You know you’re off to a good start when, on the first possession, Matt Forte fumbles a hand off deep in your own zone, putting you in a 14-0 hole on the road. Add on giving up 258 rushing yards, 42 points and having THREE touchdowns taken back by penalties – and you’d think you were looking at a last place team. And perhaps the Bears should be, given the injuries they’ve endured and the very fast decline of a once dominant defense. But even with all of those factors, this game was, until late, a very winnable game. Had they not committed those flat out stupid penalties, the Bears probably win this game behind 352 yards and two touchdowns (which should have been three) from Josh McCown.
But this is not a last place team we are talking about. At least for the time being, this is still a team tied for first with Green Bay, playing without Aaron Rogers, and Detroit, who seem to play like they are 10 year old boys and first place is cooties. Factor these two things together and you have the Bears still in the playoff hunt. Which makes this weekend’s divisional match-ups extremely important. The Lions play the Packers on Thanksgiving, and a Lions loss and Bears win in Minnesota leaves the Bears alone atop the NFC North. Now imagine the Bears get their QB back, the Packers get their QB back, and now that tie-breaker the Lions have no longer factors in. The Lions, who everyone thought had the easiest schedule to close out the season, have now lost consecutive games to the Steelers and Buccaneers, both sub-.500 teams.
Now, lets be honest here. The Bears still have major issues. Their run defense isn’t getting any better, and they are about to go up against the best in the game. But like we saw against the Rams, even after all of the gaping holes they left for the Rams running backs, they were still in the game if not for the penalties. So the Bears can win in spite of their defense, but they cannot make mistakes.
So here’s where we stand going into Week 13. The Wild Card would be a real longshot for the Bears at this point, with the Panthers and 49ers rolling. Which means the division is their only hope at a playoff birth. So this Sunday’s game against the Vikings becomes a MUST win. A conference game, a division game, and during a week where either the Packers or Lions WILL lose (unless somehow the Lions can manage a tie two weeks in a row), but either way it helps the Bears. But only if they win.
And here’s something else to think about as the season winds down. As great as Josh McCown has been, the Bears know they can only win if they score. A lot. And Jay Cutler is just the guy to do that for them. Then they will have Lance Briggs and Jay Ratliff back in the coming weeks to help the defense a little. As hard as it is to believe, they still have a shot if they can continue to win games. The division is somehow wide open, and the Bears could be in complete control so long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot along the way.