The Bears turned the corner on the 2011 season, veering onto Favorite Lane from Underdog Boulevard. They haven’t just been winning games. They’ve been whipping teams at the line of scrimmage, scoring points in huge chunks and assuming a position near the very top of the NFL’s table. Then Johnny Knox fell down. Cason intercepted the Cutler slant and took off down the sideline. Jay decided a touchdown was not going to happen and, in slowing the play down, broke his thumb.
Now on the talk radio shows across the country’s airwaves, on the pages of both Chicago dailies and in the internet space occupied by the Peter Kings of the world the Chicago Bears are being relegated back to the realm of the disrespected. Suddenly the quarterback who was having a tremendous season in almost total anonymity is being noted as the straw that stirs the drinks. Without Cutler (the pundits will have you believe) the Bears are no longer a contender and may be a longshot for the postseason. They ignore their running game – one of the best in the sport. Ignore their special teams – THE best in the sport. Ignore their defense – a unit that has been stabilized by LoveRod’s moves at the safety spot and have now rediscovered their edge.
Somehow a team with a five-game winning streak has their backs against the wall as Caleb Hanie takes the steering wheel of this Bears bus. There isn’t a Bears fan alive that wouldn’t rather see Cutler taking the snaps in Oakland Sunday. I staked whatever bloggy reputation I’ve accrued over the years on my support of the Cutler trade, even during Jay’s low times, and now we’re finally seeing what this guy is capable of when the gentlemen up front give him a few seconds to load his cannon and fire on the enemy. (Yes that sounds gross but I’m not deleting it.) Cutler is the greatest quarterback this organization has ever employed and I’m confident he is going to win a championship in Chicago.
But I have to admit there’s a certain thrill to Hanie’s entrance. When Cutler throws a complete pass, fans respond with a pumped fist and a knowing smile. Franchise quarterbacks are expected to perform like franchise quarterbacks and most of us are relieved to have one. With every Hanie completion there will be a sense of genuine excitement and overwhelming relief. He has the opportunity to do what the rest of the 2011 Chicago Bears have already done: inspire the city and shock the football world.
And when is the last time a team on a five-game win streak has sounded the way the Bears sound? They sound angry, defensive, motivated. Urlacher says they have to be better on defense. Lovie says the offense has to be better at running the ball. The Bears have been given reason to recommit themselves to the 2011 season not out of the desperation of struggling on the field but out of the necessity of injury. The Bears cannot and will not rest on their laurels. They cannot spend a minute enjoying their winning streak. The Bears know they MUST IMPROVE if they intend to make the postseason. They fifty roster members not playing the quarterback position must transition from a very good team to a championship team.
When the Chargers game ended I thought to myself, “Now they can lose a tough one on the road in Oakland and be fine.” But over the last forty-eight hours my mentality has gone in the opposite direction. Now I want this one. Not just for Caleb Hanie but also to reward this club’s current mentality. I want this one almost as bad as I wanted the Lions rematch and I don’t remember the last regular season game I wanted as bad as the Lions rematch. I want a win Sunday in Oakland.