Super Bowl XX Redux and a prospective glimpse into this year’s Super Bowl, Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots is one of the most important regular season NFL games to happen here in a long time. And the biggest regular season football game since…well last week when the Pats thrashed their sub-rival New York Jets 45-3. I say “sub-rival” because NYJ is on a level far beneath the Pats yet still an AFC East Division rival.
And this monster game will be played in monstrous conditions: high temperature in the teens, snow, 40 mph winds and very little daylight. If frostbite, hypothermia and absurd ticket prices didn’t all exist, I would certainly be there.
But since I won’t, you can join the discussion at 3:15 CT Sunday as I live blog the game here
Since January 26, 1986, when Richard Dent and company made Champaign Tony Eason and Steve Grogan their cellmates, the Patriots have won 5 of 6 against the Bears.
Will it be six of seven?
By Paul M. Banks
New England Patriots (10-2) Analysis: Wes Welker leads the Patriots in receiving, and he’s quite possibly the best slot receiver in league history. Not just in the game today, but all time. You can’t spell “awesome” without w-e-s. He leads a group of receivers that specializes in YACs (yards after catch).
They still go vertical after the loss of Randy Moss, but they really don’t have to all that much because NE burns opponents with screens, slants and swing passes that end up much more as their receivers (Brandon Tate, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski etc.) all rattle off big chunks of yardage and consume clock.
Everyone talks about Tom Brady all the time, so now we’ll just move on to the running game; which everyone overlooks.
BenJarvis Green-Ellis has two AWESOME nicknames: “Law Firm” because that’s exactly what his four names sound like and “Boston Legal,” a corollary of his original nickname. He may have the coolest moniker in New England since former Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd. And we need these nicknames more than ever these days, because too many athletes (A-Rod, I-Rod, D-Will, T-Will, T-Mac) are stricken with thoughtless abbreviations in place of legitimate nicknames.
Law Firm leads the way with 163 carries for 699 yards and 11 TDs. Although Danny Woodhead, a scrap heap signing from the juggernaut that is Chadron State has run for 355 yards on an impressive 5.3 yards per carry, over a yard higher than Boston Legal’s output.
Woodhead is like Welker, fast, small and Caucasian, so if you get the two players mixed up when you see them streaking across the television screen, it’s understandable. You’re not the first to confuse the two skill position guys. Woodhead, who hails from North Platte Nebraska is one of the best bargain basement signings in the league this year.
The Pats’ defense ranks 19th in the NFL against the run, and 31st (that’s penultimate) against the pass, but that stat is a little misleading. The Patriots always seem to be ahead this season, so their opponents have no choice but to throw, throw, throw, and that compiles yards. Then again, it’s true that the Pats back 7 is anything but world beaters. There are serious flaws in all three position groups on the defensive side of the ball.
But Linebacker Jerod Mayo, their leading tackler, is a bonafide star and CB Devin McCourty will be one day soon. He could become the next Darrelle Revis.
Chicago Bears (9-3) Analysis:
Israel Idonije is really stepping up as a pass rusher to complement Julius Peppers. Both have been disruptive and explosive as of late. As usual, the Bears linebackers are as good as any in the league.
Jay Cutler has only truly been murdered in one football game this season (NYG). And he hasn’t thrown a pick in three weeks. The fact that his own offensive line has not gotten him murdered him yet is both encouraging and impressive.
And for those of you who find his public persona aloof and arrogant, I just want to let you know right now that I’m actually a huge fan of that.
Mike Martz has learned to keep his ginormous ego in check and adjusted his game plans to the personnel. They’ve been running the ball more effectively lately as he’s shown a new commitment to the concept.
Bill Belichick is a genius. He just is.
As a leader, a tactician, a motivator, a coach, an organizer of men and manipulator of Xs and Os. If you rolled Ron Zook and Vinny Del Negro into one, Belichick is 100x the anti-thesis of whatever that ghastly coaching creature creation would be.
There’s a reason I endure looking like I’m homeless in public to dress as Bill Belichick for Halloween; because he’s always right. Here’s what he told the media this week about the Bears. He was very complementary.
On the Bears’ defense:
“Their front is very disruptive. They cause a lot of negative plays. They’re hard to block. They move a lot. They’re quick; they’re powerful. Their linebackers are very active – Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher – it’s an impressive group. They’re good in the secondary, ball-hawking type of team; they turn the ball over a lot. You have to really protect it against them. They’re all good and the linebackers are good. So, it’s definitely not a one-man band, but you have to know where Peppers is on every play. They do enough to keep you honest where if you’re pushing the protection to him a lot then they’ll drop him out in their blitz-zone package and then come off the other side so you get out-manned on the side away from him because you’re paying so much attention to him. But, if you worry about the other side, then he kills you. But, again, a lot of times, he’s being disruptive and that ends up with other guys making plays. Or the other guys on the front are being disruptive and he runs them down.”
On the Bears’ offense:
“And offensively, I’ve been extremely impressed with Jay Cutler. I think he’s playing as well as any quarterback we’ve seen and we’ve seen some good ones. But he’s doing a great job. He’s accurate, makes good reads, quick decisions, makes plays with his feet both running for yardage and keeping plays alive, scrambling. Matt Forte has been a very productive guy for him, running and passing. He’s fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage. There are some pretty good players on that list with the Stephen Jacksons and Chris Johnsons, all those guys. So, he’s up there in that elite production class. The Bears have got a lot of good plays from everybody in the passing game. Cutler’s done a nice job of spreading it around. Greg Olsen’s produced for them. Earl Bennett’s come in and really done a good job. He’s really made some big plays; really been a good key third-down receiver for them. And of course Johnny Knox and Devin Hester are home run hitters. Those guys can strike from anywhere in a hurry. They’ve got a lot of things that are a problem.”
Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt)
Patriots 27, Bears 17 (Banks’ 2010 record 17-8)
The Patriots’ offense look RIDICULOUS: 31.6 points per game. So does Tom Brady: 68% completion, well over 3,000 yards already, 27 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions and none through his last 228 consecutive pass attempts.
Now if you bring up the idea of “Bear Weather” here, I’m going to stab you in the eyes repeatedly with an icicle, because it doesn’t exist. And doesn’t matter anyway, because New England has “Patriot Weather” going for them.
If you bring up that retarded football misnomer that pass happy teams can’t function in the snow, I’ll take that icicle and stab you repeatedly in all your vital organs. Remember last October, when a freak blizzard hit Foxborough and Brady threw for 6 TD passes in ONE HALF versus Tennessee? Or Adam Viniatieri’s famous “kick heard round the world” in 2001? That was in the snow too. Bears will keep up with New England most of the way, but Pats will pull away towards the end.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com
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