Monday Morning Quarterback: Bears-Packers (01.23.11)

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I’m feeling extra dirty today following Sunday’s 21-14 loss to the Packers and not even three showers could remove the grime. Between the stench of deer urine and body odor from our neighbors north of the border and the foul play of the Bears in the biggest game in Chicago sports history, it was one big toxic waste dump.

I’m not going to dwell today on the Bears’ performance because it’s not worth my time, similarly to how watching the full NFC Conference Championship game was not worth my time yesterday. I turned off the television in the middle of the second quarter, the first time I chose not to finish a Bears game in more years than I can remember.

It just wasn’t worth it.

I can’t say I’m all too surprised by the result. I had predicted a Packers win this week, and, in fact, predicted a Packers triumph over the Bears two weeks ago after the wild card round. Still, I held out small hope that the Bears would prove me wrong… that is, until they failed to show up for the most important game of their season.

In reality, the game was over following the Packers’ seven-play, 84-yard touchdown drive on the opening series of the game. I stuck with it, of course, because we’ve seen crazier things happen, but when the Bears couldn’t move the ball or put points up on the board, the TV went off when James Starks put the Packers up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

I chose to take a nap instead, dreaming of Bears glory and better times to come while trying to clear my mind of this embarrassment for the city of Chicago. Watching the game would only build stress and I preferred to have a peaceful Sunday.

In typical Bears fashion, they dangled a thread of hope by staging a fourth-quarter comeback, but yanked the thread away with a game-clinching interception.

Only, it wasn’t Jay Cutler who threw that pick. It was third-stringer and folk hero Caleb Hanie.

Believe it or not, I did get to see the revered Hanie in action. I awoke from my nap with a text message from my friend proclaiming: “Hanie!” (He actually typed about six exclamation points, but I thought it would be redundant to include them all)

So, midway through the fourth quarter — after Hanie had already been in the game for a while — with the Bears down 21-7, I turned on the TV again and plopped down on my couch, with the TV on mute, of course, because I had no desire to listen to the Bear-hating broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman praising the Packers.

What I saw was entertaining, although clearly the result of a Packers defense playing soft, prevent defense. Hanie led the Bears on a four-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 35-yard Earl Bennett touchdown. Hanie was dinking and dunking down the field with John Shoop-like play calling. Those were the days in which the Packers annihilated the Bears led by Brett Favre, so it only seemed fitting as a new Packers quarterback was cementing his legacy against this team.

Still down by a touchdown with the Bears’ defense never really showing any signs of stopping the Packers’ offense, I showed nothing more than a clenched fist as Bennett crossed the goal line.

But, to my surprise, the defense came out inspired and forced the Packers into a three-and-out on the ensuing series. All I wanted was the Bears’ offense to have one more chance, and they got it. Backed up on their own 29-yard line, Hanie drove the offense 44 yards to the Packers’ 27 on 10 plays. That set up a third down and three yards to go.

This seemed like a promising drive and with the Bears in four-down territory, surely they could gain three yards for a first down with two plays, right?

Not when Mike Martz calls an end around to Bennett that was stopped for a two-yard loss.

Game over.

Well, not technically, but I had no hope for Hanie on fourth down and five. His fourth-down pass was picked off to close the game, very reminiscent of how Cutler ended two of his five games against the Packers in the last two years.

Speaking of Cutler, now that I got the housecleaning of recapping the game out of the way, I have plenty of thoughts to share about his injury.

I thought I’d have a morose Monday morning, but the outcry from Bears fans as well as Cutler’s peers around the league who criticized him for not being able to finish the game has me riled up.

That’s just the dose of medicine I needed to get my mind off the game and onto the stupidity from those who are criticizing Cutler.

First of all, Cutler could not finish the game because he could not plant his leg, and a hobbled Cutler would not have done the Bears any good, anyway.

Secondly, to question the toughness of a guy who got sacked a league-high 52 times in the regular season (12 more than the next highest-sacked quarterback) and yet only missed one game is just ignorant. And the only reason he even missed one game was because he got his brain damaged after getting sacked a record nine times in one half and he was not cleared by doctors despite his insistence that he could play.

Cutler is one tough son of a bitch, and anyone who doubts that is an idiot. A football retard. That’s right, his peers around the league who used their Twitter accounts to criticize Cutler are morons. They don’t like him because he’s a fiery competitor who walks and talks with a swagger. Give him an offensive line and he’ll live up to his potential.

The Bears had a great season, but now it’s time to reload. They can’t stand pat and hope they can get better from within, a philosophy of general manager Jerry Angelo’s for far too long. The Bears have a lot of free agents and probably will cut ties with Tommie Harris, freeing up even more cap room. The Bears need to infuse the defense with more young playmakers. They also need to spend some of that money on some offensive linemen — preferably veterans. To not improve the offensive and defensive lines would be negligent and damaging to a team capable of making another championship run next year and beyond.

I look at Angelo like a poker or Blackjack player. He was down to his last few chips following last year’s disaster and yet he won one big hand this season to keep him at the table.

Go all in, Jerry. Don’t spread your chips over a couple hands (or seasons). Nobody knows what will happen with the collective bargaining agreement, but I’m holding out hope something will get worked out so that we don’t lose football next year. Whatever happens, Angelo has to realize his chips are dwindling and the team needs some help.

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