Since Mike Ditka left the Chicago sideline, the Bears have started a season 3-1 only twice in seventeen years. Hide the key to both the whiskey and shotgun cabinets and say that out loud. Twice. In seventeen years.
Only two other teams during that period made the post-season. The 1994 Bears, under the worst coach in football history, backed into the playoffs by losing three of their last four and shocked the world by beating the Minnesota Vikings in a Wildcard debacle that featured about three hundred turnovers. (They were subsequently embarrassed 44-15 in San Francisco.) The 2005 division champions were the football anomaly of the decade, winning eight straight mid-season games while only scoring more than twenty points once during that span.
This is one of the reasons I agree with Steve Rosenbloom writing that Sunday’s game against the Lions is a must-win. “But Jeff, you called last week a must-win!” I certainly did. I’m a believer in the Vegas odds and if your team has a minus sign next to its name on the sheet, your team is supposed to win. When the number next to that minus sign is double-digits (the Bears are 10 point favorites), you must win. No question about it. If the Bears lose to the Lions at home, they’ll find themselves chasing two games in the standings at the end of the first quarter. They’ll be chasing those two games from the bottom of the division.
They need to be ruthless on Sunday. Dominant. They need to block it well, run it well, throw it well. They need to welcome Matthew Stafford to a career of losing in Soldier Field. They need to put on one of those shows that ends with fifteen minutes of Caleb Hanie. Because while history tells us that while 3-1 doesn’t put a shiny ring on 53 fingers, it does mean important football in January. That’s all we can ask for.