As of this writing, the Chicago Bears are 2-2 going into their pivotal game at Detroit. Even. Plenty of football left to play.
Yet at 2-2, they are two games behind division-leading Green Bay and the Lions, who both won 4-0 records. Clearly, in order for the Bears to hope to get anything other than a higher draft pick out of the 2011 season, the Bears need to start winning consistently while the two teams at the top need to lose. This all has to start Monday Night.
Certainly my hope is that the Bears still have the veteran ability to win, despite their players being horribly aged when compared to the upstart teams at the top of the division. Despite being 6 point underdogs at Detroit against everyone’s new favorite team, I hope they will come out and show the national audience that they are still a team to be contended with; that the Lions haven’t quite arrived yet.
It will be a tough job, especially given the continued absence of starting safety Chris Harris, the noise in a suddenly fired-up Ford Field, and Chicago’s ongoing offensive ineptitude.
Where will the Bears season go from here? Will the Bears pull off a stunning victory at Detroit, which may propel the Bears to coast to victories over Minnesota and Tampa? Should this happen, Chicago would enter their bye at 5-2. Looking at their schedule, if the Bears pull an inspiring win at Detroit, it is possible that the Bears could enter the Christmas night game at Green Bay with a 10-4 record, ready to challenge the champs.
Or will the Bears lose another frustrating game, or even worse, get blown out by a Lions team pumped on the adrenalin of their new-found success? This Bears season could also turn this way, should they find themselves at 2-3. Say this happens and their confidence falters, and they’re still able to beat Minnesota at home but lose to Tampa Bay in London. They’d be 3-4 at the bye, and if they continue to stagger in their daze, they could then be at best 7-7 and out of playoff contention when they travel to face the Packers.
Which way will the season go? We can only watch, cheer, and hope the Bears’ mantra that they’re better than anyone will ever give them credit for, that we’re all against them, is true.
This pivotal Bears-Lions game reminds me of two matchups in Bears-Lions history.
The last time a Chicago-Detroit game had this much relevance was on October 30, 2005, when the teams were tied atop the NFC North with 3-3 records. The game was locked at 13 when regulation ended, and the Bears won in overtime on a Charles Tillman interception return of a Jeff Garcia pass. After that season-changing game the Bears went 11-5 and the Lions spiraled to a 5-11 finish.
And because it’s Monday Night in Detroit, this game reminds me of one other. That game was Monday October 19, 1981, when I was in fourth grade. With a rare chance to stay up late and watch the Bears on Monday Night Football, I put on my Bears uniform and sat on the couch next to my Dad. The Bears were 1-6, but the Lions were 2-4 and starting quarterback Eric Hipple for the first time. I figured the Bears would right themselves. But I ended up not even wanting to stay up late, as the Lions cruised to a 48-17 destruction. The newbie Hipple threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns.
Hoping this coming Monday isn’t another evening to forget.