Mr. Johnson farewell and adieu. Clean out his locker for him and ship his effects to whatever NFL team will have him – and considering his talent, there will be a good dozen or so lining up with their tongues hanging out waiting to sign him. Wherever he latches on, a year may pass during which time his stellar play will make people forget why the Bears fired him. He will be praised for “turning his life around” – until the next incident occurs with the next police officer or perhaps some innocent who happens to get in the way. Self destructive types like Johnson rarely reform. And the best thing you can do is to stay as far away from the Johnson’s of the world lest you be close enough to receive shrapnel from his next self inflicted wound.

How this entire affair will effect my beloveds is an unknown. Coach Lovie seems to have molded his charges into a pretty tight knit group. The fact that all the negative publicity is reflecting badly on them may draw them closer together – an “us against the world” mindset that would bring out the best in all of them.

Or, it may destroy their solidarity. The Sun Times summarizes the team’s dilemma:

The Bears have a moral dilemma. With Harris out for the season with a ruptured hamstring and Johnson the best remaining interior pass rusher on the roster, do they stand by Johnson and deflect criticism until making a call on his career after the season? They know they’ll never be able to replace him this late in the season. And refusing to play him will hurt his teammates, too.

Or do they put him on the inactive list, knowing it damages their playoff hopes in a season when virtually all the decision-makers—Smith, Angelo and team president Ted Phillips—are looking for contract extensions themselves. What if they keep him up and go one-and-done in the playoffs anyway?

The question for us fans has to be; is a Super Bowl berth worth allowing an obviously flawed and irresponsible player playing time? What price victory?

I suppose the cynical among us will answer that question with some snide comment about pro sports in general being a safe harbor for all sorts of criminals and thugs so why make a big deal of of this one. Perhaps because if that’s what you want professional sports to be like in America, fine. But if you want to change the culture, alter the notion that pro athletes play by different rules and are responsible to nothing and no one save their own hedonistic and base instincts, then Tank Johnson has got to go – not just from the Bears but from the league. One arrest is bad enough. Two is an outrage. Three arrests in 18 months should finish this man as a professional football player in America. Let him play in Canada or Europe if they want him.

I suspect given the media pressure, the Bears will not play Johnson the rest of the way and release him after the season. And I’m also sure that he will have no trouble signing a huge contract with some other team who are willing to cross their fingers that he will be able to stay out of trouble for a few years to justify their gamble to the fans.

Prior to the betting scandal that nearly ruined baseball in 1919, gambling and gamblers were as much a part of the game as the infield fly rule. The riff raff who associated with ballplayers not to mention the whispers about fixing the games gave baseball a decidedly negative image.

Along came Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the new Commissioner of baseball, who shockingly banned 8 Chicago White Sox players from baseball for life after it was discovered that some of them, in league with big time gambler Arnold Rothstein, threw the World Series the previous fall against Cincinnati. Landis had the right idea:

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked players and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball

The point was made. Bad behavior was severely punished. Even the appearance of bad behavior and a player risked all.

Could professional sports act so responsibly today? Judging by the Tank Johnson episode, it’s highly doubtful.

By: Rick Moran at 10:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)


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Rex (The Wonder Dog) Grossman rushes for 22 yards against the St, Louis Rams on Monday night.

Football fans in Chicago are a little batty. Maybe it’s all that hot chocolate we drink at those frigid December home games. Or perhaps it’s the fact that our womenfolk are liable to be more rabid about supporting the team than their erstwhile mates, a season ticket package being a bigger turn on than a pocket rocket or even front row tickets to Blue Man Group.

So you will forgive me if some of us exhibit all the signs of schizophrenia when it comes to our beloveds. It isn’t enough that the Bears are 10-2 and NFC North Division Champs. We must annihilate the opponent, make him suffer, make him grovel and beg for mercy. And when our quarterback of the future underperforms in the present, appearing ordinary or worse, reminiscent of Cade McNown, the schizophrenia overwhelms our common sense and a hue and cry ensues to burn the transgressor at the stake, to pillory him, to make him suffer as he makes us suffer by humiliating him and placing the mark of Cain upon his forehead (or move him down on the depth chart whichever can be arranged first).

Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman has exactly 19 professional football games under his belt. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the year. He has also looked like a junior college transfer from Guadalajara. Young quarterbacks – even the good ones – will do this in spite of everything we tell them; don’t throw off your back foot, don’t try to force the ball between 3 defenders, don’t forget your blind side, and whatever you do, don’t let Jay Mariotti interview you.

It does little good. Given the speed and ferocity of the professional game, youngsters like Wonder Dog have to learn it all by themselves. Coaching only takes one so far. In the end, it is what is inside the player that determines whether or not they succeed at the level of the NFL.

With most of the Bears nation screaming to play Wonder Dog’s backup Brian Greise, Coach Lovie stuck with his young gun rather than play the old, wise head. And on Monday night, that decision paid off as Wonder Dog rose to the challenge and played a game closer to what he is capable of rather than what we’ve come to expect the last 7 weeks. Looking cool and confident, Rex checked off primary receivers, settling for what the defense gave him, stayed out of trouble, and most importantly, made no mistakes in leading the beloveds to a 42-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

He also showed flashes of that brilliant downfield passing that was so much a part of the passing game in September and October. That’s the rub, of course. Playing professional football in Chicago outdoors, in December, means that conditions will be a little different than they were inside the St. Louis Jones Dome. The frozen ball doesn’t spiral quite so perfectly. The icy wind whipping off the lake entices the ball to perform erotic dances on its way to the target as it dips and wobbles seductively before reaching its intended. And the bone chilling cold numbs the hands and fingers so that holding on to the ball becomes an exercise in willpower.

This is why Chicago hasn’t had a pro-bowl quarterback since Crazy Jim McMahon in 1985. The toll that the weather takes on a quarterback’s statistics from Halloween on precludes consideration for any kind of post season awards. Only genuine, 1st ballot Hall of Famers like Tom Brady or Bret Favre can lay claim to post season kudos playing for northern teams. Those men have learned to manage the biting cold, the swirling snow.

For Wonder Dog, his problems are beyond weather. They are in his head. A quarterback can be many things – arrogant, yappy, a cheerleader, even a father figure – but he can’t question his own ability. He can’t doubt his qualifications to lead the team. For a couple of weeks, the seeds of doubt were sown in Rex’s head both by the rabid, stupid, blowhard Chicago media and his own subpar performances. But last night in St. Louis, with the wolves howling at the door for his professional scalp, Wonder Dog responded to the challenge with a 13-23, 200 yard, 2 TD no interception performance.

Brian Greise, competent and experienced as he is, will not lead the Bears to football glory in Miami in January next year. The belief by some Chicago fans that Greise can carry them to the promised land is not based on any kind of intelligent analysis of the situation but rather the fear that the growing pains exhibited by Wonder Dog are indicative of how his career will unfold. One need only ask Indianapolis fans about Peyton Manning’s early years or Denver fans of John Elway’s painful maturation process. Both of those men had many games like Rex has had in the last two months. But they learned to cope with blitzes and the complex defenses NFL coordinators would throw at them. And I can guarantee you that they didn’t learn in 19 games.

To give up on Wonder Dog at this point is just not logical nor would it be wise. As he proved in the Giants game, Rex can stink up the joint for an entire half and then suddenly look like a hall of famer. Greise, competent and steady (and incapable of engineering a comeback of any kind) just doesn’t have that extra spark of talent and determination that Wonder Dog has already shown. For this reason, I hope that no matter how Rex looks the rest of the way that Coach Lovie will stand by him and allow the youngster to mature into the pro-bowl quarterback we all hope he can be.

As for the rest of the game last night, there was the Windy City Flyer Devon Hester streaking for two kickoff returns which means he will likely not get more than a handful of chances the rest of his career to return anything. Anyone that dangerous returning the ball – Dante Hall of Kansas City comes to mind – ends up having the ball kicked away from him permanently. Many teams will prefer to give the Bears excellent field position rather than trying to pin them deep on kickoffs. On punts, he may get luckier but unless the Bears can consistently make the other team pay by scoring when given a short field, even punters will settle for kicking the ball high and short in order to give the coverage team ample time to surround the young phenom. Next year, look for Hester to move to the offense where he would make a great slot receiver.

