By Dan Bernstein–

So the Bears are not as good as the Patriots. We probably knew that, at least those of us who expressed pessimism about their chances, even in mythically-advantageous weather.

That’s really all we got from yesterday’s embarrassment. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are enough to keep the Bears from claiming a position among the league’s elite — a level that includes pretty much just the Patriots.

It was awful, yes. But it’s over, and it really has no effect on the Bears’ chances to win the Super Bowl, since the Packers became the Lions’ first NFC North victim in over three years. Indeed, the division title is there for the Bears with a win over the Vikings next week and a Green Bay loss to these same Patriots in Foxboro.

Want more evidence of things going Lovie Smith’s way in 2010? Aaron Rodgers suffered his second concussion of the season after having his cranium spiked on the Ford Field turf. His availability for next week and beyond is in question.

The Vikings added a literal collapse to match the figurative one that has been occurring all season in Minneapolis. The torn Metrodome roof (somewhere Hawk Harrelson did a thankful sky-point after his years of voodoo hexes finally worked) has forced their game against the Giants to be played tonight in Detroit. So now the Vikings will face the Bears with one day less of recovery time after playing a physical opponent, even if the game could be outdoors at the University of Minnesota.

New England exposed the Bears yesterday, but what about that fact really matters going forward in this NFL?

Each week we remind ourselves that these individual games are self-contained, three-hour realities. One outcome – for better or worse – is just one outcome. This does not erase the dominating win over the Eagles that vaulted the Bears into consideration for larger goals. Who is to say the Bears would be utterly unable to beat the Pats in Dallas should they meet again, under conditions better suited to what the Bears do?

(Yeah, I said it, meatballs. And so did CBS analyst Bill Cowher after the game, as he observed the importance of Julius Peppers and his linemates generating pressure. He said it was impossible to get enough traction to rush the passer effectively, and it undermined any chance the Bears had)

Smith will meet the media this afternoon. He will stand at the lectern and say something like “We are still a first-place football team, and we still control our own destiny.”

Even as bad as it all was yesterday, he’ll be right.

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