I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.
Patrick Mahomes didn’t even have to sweat.
The 2019 version of the Chicago Bears defense was very good. Not as good as the team’s 2018 defense, but certainly among the better units in the league. They had, for the most part, shut Aaron Rodgers down a week before, but Mahomes was different.
The stat line wasn’t amazing. Mahomes completed 23-of-33 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another score. It was as ho-hum as three-touchdown games get. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story.
The Bears defense didn’t play poorly.
It was among Khalil Mack’s better efforts, turning Kansas City’s offensive tackles inside out numerous times.
It didn’t matter.
Mahomes was able to step up, move to his right or his left and use different arm angles to deliver passes right on the money. Wide receivers that shouldn’t have been open were because Mahomes can make throws no other quarterback thinks about. Mahomes is just better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen.
On this short pod, Jeff discusses why this training camp opening is different from all over training camp openings.
I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.
I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.
I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.
Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.
After holding one of the ten best offenses in the history of the league to just one legitimate scoring drive, Super Bowl dreams no longer seem far-fetched for the 2018 Chicago Bears.
Yes, they have to take care of business the rest of the season and any playoff run is going to require Mitch Trubisky to be infinitely better than he was Sunday night. But now that we’ve seen the defense be that good, there’s no reason to put a cap on what the Bears can accomplish this season.
Say what positive you will about the Bears teams of the early-to-mid 2000s, but they never faced — much less beat — an offense like the 2018 Bears just did.
While the defense’s performance Sunday makes the games against Brock Osweiler, Eli Manning and gimpy Aaron Rodgers even more confusing, it also gave validity to their claim as a potentially historic defense. If they can do THAT to the Rams, they can beat anybody — especially when you consider the defensive issues the other top scoring teams have.
The Copper Kettle is an actual Irish bar in Woodside, Queens. When I say actual I mean it’s not one of these paint-by-number bullshit paddy joints that spring up in big cities with names like Flanagan’s and Murphy’s and The Perfect Pint. These are bars that throw a couple coats of purple and pink paint on the front facade and think their Guinness is worth $8 because of the “authentic experience”. Meanwhile the Monday night trad session features a fiddle player from Staten Island with an Italian last name.
The Kettle is run by actual Irish people. It is frequented by them too. Folks who identify themselves by county and when they banter about “the football” it ain’t American football OR soccer.
This is usually where I watch the Super Bowl. It’s my local. Two blocks from my apartment. I play golf with the owner once a week. The bartenders are my friends. There’s rarely a face in there I don’t recognize and every time I walk in I hope upon hope that won’t be the case. (If you have a local, you don’t need further explanation.)
I go to the Kettle to watch golf every Sunday. And often Saturdays, Fridays and Thursdays. The bar has comically gained the title “New York’s preeminent golf bar” because (a) I’m good at giving things nicknames and (b) there is NEVER a Sunday during golf season where the final round of a PGA tour event won’t be found on one of it’s five large TVs in the bar area.
That includes Super Bowl Sunday.
Two years ago, well after “the big game” had started, I commandeered prime television real estate to watch Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama battle in a playoff down in Scottsdale. Nobody complained. You know why? Because it’s my local, I’m bigger than everybody else in there and a half dozen Irish fellas in the joint had WAY more money on the golf than on the football. (Shane Lowry falling outside the top five cost Mickey Gobbs at least a grand. Though nobody knows with Gobbs.)
All this was a long-winded way of saying, you know, I just don’t care all that much about the Super Bowl. To me the Super Bowl is to football fans what St. Patrick’s Day is to drinker: a chance for the die hards to step aside and let the amateurs have a go.
I don’t care about your tips for hosting the perfect Super Bowl party. I don’t care about the national anthem or the halftime show or the commercials. And while this may seem odd coming a football fan, I don’t give a damn who wins or loses the game. That’s why I don’t go anywhere special or doing anything of note. Hell, I don’t even bother hopping on the subway to Josie Woods in Manhattan – where I watch every Bears game – because who cares?
When the Bears were in the game, I spent two sleepless weeks calling random radio shows – Sporting News used to have a station in New York – and playing out the match-up in black and white composition notebooks. If I had been accused of murder in the days after the Super Bowl, those notebooks would have gotten me the chair.
This was the easiest piece Jeff has ever assigned me!
Seriously, though. The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl for the eighth time in the Brady/Belichick era, and unless the Eagles play absolutely lights out and/or Brady gets legitimately injured and Hoyer has to play, they’re likely going to be lifting up their sixth Lombardi. Love them, hate them, every single football fan would kill to have their team be even half as successful as the Patriots have been these past 16 seasons. So with that in mind, what lessons can our beloved Chicago Bears take from the Patriots as they seek to build their own winning franchise?
In the 16 years they’ve been paired together as starting QB and head coach, Brady and Belichick have:
Now it’s impossible to say exactly what their career trajectories would’ve looked like had they never been paired together (obviously Belichick already had success as a coach pre-Brady, and Brady is clearly the GOAT), but you can pretty much guarantee they wouldn’t have achieved this insane level of greatness separately.
I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The morning after, I still can’t believe it. Eight thoughts…
One of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. And now the offseason begins.
On this episode of the Weekend Show, Adam Jahns for the entire half hour discussing: