OFF WITH YOU ME LAD, AND BE LIVELY

 

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It seems like every year I go through this futile exercise of rooting against the Patriots only to find that they are again on the verge of yet another championship and begrudgingly admit they’re probably the best of all time.

It’s like complaining because the sky is too big, or that there are too many waves in the ocean.

The Patriots are like the Bailey Brothers in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You just can’t keep them down.

Maybe it’s the rest of the world that is the scrooge of Mr. Potter trying to stop them. 

Or maybe the world never did stop them and is with George and his Angel, Clarence at Nick’s getting loaded. “Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon, light on the clove——off with you me lad and be lively.”

One thing for sure is that the whole world has gotten so tired of watching them, like they’re almost forced to. No matter how beautiful and uniquely Frank Capraian or Bill Belichickian, and no matter how much they’re a cut above the rest. 

Most everyone finds themselves at some point rooting for the bad guys, even when or especially when the same good guys are winning all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do love it when the good guys win. It’s just hard when you want to see somebody else take the reins.

What did Barack Obama say to console all the petrified Democrats when Donald Trump became president? Something about people wanting that new car, and that new car smell?

Anyone that gets too high, like Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, there seems to be a very human urge to knock them down and give somebody else a chance the climb up.

Businesses are constantly doing this, knocking each other over and reinventing themselves. The flow of our entire world economy cannot be afraid of that sometimes rather intimidating voice telling you you absolutely must change.

If you talk to poets you’ll find that they’re trying to say something that nobody else has said yet. If 99 out of 100 people use the word cute to describe a baby, a poet might use the word, exe—cute, and use it in such a way to make the baby better than all of the cutes put together.

So all this got me thinking about everything that will be happening on Super Bowl that is way better than the New England Patriots.

5) Most people wake up Super Bowl morning and have a Super Bowl Breakfast and I am no exception. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, cheese, english muffin and cream cheese, all covered with chives. I guarantee Tom Brady won’t be eating anything nearly as good. Maybe when he retires. When is that going to be exactly?

4) While making the big breakfast I have a kitty that watches everything I do like he was the student and I was the professor, copiously taking notes and when its all done he comes up after class and asks for some kind of extra credit. Whether I give it to him or not, it shows real dedication. Way more than all those Super Spoiled East Coast Yakety Yaks. I mean really how hard is it to follow a team that is always winning? Find me the fans that follow when your team loses. That is the fan you go to the bank with. 

3) A lot of people have a Sunday routine, Super Bowl or otherwise. Coffee, Sunday Papers, get out the iPhone read about what’s going on in the world. Those with families do family things. I am a writer and so I have writing projects that I’m always engaged in. Whether it’s Super Bowl Sunday or New Year’s Day I am writing, and it will be this way until the day I die. Because of it I feel I am the luckiest person in the world despite all my handicaps and shortcomings. I’ll take all my problems over all that New England pomp and circumstance any day.

2) Sunday drivers. My dad always hated them. A slower more deliberate Sunday driver that slows the whole flow wouldn’t be a Sunday without them. Since the Patriots do have a reputation for cheating, maybe the Super Bowl Sunday Drivers could organize something to slow the team traveling from their hotels to Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the game. Uber, wherefore art thou?

1) Most people on Super Bowl Sunday have snacks that they are preparing. Since I’m watching the game alone I won’t be doing anything extravagant. Cheese and crackers, chip and dip, pizza and wings, cheeseburgers, something easy. Maybe three green olives and a very weak martini. I will be having something special, but nothing to fancy. 

When my beloved Chicago Bears were in the Super Bowl all those years ago I got one of my best friends at the time to drive me 3 hours away from school to where my family lived and was going to be watching the game, and I proceeded to watch every bit of pre game show that the networks would allow. But this game? No way. The game starts at 5:30 so I’ll start watching maybe at 5. 

But even though I’m complaining, I’m really not. Even though I really did think the Bears had a shot of making it to the Super Bowl this year, the fact that they got closer than they have in 8 years is worth celebrating.