And the vaunted Bears defense? No longer the best. No longer scary – except to Bears fans who realize that the early season dominance of the defense is history thanks to three key injuries to pro-bowlers Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, and Nathan Vashar. Of the three, only Vashar is expected to return. But the loss of Brown several weeks ago made the Bears run defense extremely ordinary (Brown was responsible for defensive signal calling, a job he was considered the best in the league at) and the most recent blow of losing Harris means that the strength of the defense – the defensive line – is now a rather ordinary bunch.

Can the Bears go to the Superbowl based on the strength of their special teams and offense? If their run game stays solid, I see no reason why not. As long as Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson can run effectively, the offense will probably score enough points to overcome any defensive deficits.

But take it to the bank; Coach Lovie will probably keep Wonder Dog as his starter from here on out no matter what he does. We will live or die with Grossman at quarterback. If that makes you nervous, may I suggest some Zantax? Or maybe you should stop reading the sports pages and listening to sports talk radio.

I have.

By: Rick Moran at 7:01 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


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The last time the Bears played in cold weather, Urlacher & Co. manhandled Michael Vick and the Falcons 16-3 (December 17, 2005).

With game time temps expected to be in the teens and a stiff wind blowing off Lake Michigan, Soldier Field will be an icebox when My Beloveds take on the Vikes.

Termed “Bear Weather” by fans, history might say otherwise. My Beloveds are only 11-9 since 1983 when the temps fall below 20 degrees. But that hasn’t stopped fans from believing that when the thermometer falls, the team’s chances for victory shoot up.

Part of this is certainly the legendary playoff game against the Rams during the magical 1985 season. With Soldier Field in a deep freeze and a wicked wind whipping off the lakefront, few can forget Wilbur Marshall – by irony a Floridian – picking up a fumble and running it in for a score. As Marshall crossed the goal line, snow began to come down and the crowd went even wilder. Ever since then, Bear fans believe the team has a corner on arctic cold fronts.

The Vikes, of course, play in the Baggie Dome – a far cry from their own icy history when games played outdoors at the old Metropolitan Stadium were memorable not only for the superior teams that legendary coach Bud Grant would put on the field but also for a wind chill that made one forget they had extremities.

Playing in mind numbing cold is becoming a little rarer these days what with all the domed stadiums as well as several venues like Miami, Tampa Bay, and San Diego now hosting professional football. Don’t tell that to fans in Chicago, Green Bay, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, though. You’re liable to get an earful about how cold it can truly get at a football game – especially when your team is losing.

By last count, the entire population of Green Bay over the age of 45 was present for the famous “Ice Bowl” against Dallas played on December 31, 1967 for the NFL Championship. The gametime temp was reportedly 13 below zero. And to give you an idea of what kind of a hardass Vince Lombardi was, he refused to allow heaters on the sidelines. His counterpart, the gentlemanly Tom Landry, wasn’t quite so much of a hard case and allowed his players some relief from the brutal cold. The fact that Green Bay won the hard fought game 17-13 has enshrined cold weather at Lambeau Field and made it a fixture for Packer fans.

As for the Vikings game today, My Beloveds are coming off that disappointing loss to New England last week and there appears to be trouble in Bearland. Given Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman’s inconsistency this year, shouldn’t Lovie sit the kid and play backup QB Brian Griese? The sports talk shows and newspaper columns have been full of this nonsense all week and reminds me why I stopped reading the sports page and listening to sports radio years ago.

Wonder Dog has started exactly 18 games in his professional career. It used to be that young quarterbacks were projects. They didn’t play until at least their second and usually third year. But when you draft a kid out of college and are paying him $6 million a year (along with a hefty signing bonus), pressure comes early to put the kid in to see what he can do.

In Wonder Dog’s case, he hurt himself seriously twice over the previous two years which severely limited his development. But this never seems to matter to the know it all callers and know nothing columnists who are calling for back up Brian Griese to take the snaps.

The fact is – and anyone who has half a brain or who has been watching pro football for 40 years can tell you – the Bears will not win a Superbowl with Brian Greise at QB. Wonder Dog not only has loads of raw talent, but also commands the respect of his teammates for his leadership skills. He also has a burning desire to win and the one ineffable quality that transcends all the others; a presence, an air about him that marks him as a winner.

