I’ve been trying each week to give some kind of moniker to that Sunday’s game. I believed then and still believe the Redskins game was a must-win if the Bears wanted to keep from chasing the standings the remainder of the 2010 season. I believed the Bills game could have easily spelled the end of Lovie Smith’s tenure if the Bears had not escaped Canada with a win. This Sunday. At home. Against the Minnesota Vikings. This is the kind of game that makes me love being a Chicago Bears fan, a football fan in general. It’s the kind of game that will keep me awake on Saturday night, nervous with anticipation. Why?
Because I believe, and most Bears fans believe, the Minnesota Vikings are a superior football team. They’ve played terribly, especially the zipper-down quarterback. They coached worse and the conflict between head coach and quarterback has played out in front of the media like the best of American political rivalries. Doris Kearns Goodwin famously referred to Lincoln’s political confidantes as a “team of rivals” and that seems to be what the Vikings are. The players dislike the coach. The coach dislikes the players. And until now, it’s worked just fine.
Until now. The Bears don’t just have an opportunity to move into first place on Sunday with a much-needed home victory. The Bears have an opportunity to end the season for the Vikings and most likely the coaching tenure of Brad Childress. The Bears have an opportunity to end Brett Favre’s career on the down note it deserves. The Bears have an opportunity to send an entire organization into turmoil. All it might take is scoring one more point than the other guys. One more point than the Vikings.
At the tail end of the 2009 season, with a frozen Jeff Hughes in attendance, the Bears mustered their finest effort of the season and defeated a better version of this Vikings team in primetime. That is the performance the Bears need Sunday. They can not allow a miraculous fourteen-point comeback at home against the Cardinals regenerate the Vikings season. They need Devin Hester to take the opening kickoff to the house. (I know.) They need Cutler/Martz to find the rhythm they had early in the season. They need Julius Peppers to send Brett Favre to IR before he’s had an opportunity to mount a comeback.
So what to call this game? I don’t care. But if the folks in that stadium don’t treat it like it’s the Super Bowl, I’ll be mighty disappointed in us.