By Dan Bernstein–
Feel free to be as crazy as you want at Soldier Field on Sunday. Fortify yourself with your drink of choice, wave a sign with whatever risqué taunt you can create, wear your superfan-finest or be that shirtless guy, but promise one thing:
When the Bears have the ball, be quiet.
Lost amid the buildup to Sunday’s playoff game was a bizarre fact from their Friday preparation at Halas Hall. Instead of practicing outside in gamelike weather conditions, the Bears felt it necessary to work in the confines of the Walter Payton Center, so they could blast in crowd noise. Like they do before a trip to the Metrodome, they were trying to simulate the difficulty their offense would have. At home.
Apparently, too many Bears fans fail to realize what is actually happening out there. First, Jay Cutler has to cover his earholes to hear the play being radioed into his helmet. The system has been balky on occasion this year, and he often needs a secondary signal from the sideline that takes up play-clock time.
He relays the play in the huddle. They break and line up in their initial positions, then most often respond with a shift of backs/receivers to create a mismatch — a staple of the Martz system. Then, there are numerous protection calls that have to make their way down the offensive line quickly upon assessing the defensive formation and its own shifts (location of the “Mike” ‘backer, depth and deployment of safeties, man/zone, etc.).
Let them do their jobs, people. There are messages on the JumboTrons telling you to pipe down, so heed them. Watch when offensive players come out of the huddle signaling you to stop yelling.
I find it astonishing that one of the NFL’s founding franchises has to deal with this.
It will never be more important than Sunday, and not just because of the significance of the game itself. Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers may be the best in the league at disguising pressures and coverages, having linebacker Clay Matthews and others make subtle pre-snap moves into advantageous gaps from their base 3-4 scheme. He places nickel-corner Charles Woodson all over the field as a free-range disruptor.
So the Bears will have more to say to each other than ever, with it all meaning more than we can remember.
How many of you failing to understand this principle are the same people who ridiculed Steve Bartman for interfering with his team’s chance to reach its sport’s biggest stage? I’d go so far as to argue that actively handicapping your team’s communication before the fact is far worse than reacting reflexively to a ball headed your way.
The skyrocketing price of tickets to the game may help take care of this. I have observed a general correlation in all sports between cheaper tickets and louder fans, if not drunker and dumber. Those with the ability to afford insanely-expensive seats are often less inclined to bellow like walruses and/or pack the hip-flask that emboldens leather lungs while decreasing awareness and judgement.
The Bears like to refer to their home-field fans as the “4th Phase,” a bit of clever pandering that gives the crowd some ownership of the outcomes alongside offense, defense and special teams.
If they practice inside again this week, getting ready for anticipated problems because they can’t hear each other in the biggest home game in franchise history, we’ll know what they really think.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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