By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
To get into anything resembling positivity regarding the Chicago Bears is a risky proposition.
Particularly in an NFL observer landscape where everyone, from the most jaded football reporters and prognosticators to the latest new kids on the hot take block, seems unwilling to take even calculated risks in mapping out the rest of the NFL season for fear of having their “old takes exposed” and being damned in one profile until they have to switch to one of their burner accounts as an anonymous rest haven.
Many Twitter Nostradamus-wannabes should be demoted in the wake of Chicago’s 15-6 win over the previously top-seeded Los Angeles Rams Sunday night.
The idea that the NFC championship game was already set in stone between the New Orleans Saints and the Rams was a byproduct of this lack of original thinking, which also ignores the vast majority of NFL postseasons, where a certain parody-fed madness often rears its head, producing deep runs from wild-card teams and one-year wonders like the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Granted, the NFC is not deep this year, and the last month has created a particular amount of attrition that has made most the conference look ill-prepared to do anything in January, see for instance the parade of 6-7 teams on the outside looking in.
But a couple teams, one team born in grit (Seattle), another applying the grit to themselves (Dallas), both feeding off a certain amount of ill feelings that you can argue emanate from their own locker rooms, yet both are fed and expelled from the attention each team receives as magnets and continued reliable fodder for football media.
To the Cowboys’ credit, they are readying themselves to take a final stranglehold of the wasteland division that is the NFC East and they really seemed to benefit from the large gamble taken in shipping a first-round pick to Oakland for Amari Cooper.
Yet, it is the franchise that pioneered fleecing the Raiders, the Bears, that has outdone even those proud ‘Boys in making themselves a team to be reckoned with in the coming weeks.
A couple weeks ago on the national stage of Thursday night, Dallas stunned many and asserted its defense in a great containing of the New Orleans offense, at the time they looked like the most aggressive, hard-hitting team in the league. Today they look more like the second such team.
The tempo set, or muted, by the New Monsters of the Midway, in a rapturous reducing of the Rams’ highly-touted offense last night was the kind of performance that should quiet the often-annoying refrains that teams like the Rams, Saints and Chiefs are some sort of evolutionary leap because they put up POINTZZZZ and some combination of the three are bound to meet in the next Super Bowl.
Like ever reaching a Super Bowl, scoring POINTZZZ aren’t a given in the NFL and the bulk scoring of them does not equate to anything like a strategy to win in this game.
To score in football always requires a sort of partnership with the opposing defense — in either being depleted by injury, not staffing itself with athletes of any regard or allowing itself to go woefully unprepared, a defense yields points, we mistake ourselves in saying they allow points.
A defense like the Chicago Bears’ neither yields or allows points, they’re more inclined to take points and make them their own. Against the Rams that happened in a key instance with a safety in the early third quarter manufactured by Eddie Goldman, who previously was overlooked in an overly-thought of positional breakdown of the Bears’ defense by Rams coach Sean McVay.
Goldman’s sack of Jared Goff, who wanted none of what the Bears’ and the chill off Lake Michigan dealt him throughout the evening, was as much of a punctuation as any of the Bears’ 4 interceptions or Bradley Sowell’s unexpected star turn as a receiver.
In total, the four interceptions, the three sacks and the safety Sunday night were all elements in a defensive masterpiece that needs to be framed. In some ways it looks like hanging a Kerry James Marshall in a Harold’s Chicken shack due to what surrounded the D — Money Missing Mitch and Cody Parkey are both once again on notice — but we can leave obsessing about the ascetic contradictions to those who will never appreciate the cultural resonance of either Marshall or a 4 piece mild fried hard with salt and pepper.
In other words, if you ain’t really about Chicago or about the Bears then you don’t need to appreciate what they did last night, in most cases you wont anyway. That’s not really what matters to us who do at this point.
As time passes and the eventual meeting of this Bears team and the Rams in Los Angeles or the Saints in New Orleans occurs we will have our narrative set for this particular NFL season. The Bears could still upset the idea that great offense will stampede devoted defenders in any occasion, in our current environment and rules space, but the majority of people won’t believe it until they see it and they damn sure won’t predict it.
To be honest, I won’t even predict it. As a third seed, which the Bears currently stand to be, there is an outside chance, as a fourth seed basically no chance. Why? Those chances most exist in regards to how many home games the Bears could play in the postseason.
Your favorite team does not want to play in Chicago in January and the only reason they won’t have to this coming January is because a young coach and a younger quarterback are still working through some things — four losses, three on the road, 14 points, that’s what separates the Bears from a perfect record and the rest of the NFC from its eventual reckoning.
None of that can be made up in the remaining games this season, the Bears will have to go as far as they can in spite of all that, but as Sunday night showed that can still be pretty far and this defense isn’t giving up a damn thing. Good luck taking their moment away from them.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR