Despite my proclivity to rest the essentials for at least the second half of Sunday’s showdown with the Packers at Lambeau, how can a Bears fan not like the words coming out of the current leadership’s mouths? Jay Cutler: “We want to win the ball game. We don’t want to take a step back as a team or as an offense.” Pisa Tinoisamoa: “Green Bay has always been a rival and our goal is to sweep the division, so this one would be a huge one to be able to get that.” And Devin Hester made it very clear in several interviews that he wants to knock the cheese from the tournament.
Vegas ain’t buying it and (as predicted here) have jumped the spread on Sunday’s game to ten points. The reason why is simple. In 2006, with his team knowing a first-round bye was coming the following weekend, Lovie spent a week telling reporters the Bears would be giving a complete effort against the Packers in primetime. (You may remember this as Brett Favre’s last NFL game.) What happened? Brian Griese started the third quarter and it only takes a quick glance at the fourth quarter play-by-play to realize that all significant contributors on the defensive side of the ball had been lifted by then. That 2006 team found themselves playing in the Super Bowl and both Vegas and I believe that the head coach won’t fix what wasn’t broken.
How can the Bears be expected to match a good, desperate home team’s intensity when they’re playing for cosmetic reasons such as maintaining rhythm (foolish when an off-week is around the bend), sweeping the division (does anybody care about this?) and knocking the Packers out of the playoffs (and letting the dominant Giants front four in?). And does anybody believe that an excellent two quarters from the offense would mean less to their confidence as an excellent four quarters? I get the whole “play to win the game” thing but do we really want our club taking advice from Herm Edwards? Has that guy ever won anything?
My theory is Lovie will pull Cutler at halftime and give Caleb Hanie a quarters to play with this receiving corps. If the defense plays a solid first half, most of them will be off the field too. If they struggle out of the gate – which has become a recent trend – I think you’ll see Urlacher & company start the third quarter. I think the game will very much mirror the contest with the Pack in 2006.
And for those of you who think playing the Packers three times in one year is a terrible thing, you couldn’t be further off. Playing the Pack three times means we’re hosting the NFC Championship Game. And I’ll sign for that right now.