Also, one last thing to keep in mind. Even though most every other civilized country has some kind of Super Bowl like event that it celebrates, right now we got the Super Bowl, and that makes us the luckiest people in the brief history of the planet, ever, New England or not.

 

ARE YOU THINKING SUPER BOWL?

 

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I know it’s kind of sacrilegious to look ahead to the championship game when the tournament hasn’t even started yet, but hey, I’m not playing, and I think that fans of this year’s Bears are beginning to have that Nagy  feeling the team might be able to compete for a Super Bowl.

So many things have to go right for a lower seed team to win the big game and they usually don’t. Only two number 3 seeds since the NFL went to a six team playoff format ever made it to the Super Bowl, the 2006 Colts who won in Super Bowl XLI and the 2003 Panthers who lost in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Colts beat the Bears 29-17 and Panthers lost to the Patriots 32-29.

This Bear season has been one of exceeding expectations. While many of the so called experts had the Bears 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 and not making the playoffs most everyone had them winning more games under the gutty Matt Nagy than last year’s boring John Fox and showing some kind of guile and promise.

Then Khalil Mack came, like almost from the sky and a city started to wonder. Then that first Sunday night game of the season came against the Packers. Then that first half.

It reminded me a lot of my drinking days. The kind of misconception and false euphoria you get. Sometimes I could crawl inside the bottle and not even catch the whiff of a buzz, and other days just one drink and I was on the wings of love.

After that first half sip of the season against the Packers I was on the wings of love. I thought the team was at least going to be competitive and at best going to have a shot at making the playoffs. Was it real or just a buzz?

The playoffs have a tendency to do what statisticians call reverting back to mean. Meaning if the regular season was something like a fluke, the better teams in the playoffs will find a way to cull the worser teams out.

What does that have to do with the Bears? Well, they’ve only played three teams with winning records for the whole year and they’re 2-1. The loss coming to the Patriots and the wins coming against Rams and Vikings, and all three games at home.

That’s probably why this week’s game against the Vikings at Minnesota has them as five point dogs. A game on the road against a playoff caliber team will probably be a similar forecast should they get that far.

But what about the fact that everyone in the NFL on any given Sunday can be not only good playing at home but maybe even great. The numbers always show that most teams do better at home. It’s something impressive I think to go into anyone else’s home and win.

What is it about this team that might be the kind of team that is able to go on the road and win?

Well for one, they’ve exceeded all realistic expectations of a first year coach and have him looking and sounding a lot like a Coach of the Year. Two, they have taken the ball away 36 times, 9 times more than the next team and are easily the best in football at it. Three, they’ve given up an average of 18.2 points a game, the best in the NFC and the second best to the Baltimore Ravens who average 17.5.

 I decided to look back at history to see teams that won the super bowl with 11-5 and 12-4 records and how they stack up against this team.

 

11-5 TEAMS THAT WON THE SUPER BOWL THAT REMIND ME OF THE BEARS

 

2001 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

They beat the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. They didn’t dominate anybody in the playoffs. They just played great defense and won. Kurt Warner and the Rams and the Greatest Show On Turf never got on track. Tom Brady got his chance and never looked back. The beginning of a dynasty. I think the Bears are easily as good as this team except for the kicker, the quarterback and the coach. Ok it’s a stretch, but a dynasty has to start somewhere.

2005 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

They beat the Seahawks and Mike Holmgren 21-10 in Super Bowl XL after some really bad officiating that went against Seattle. On “A Football Life”  Holmgren admitted he asked an official if the game was too big for him, and said it was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made in his career. Just goes to show you even fantastic minds do really stupid things, and all it takes is a couple of bad calls and you could be holding up that trophy. That Steelers team had a great defense and gave up 16 points a game in the regular season and reminds me a lot of this year’s Bears for that reason.

