Wisch: Can I Order My Bears’ Crow To Go?

By Dave Wischnowsky–

Earlier this month in his weekly Sports Illustrated Q&A, Dan Patrick posed the question to Brian Urlacher, “Best team in the NFC now?”

“Besides us?” Urlacher responded.

When I read that, I’ll admit, I laughed.

And Patrick appeared to have had to bite his tongue to stifle one, too.

“Ooh,” he replied to Urlacher. “Do you really believe that you guys are the best team in the NFC?”

It was a fair follow-up question. After all, at the time, the 5-3 Bears were fresh off an ugly three-point win at Buffalo, preceded by even uglier three-point losses to Washington and Seattle at home. Hardly Super Bowl contender statistics.

Unfazed, Urlacher shot back: “I think we’re one of the best teams in the NFC. We haven’t played like it the last couple of weeks, but I still think talent-wise and with our schemes, we can be one of the best teams in the NFC.”

Well, after clipping the wings of Mike Vick and the Eagles on Sunday in a truly impressive 31-26 victory, the Bears are officially – and without a doubt – one of the best teams in the NFC.

Just like Urlacher predicted.

And, as one of the team’s many doubting Thomases, I’m happily eating crow this morning.

(I’ll make sure to FedEx some Dan Patrick’s way, too.)

Last Friday, I wrote in this blog, that while the Bears had already surprised me this season with a 7-3 record, “I’ll still wait for them to stun me with a big victory before I buy anything that the team is selling.”

With Sunday’s showing by the defense, special teams and – most surprisingly – Jay Cutler with his savvy 142.6 passer-rating performance, I’m officially buying that they’re one of the conference’s best.

But, forgive me if I’m still not all-in.

Sunday’s win was a whopper, for sure. But to truly establish themselves as the NFC’s Big Cheese, the Bears are going to have to prove they can beat another top team on the road.

Or, in other words, win away from the terrible turf that was Soldier Field on Sunday. (Honestly, Soldier Field’s turf is terrible every day.)

It’s true that that the Bears are 4-1 away from home so far this season. But, while they certainly can’t control their schedule and can beat only the teams on it, wins at Dallas, Carolina, Buffalo and, at the time, quarterback-less Miami (clubs with a combined record of 12-32) don’t exactly pop eyes.

A win at Detroit would help the cause (but the Lions aren’t great). And a win at Minnesota on Dec. 20 would be more impressive (finally free of Brad Childress, look for the Vikings to surge). But, it would be a win at Green Bay in the Jan. 2 season finale would provide the true statement, especially heading into the playoffs.

Standing at 8-3 after Sunday’s victory – the team’s best in years – and alone in first place atop the NFC North, the Bears aren’t who I thought they were.

But there’s still more work to be done if they’re going to be who Chicago wants them to be.

A Super Bowl team.

  • A.J. Cooper

    Super Bowl? Let’s not get crazy now. I agree maybe they don’t suck as much as I thought, but I just don’t want to get carried away. I’ve been hurt before. I guess I would like to see a better offensive line, more accurate passing by Cutler (though I realize his performance yesterday was WAY better than anyone thought him capable of), etc.

  • Jeremy Carlson

    I think the telling games left on the schedule will be the New England and J-E-T-S games. In my opinion, all of the teams in the NFC North know each other so well (which our other three remaining games are against), that it’s really a coin flip who’s going to win those games. Are we better than the Lions and Vikings? Without a doubt. The Packers? Pretty evenly matched in my book. BUT…those two games against elite AFC teams, who we rarely play at all, let alone twice in a season, will prove just how good we really are.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Hey, guys. Thanks for weighing in.

    @A.J., oh, I don’t think the Bears are a true Super Bowl contender, just yet. Heck, until yesterday afternoon, I didn’t think they were anything but a pretender. After that performance, though, in an NFC that has no true dominant team, there’s no denying that the Bears now appear to be a legit conference champion threat.

    I’m still skeptical how they might fare in the playoffs with the offensive line’s inability to pass block, but I have to at the very least acknowledge that.

    And, @Jeremy, if the Bears beat the Pats and the Jets, they’ll declare themselves not just a Super Bowl appearance threat, but a Super Bowl champion threat. The games will be interesting this month. And, really, that’s what you ask for most as an NFL fan, isn’t it? Meaningful games in December?

    I know that’s what I hope for as a Cubs fan, meaningful games in September. It will be nice to have a reason to pay attention to the Bears this month — I wasn’t expecting that when this season began. At all.

  • JB

    So to all the people declaring that the Bears have to beat the Pats and Jets to be “for real:” What happens if the Bears lose by 3? Or beat one, and lose to the other? Or beat one team on a last second field goal, or two Devin Hester punt return TDs, or beat one by 2 points and lose to the other by 40 points? Will they still be “for real?”

    And, incidentally, I heard much the same garbage in 2006: The Bears weren’t any good because they couldn’t beat the AFC’s best. Newsflash: No one in the NFC has to beat ANYONE in the AFC to get to the Super Bowl. Which raises another question: As the Bears have now beaten both the Packers and the Eagles in the regular season, and are thus realistic playoff contenders, should the Bears make the Super Bowl and lose by 30 poiints, can they be considered a good team?

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    All valid points and fair questions, JB. I suppose we’ll just have to see how everything turns out — and how everyone reacts afterward :)

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