[Disclaimer: The following game preview is being written under the assumption that Khalil Mack will play Sunday. It is also being written under the assumption that he’ll be limited, to a degree, by his ankle injury.]
I always like the Chicago Bears…
…and I just like this game, hence yesterday’s flamboyant column. This should be the most intense, feverish crowd at Soldier Field in five plus years. And don’t be surprised if the Bears come out and match that intensity, eager to prove last week’s rollover in Miami was a fluke.
There once was a goody named Brady
Whose fitness guru seemed a bit shady
The coach tossed him out
Now Goody got gout
But at least he still has a rich lady
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods attempts to be about a lot of things. Love – between mothers and daughters, princes and maidens, men and themselves. Loss – trying to rationalize the end of human life. Abandonment – a father who left his family as a young man confronts his son about to do the same, in a lovely piece of writing called No More.
But like most of Sondheim’s post-Hal Prince career, there is a general messiness to the piece. (Prince, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerry Robbins are perhaps the only geniuses of American musical theatre structure.) Into the Woods is seemingly about everything and nothing at the same time. And just like their other major collaboration, Sunday in the Park With George – the show’s two acts fail to meld, so much so that when Woods is performed by amateur groups the second act is often excluded altogether.
But whilst Woods is an often sloppy re-telling of classic fairy tales, Sondheim and Lapine create enduring characters by adhering to a basic tenet of Dramatic Writing 101: the folks on stage make big life choices at big life moments. The lyrical refrain of “into the woods” reflects their acceptance of the challenges before them and the risks they’re willing to take. Their “moments in the woods” are life-defining decisions to be embraced, not avoided.
Into the Woods, at its core, is about what we do when “the moment” presents itself and these characters are defined by what they do, in their moments, in the woods.
Sunday at Soldier Field is a moment for this Chicago Bears organization.
Bill Belichick, the greatest head coach in NFL history and the Big Bad Wolf for our purposes, is coming to town. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history and our Prince Charming, is with him. They are the NFL’s gold standard; a tribute to consistency and greatness in a league constructed and governed to deter both. And they are a villain to be identified and subsequently vanquished.
They are a moment.
Gambling is silly. Gambling on the NFL is stupid. But the Super Bowl is a long day and I’m not drinking for another thirty-one days, so I’m going to have some money on it. For a terrific list of prop bets, check out this link to William Hill. (If you’re betting the Phoenix Open, I like Rickie Fowler to win, Webb Simpson for a top five and Pete Uihlein for a top ten.)
My Bet: Over
What could possibly infuriate Bears fans more than Jeffery going off in the Super Bowl? That’s why he’s going to be everywhere Sunday, so my inbox can explode going into Monday morning.
My Bet: Over (-150)
You heard her sing lately? She could take more than two minutes to sing her f’n name.
My Bet(s): Tom Brady (20/1) & Nick Foles (22/1)
The odds are good. And these are the only guys on the field guaranteed to touch the ball. Why not float a few bucks on Foles taking a zone read to the house or Brady, the league’s best QB sneak QB, taking one over the line to ice the game?
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.
Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about this Super Bowl. The NFL starts to drift from my mind moments after the conference championship games are concluded. (At this point, golf begins to take the leaves the lounge and comes into the showroom.) But having seen a boatload of both teams over the course of the season, here are five thoughts:
The “expert” analysis seems to be moving towards Atlanta every day. I’m not going there.
New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 31
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I hate more than fluke champions. It devalues everything I long for from the Chicago Bears; everything that brings me to the keyboard each and every day. I’m not arguing the Atlanta Falcons would be a fluke champion should they win the Fantastic Football Foray. Far, far from it. But the most definitive reason why I have no problem with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning their fifth championship together is simple: greatness.
The Patriots of this era are the most brilliantly run organization in the history of professional sports. Don’t give me the heyday Celtics or late 70s Steelers or late 90s Yankees or Jordan Bulls or one of those hockey franchises that wins a bunch. Every one of those aforementioned runs had a talent advantage on the opposition. Their guys were better than the other guys. They won because they should win.
The Patriots operate at a time where championship continuity is seemingly impossible. They let solid veterans walk out the door and turn castaways into household names. Rob Gronkowski done for the year and maybe longer. Who cares? They lose their Hall of Fame quarterback and still win. They lose his backup and, guess what, they don’t lose.
The Patriots have Tom Brady. And Tom Brady is great. But how many times have the Patriots had the most talented roster in the conference, let alone the entire NFL? Their current defensive roster, the league’s best scoring unit, is nowhere near as talented as the reigning champs in Denver. Their skill players on the offensive side pale in comparison to the group they demolished a week ago from Pittsburgh.
But they are great because of Brady. And Belichick. And Ernie Adams. They are great and if they win their fifth championship Sunday, I will applaud them. They deserve it. Theirs is the success of which all fans should dream.
Matt Ryan put the Falcons up 24 on the Packers and nobody thought the game was over. Why? Because the Packers had the best quarterback in the sport not named Brady.
The AFC Championship game was played by two quarterbacks with 6 Super Bowl rings and 9 Super Bowl appearances – more appearances in the Terrific Title than every other quarterback in the league combined.
Let me make something clear, Bears fans. “With the third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Johnathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama” is not going to put the 2017 edition of the Bears into the postseason. The Jets have two of the best defensive ends in the game. Aaron Donald is a game-changing defensive lineman. Geno Atkins. Gerald McCoy. Ndamukong Suh. You know what those teams are all doing on Thursday April 27th? Picking shortly after the Bears. Sturdy defensive linemen are nice and all but they don’t move the needle. Pass rushers do. Playmakers on offense do. And, most importantly, quarterbacks do.
Before free agency, quarterbacks didn’t have to be great to win titles. They could be Jim McMahon or Mark Rypien or Doug Williams or Jeff Hostetler because the money was there to build a great team AROUND the position. Those days are a distant memory.
But Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have distorted the “franchise quarterback” conversation in the other direction because over the course of their careers, their divisions NEVER FEATURED ANOTHER GREAT QUARTERBACK. (Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is better than anything Brady and Manning ever consistently faced in the AFC East and South.) That’s why they are in the playoffs every year, with two of the three having limited success in the tournament. The other franchise-type guys: Eli, Flacco, Brees, Ryan, Rivers…etc. guarantee their teams nothing due to one primary factor: competition.
(1) Giants have lost 3 games this season (Cowboys, Falcons, Jets) due to egregious mismanagement. I love Tom Coughlin but barring a substantial run over the next two months he can’t be their head coach in 2016.
(2) Spend a few minutes and read some of the love poems the national writers wrote about Dan Quinn in September. Atlanta has fallen off a cliff. Peter King was the leader of the QuinnLove Movement.
(3) Carolina should put Charles Tillman on the shelf until the postseason. Let him get healthy. And then let me root harder for a non-Bears team than I ever have before.
(4) Atlanta was the first paper tiger to fall. The second? Minnesota. That team has feasted on poor opponents. They may still make the playoffs but they might be the 10th best team in the conference when they do.
(5) If I were running all of the franchises, these jobs would join Miami and Tennessee on the market this January:
Missed Extra Points – Since 2010 – NFL 2010 – 2014 37 2015 so far 36
— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) November 16, 2015