At this point in his development, Wonder Dog is inconsistent – wildly so. But looking back over this season, he has proven much:

  • He has shown that he won’t let a bad game get to him. He has always followed a bad game with a good game.
  • He has shown that he can recover during the course of a game. He had a horrible first half against the Giants and played a superior game in the second half.
  • He has proven he has what it takes to come from behind and engineer a winning drive late in the game (Minnesota).
  • He has proven to be fearless in throwing the ball downfield, a welcome change from the previous occupants of the QB hole.
  • His ball handling skills are jaw dropping, sometimes even fooling the TV camera.
  • He is the first Bears QB in a two generations to have found out that a tight end plays on our team.

With Wonder Dog, Bear’s fans are going to have to be patient. While he has the potential to shine in every game, he is equally likely to stink up the joint. This is what Denver fans had to endure about Elway and what Indy fans had to put up with regarding Manning. Wonder Dog has every bit as much potential as either of those two gentlemen and benching him now would only sap his confidence.

However, he can help his own cause by taking short drops and making quick decisions today. The Vikes will be in a cover two so the middle of the field may open up a it. Look for Wonder Dog to find Desmond Clark early and often.

Facing the number one rush defense, the Bears still must try to run the ball. Thomas Jones must have a monster day or else the burden falls on Wonder Dog – something the Bears would like to avoid. Look for Jones to make 25 attempted rushes today – even though he won’t get much. This will set the tone for an in your face, dog eat dog kind of contest where the winner isn’t necessarily standing at the end but rather simply surviving.

The Bears D-line, stung to the quick by media criticism that they are underperforming, should also have a monster day today. Look for at least one defensive score as well as another breakaway return by the kid Devon Hester. The rest of the Defense should key off of Urlacher, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year who is, if anything, outdoing his performance from a year ago. He is dominating the game in a way that few can.

The Vikes will be competitive for three quarters but I predict a Bears victory nonetheless. Final: Bears 20-10. With a victory the Bears clinch the North Division and prepare for St. Louis next Monday night.

And if they lose, the baying hounds will be after Wonder Dog and Coach Lovie may not be able to resist the pressure to go with the veteran Greise next week.

By: Rick Moran at 9:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)


Gametime approaches. My deli is laid out (pickles on the right…knife for the mayo…where the hell is the dip?), the feast is already underway. Zsu Zsu and her damn head cheese. I with my smoked Virginia ham and Wisconsin Braunschweiger. Plochman’s mustard please, damn the Grey Poupon.

I am inching the volume up on the WBBM hometown radio broadcast. Let’s see if they can synch up the radio with the TV today. It actually varies from week to week. Jeff Joniak, Bears homer announcer, tells people to turn down the TV and listen to the radio broadcast instead. I would be more than happy to oblige (the prospect of Joe Buck doing a football game – a BEARS football game – causes my knees to knock and my hands to palsy) except there is something really disconcerting about hearing the play unfold on the radio before the ball is snapped. There have been times when the delay was 5 seconds or more. Clearly, WBBM techies must do a better job.

My cat snowball is curious about Zsu Zsu’s brain food. She sniffs it suspiciously and refuses the offer of a treat. Uninvited, she begins to lick the knife that I used to spread the brauncschwieger. Ah! That’s more like it! Why do you bother with that crap when you have perfectly good food here, she asks with an imperious look that both melts the heart and chills the bones.

My theory about cats is simple; they were left behind by the Olympian Gods to keep an eye on us. And to rule us. Man’s relationship with cats has been one long nightmare of being preyed upon. One of the earliest homo sapiens fossiles is that of a young boy with two holes in the middle of his skull. The holes match exactly the canines of a leopard. The beast leapt from a tree or rock and buried his teeth in the youngster’s head, dragging him away to his doom. This image must be hardwired into our brains. This is why domestic cats engender both awe and fear. Unlike dogs, cats have no problem looking you right in the eye and staring you down. And in that look, we always wonder what they are thinking.

I decided long ago that they had only one thing on their mind when they stare at us like that: Lunch.

Coach Lovie is being interviewed. He sounds confident. He always sounds confident. Therre isn’t a coach in the NFL being interviewed today who doesn’t sound confident. Except maybe Dennis Green of the Cardinals. He probably sounds depressed. Or mad.

Given the way his season is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if his assistants didn’t have him on some kind of hari-kari watch.

Good news. Looks like speedster wide receiver Bernard Berrian will play today. That should stretch the field for Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman and perhaps open the underneath a little more for tight end Desmond Clark.

Zsu Zsu wants to change the channel and turn down the radio. She wants to watch the end of this stupid chick flick on Lifetime. I quietly but firmly told her that this was out of the question, that 16 Sundays out of the year there will be no interruptions, no arguments, and no changing the channel to chick flicks on Lifetime.

Now that I’m in the bedroom watching the rest of the pre-game, I think I’ll finish this little pre-game warmer upper. I wish the damn game was web simulcast with the WBBM call of the game overdubbed. Oh well – give the net a few years. Anything is possible.

By: Rick Moran at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


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The first 28 minutes of last night’s Bears-Giants game was like something out of Nightmare on Elm Street for Chicago fans. The Chicago offense was asleep and being attacked by a Freddie Krueger-like New York defense as the Giants cut and slashed the hapless Bears mercilessly.

Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman looked more like a pussycat as his errant passes sailed, hovered, wobbled, and attempted the unlikely trick of trying to dig through the plastic turf at the Meadowlands in a fruitless search for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa.

Wide receiver Rasheid Davis should have stayed in the locker room that first half. The poor guy caught a virus in the rain and wind. No, not a cold but the dropsies. The offensive line must have been drunk or hung over given the number of times one of them forgot the snap count. And Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner must have lost the part of the playbook with all the running plays because he called running back Thomas Jones’ number only 10 times.

But it was the 11th time Turner called on Jones that made all the difference in the world, awoke the hibernating Bears, and sent them on to a hard fought 38-20 victory.

Less than 2 minutes in the half and the Bears were 3rd and 22 from deep in their own territory. It is at moments like this that the offensive coordinator either calls for a hail mary bomb or a simple off tackle play. Turner chose the latter (and said the hail mary anyway) – a draw up the middle that Thomas Jones juked left, then right, then ran to daylight. An astonishing 26 yard gain had the ball in Giants territory and Chicago was in business.

A nice 23 yarder to Mohammed followed by a pop fly to Bradley who had beaten the cornerback badly and the Bears, who had been trailing 13-3 at the time, appeared to have some life after all and went into halftime down 13-10.

The second half was a rout. Outscoring the Giants 28-7, the Bears offense looked like world beaters. Wonder Dog found his rhythm and started throwing darts, picking apart the injury riddled Giants secondary. Thomas Jones ran with purpose and abandon, punishing the New York linebackers and safeties. On the Bears second possession of the half, a 10 yard pass to Mohammed (who had fumbled on the Giants two yard line the previous series) gave the Bears the lead and they never looked back.

New York returned the kickoff to the 25 and promptly handed the ball back to the Bears as defensive end Alex Brown forced a Manning fumble on 2nd down and the Bears took over at the Giants 21. After a couple of brilliant Jones runs, Wonder Dog found Desmond Clark in the endzone for a 3 yard score and just like that it was 24-13 and the Giants looked perplexed.

They got all bug eyed when, following a New York drive that took the ball to the Bears 35 yard line, Giants coach Tom Coughlin opted for a field goal try, an iffy proposition given the weather and field conditions.

The 52 yard attempt by Feely was short and caught by The Windy City Flyer Devin Hester fully 8 yards deep in the end zone. Being just a dumb kid, Hester was unaware of the NFL tradition of not running a ball out of the end zone when you catch it with your backside touching the endline. The Giants would have explained it to him but they were too busy walking off the field, convinced the play was over.

But Hester is da joker. After sauntering a few steps nonchalantly toward the goal line, making it appear that he was one of those smart rooks who played by the rules and followed all the traditions, Hester took off. I mean, he literally ignited and propelled himself forward at warp speed. Dashing by the first wave of Giants who had bothered to continue down the field, The Flyer looked down the right sideline and saw nothing but friendly, white jerseys and a lot of green fake plastic grass. He ran by his teammates faster than he ran by the Giants. I could have sworn I saw some smoke trailing in his wake but that might have been only steam coming from his shoes. Fully 108 yards later, Hester and the Bears were celebrating at 31-20 lead.

The Bears scored once more in the 4th quarter following a Chris Harris interception set the Bears up at the New York 46. A beautiful 38 yarder to Bradley was followed by a 2 yard scamper by Jones and the Bears were up 38-20.

The Bears defense took over from there, stymieing the Giants on their next possession. After the punt, the Bears then took the ball deep in their own zone and ran nearly 6 minutes off the clock using Thomas Jones as a combination battering ram and time waster. That was it. It was too late for New York to do anything to get back in the game.

All in all, an adequate effort. Wonder Dog showed that he can bounce back from adversity within a game. The offense continues to show improvement in the running game. Special teams rock on. And the defense, while showing some troubling lapses, featured great efforts by Alex Brown and Peanut Tillman who held big mouth Plaxico Burress to only 4 catches.

Next up – back to the Meadowlands for the Jets. And in two weeks, a rematch of Super Bowl XX with New England in Foxboro.

By: Rick Moran at 6:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


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Safety Mike Brown, out for the season with foot surgery, will be sorely missed for the rest of the year.

My beloved Bears, stung by their sub-par performance against the Cardinals on Monday night two weeks ago, appear to have blood on their minds as they prepare to battle the San Francisco 49’ers today at Soldier Field.

For two weeks, the defense has seethed over the ease with which the Cardinals scored on them in the first half of that dreadful Monday night game. On top of that, the loss of All-Pro safety Mike Brown to a foot injury for the rest of the year seems to have renewed their focus and steeled their resolve – all in all bad news for the gents on the other side of the ball today.

It’s not that the 49’ers don’t have a quality offense. San Fran QB Alex Smith has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, although the quality of his receiving targets has been somewhat lacking. Frank Gore is a serviceable professional running back who hits the hole hard and has deceptive speed. While it’s not likely that the 49’ers will be able to run effectively on the Bears, Gore is good enough to keep the Bear’s front 4 honest enough not to pin back their ears and rush the QB with wild abandon, intent on putting Mr. Smith under the sod.

But unless the D-line comes down with a collective case of trench foot, look for Smith to be running for his life most of the afternoon. In this respect, Smith has proven himself mobile enough that he will probably be able to hurt the Bears at times. Whether it will be enough to overcome the 49’ers porous defense and wretched special teams is doubtful.

Dead last against the pass and not much better against the run, the Niner’s will have to pin their hopes on Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman having a second straight horrendous game in order to stop My Beloved’s offense. Wonder Dog admitted after the Cardinals game that his decision making was atrocious. Look for Rex to take shallower drops and shorten the passing game. With TE Desmond Clark almost 100% recovered from a sprained foot, expect the tight end to figure prominently in the offense – especially on first and second downs.

We can also plan on seeing more of Cedric Benson. There were murmurs around Halas Hall that Benson may take over the entire 3rd quarter running back chores. If so, he may have the game of his pro career. Benson needs 15-20 carries a game in order to get into the flow of the offense and contribute what he is capable of doing. And with CB’s blocking and pass catching improving all the time, it will be harder to keep the 2005 1st round pick out of the lineup for much longer – especially when you consider what they’re paying the guy. Benson can be a very good pro; perhaps even a top tier running back. And I have a feeling if Thomas Jones continues to struggle, Benson may be slotted in at running back for a start sometime soon.

As for special teams, I would look for another long return from “The Windy City Flyer” Devin Hester. The Niners are dead last in punt return coverage and if they give the kid a crack, he’ll be gone before you can say “Tony Bennett.”

For the non-Bears fan, it will be easy to lose interest along about half time. I expect the Bears to be up by at least 2 TD’s by then with San Fran fading fast. This may be one of those games where what appears to be a mismatch on paper, fully lives up to its billing as a slaughter.

Final: Bears 34 – 9 with Smith getting sacked at least 5 times. Wonder Dog redeems himself. And Lovie Smith smiles before the game is over.

By: Rick Moran at 10:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)