Monday Morning Quarterback: Bears-Cardinals (12.23.12)

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The defense got the job done in the desert with two touchdowns against the Cardinals.
The defense got the job done in the desert with two touchdowns against the Cardinals.

The Bears did their part on Sunday and knocked off the Arizona Cardinals, 28-13, to keep their slipping playoff hopes alive. A New York Giants loss to the Baltimore Ravens also aided the Bears’ cause and it has now set up an interesting, yet unfathomable scenario for the final week of the regular season.

Remember this article by then-Sun-Times columnist Mike Mulligan two seasons ago, suggesting we root for the Packers so that the Bears would face an easy Seahawks team in the Divisional Round of the playoffs? That prompted this reply from me in which I said there was no way I would root for the Packers no matter how advantageous a playoff matchup the Bears got that season.

(Side note: my forecast in that article turned out to be true about the Packers beating the Bears at Soldier Field in the conference title game … a nightmare that prompted idiotic fans, players, and media to question Jay Cutler’s toughness).

As a staunch Bears supporter and anti-Packers fan, there was only one scenario in which I have said I would ever root for the Packers. And that is in a Week 17 game where a Packers victory would send the Bears to the playoffs.

Well, Bears fans: hell has frozen over.

Go! Pack! Go!

(here’s a video to get you in the mood. And another. And another.)

Oh, I feel so dirty. Somebody get me some Lysol, some sanitizer, and other form of chemical to wipe away the grime and stench, because ordinary soap and water with a half-dozen showers hasn’t cleansed me yet.

The truth is, I don’t have to root for the Packers yet. None of us do. Because the Bears have to take care of business first and beat the Lions next Sunday at noon. If they lose, they’ll miss the playoffs and we can resume hating our neighbors to the north.

But if the Bears beat the Lions in the early game, throw on a bright orange jumpsuit, knock some teeth out of your mouth, odorize yourself, grab a bratwurst in one hand and an obese woman wearing sweat pants in the other, put a block of foam cheese on your head and transform yourself into a disgusting Packers fan. Yes, a Packers victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the 3:25 game would then send the Bears to the postseason. And the good thing about that game is that because the Seahawks beat (or destroyed) the 49ers on Sunday night, the Packers now have a chance to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs with a victory over the Vikings, so they’re not going to be tanking the game.

Of course, that’s if you want the Bears to make the playoffs. At the time of this writing, a poll on the Chicago Tribune’s website asking if you, the fan, want the Bears to make the playoffs reveals that 54% of the respondents say “No — I want change at the top.”

That’s right, more than half of the respondents said they won’t be rooting for the Bears to make the playoffs. In which case, my response is: then don’t call yourself a Bears fan next year.

Moving back to the game on Sunday, one has to wonder what Bears fans and the media were so worried about heading into this weekend. Yes, the Bears had lost five of their last six games, but those were five losses to teams that currently sit in the playoff picture. That doesn’t promote much confidence about what the Bears could do if they get to the playoffs, but it should help explain why the Bears were able to turn things around against a bad Cardinals team and summarily dispose of them.

The defense feasted on the lousy Cardinals offense, recording four sacks (three by Julius Peppers), forcing two fumbles, intercepting two passes, and adding two more defensive scores to their impressive season on a Zack Bowman fumble recovery in the end zone and a Charles Tillman pick-six. The offense, meanwhile, was less than spectacular but they were efficient and took what the defense gave them. Jay Cutler started the game slowly by misfiring on several throws, but connected with Brandon Marshall on an 11-yard touchdown pass while the offense as a whole rushed for 152 yards.

The only touchdown of the game let up by the Bears wasn’t even permitted by the defense. It was a late blocked field goal attempt that the Cardinals returned 82 yards for the score.

Skeptics and cynics will scoff at the victory over an inferior opponent, but I’ll take the win. The Bears have a minimum of one game left and I’m going to root for them to knock the snot out of a hated division rival. And if it comes down to it, I’ll be watching the Packers-Vikings game and probably rooting more against a second division rival than for the cheeseheads.

You can ask Santa for hope and change in the form of mass firings and “house cleaning” in the organization if you want to. I’m asking for one more victory and a berth in the playoff tournament where anything can happen.

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