Maybe I’m getting older. Drifting further into that maturity thing folks keep talking about. But today’s loss to the New Orleans Saints – a grotesque affair if there ever was one – did not upset me the way it would have upset me in recent past. Or rather did not upset me the way it might in a pivotal December ballgame. Perhaps it is that maturity thing. Or perhaps it’s because we’ve seen this show before.
I was there a year ago. The 3-0 Chicago Bears were on top of the world and folks were starting to dream of the Super Bowl in the Windy City. Then Justin Tuck happened. Osi Umenyiora happened. And suddenly the Super Bowl dreams became Meadowlands nightmares. The Bears were forced to stare into the large Halas Hall funhouse mirror that constantly reflects Cade McNown and re-design the entirety of the offense. They did. And they managed to take a lackluster (at best) offensive line to the NFC Championship Game.
This game was not on the players. Yes the Bears allowed a lot of sacks but many of those sacks were by defenders entirely unblocked by the line at all. Yes the Saints had success moving the ball down the field but why wouldn’t they when you are covering one of the most explosive tight ends in the game with mediocre safeties and (gulp) linebackers? Yes Drew Brees struck the Bears with an 80 yard touchdown pass but if Conte and Major are playing safety together why wouldn’t he do that? The Bears coaching staff – Lovie, Rod, Martz, Tice – were embarrassed on the bayou today by better coaches.
Now comes the reckoning. We fans have a week to digest all the mistakes made in the dome this afternoon. We’ll discuss the well-placed rage Cutler showed on the sideline. (And I’ll have a full piece on that tomorrow.) We’ll discuss Lance Briggs one-on-one with a wideout on the pivotal third quarter touchdown pass. We’ll discuss the allowing of unblocked blitzers from the blindside of the franchise repeatedly throughout the second half. But the coaching staff has a home date with the best team in football Sunday.
And make no mistake about it. For the Chicago Bears organization, next Sunday will feel like that Super Bowl they dreamt of a year ago. Next Sunday is everything. And the Bears have a month’s worth of work to do before then.