I have read the phrase in the comments section below and across the pages of both major Chicago dailies from my hotel room in Lakeview this morning. “The playoffs look like a pipe dream,” folks want you to believe. The truth is this: the playoffs are not a pipe dream. They are not even close to a pipe dream. The Bears sit today as the conference’s top wild card after every single team competing for the postseason in the NFC lost yesterday. They have their destiny in their own hands.
But it is not the hands of destiny I am worried about. It is the right hand of Jay Cutler. Cutler, according to reports, will travel to Denver this week and meet with Dr. Viola to assess the recovery of his thumb. (David Haugh chronicled Cutler’s relationship with the Colorado doc wonderfully in the Trib on Sunday.) If Cutty can’t return to the lineup by the first week of the postseason, the postseason won’t be a pipe dream but a nightmare. Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Nathan Enderle or whoever else the Bears suit up at QB will have no chance to win on the road at Dallas, New York, New Orleans or San Francisco. No. Chance.
And people seem surprised. Suprised a quarterback with the strongest arm in the sport can make up for weaknesses on the offensive line and deficiencies at the receiver position. Surprised a reach draft pick from a nothing college has not mastered one of the league’s most unnecessarily complicated offensive systems in his second start. Six weeks ago I would have needed a shout to be heard when exclaiming just how good I believe Cutler to be. Now a whisper could be heard.
The Bears must survive. There is no other way to describe it. They must score points any way possible. They must continue holding opponents down defensively. Dave Toub needs to spend a few nights drawing ’em up on special teams. Mike Martz needs to do for Hanie what Todd Haley did for Tyler Palko – give him a few single read throws on the outside to move the chains. The Bears need to turn winning ugly into an artform because, from the look of things, winning pretty is not an option with number twelve behind center.
They are nowhere near the team they were three weeks ago and they will not be that team for at least another three weeks. Sunday the Bears blew an opportunity to put a game between themselves and the field for a postseason berth. Now the margin of error is nothing. If they can get their quarterback back they can play with anyone in the league, even with Matt Forte on the bench for a while. But the Bears must survive the next four games to ensure their quarterback has something to come back to.
It is about survival. By any means necessary.