 

12-4 TEAMS THAT WON THE SUPER BOWL THAT REMIND ME OF THE BEARS

 

1993 DALLAS COWBOYS

Those Jimmy Johnson teams were great and the team that beat the Buffalo Bills badly 30-13 in their second meeting in Super Bowl XXVIII was definitely better than the Bears. They had home field advantage and never looked back. They beat Green Bay and San Francisco in the playoffs who were undeniably good and were improving with each game. This Cowboys team was ranked 2nd in the league in scoring and 2nd in the league in points allowed. They gave up an average of 14.3 points per game. Even as great a defense as this Bear team is they’re not that good, are they?

2002 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Brad Johnson was no Hall of Fame QB but he played great that year and had a defense that was outstanding. Only three players on the defense that year made it to the Pro Bowl, Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, and Derrick Brooks, but it was filled with studs and Dexter Jackson won the Super Bowl MVP. They caused turnovers and scored points when they did, and against the Oakland Raiders it was a route 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. The game was never close. We’ll see how good Jon Gruden can make the Raiders. I wouldn’t bet against him. In the playoffs they gave up 16 points in the Divisional and Championship game combined and in the regular season only gave up 12.3 points a game. The Bears have four Pro Bowl starters on this year’s defense and of course are a turnover causing machine.

2006 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 

Have to mention the team that beat Lovie’s best Bear team 29-17 in  Super Bowl XLI. Many Bear fans I know still remember fondly that Devin Hester return for a touchdown to start the game. Peyton Manning was probably in his prime and coach Tony Dungy had a lot of good teams over the years and when he got his shot he was really ready for the big game. Even after going down 14-6 the team rallied quickly and by the 4th quarter the Bears seemed like they were already beat. Something about that Colts team I remember, that defense was ranked 23rd in the regular season in points allowed, but in the playoffs, they beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round 23-8, and the Ravens in the Divisional round 15-6. Dungy was always known for his great defensive mind. Bear defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, also known for his defensive mind, seems for sure to get his head coaching chance after this year.

2010 GREEN BAY PACKERS AND 2007, 2011 NEW YORK GIANTS

There’s three other teams I think are worth mentioning here. The 2010 Packers that won super bowl XLV was the team that beat the Bears in the playoffs 21-14, and as a number six seed they won all their playoff games on the road, and their defense was on fire the last two games of the season and into the playoffs. Bear fans will remember Lovie not resting his starters in the final game against these Packers and lost 10-3. What does it have to do with this year’s Bears? Well this year’s Bears have won 8 of their last 9. A win this week against Minnesota makes it 9 of their last 10 going into the playoffs, and also the defense has been playing its best football. That Packer team gave up only 15 points a game in the regular season. The only huge difference of course is that team could do it on the road. Will this year’s Bears have a chance to do the same?

The other teams I remember were the New York Giants beating the Patriots twice. The XLII game was 17-14 and the XLVI game was 21-17. Neither team managed to win more than 10 games in a season. Nothing amazing on the stat sheet about those Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin teams, but they did beat Bill Belichick twice and that is maybe one of the greatest NFL accomplishments in the history of the league, and 5 of the 6 games they won in the playoffs combined came on the road.

It just gets me thinking that if the Bears can ever get comfortable playing on the road, no easy feat, but if they can, they might just hit a bunch of teams squarely in the mouth the way those Giant and Packer teams did.

Good tackling and blocking, limit the number of mental miscues, don’t turn the ball over, score touchdowns in the red zone, don’t get rattled by the big game, pressure the QB——there’s a number of other things too that have to go right I grant you—-but remember this—-nobody this year has blown this team out. They’ve been in every single game. It’s harder to do in the playoffs that’s for sure but nothing in the numbers is telling me they’re going to lay a zero in the playoffs.

Something too about Matt Nagy is also telling me that he’s learning quickly as he goes. Most every Super Bowl winning coach has a name I remember well. Can Matt Nagy add his name to that list?

 

5 REASONS WHY THE BEARS ARE WINNING

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RYAN PACE

Give him credit. Give him a lot of it. Give him holiday cheers of it. After swings and misses he seems to be getting better at his job. Better at picking the right coach. Better at drafting difference making players. Better at using free agency as a way to find difference making players and also players who can fill obvious needs. 

Just look at this list——Matt Nagy, Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Roquan Smith. The list goes on and its impressive and its young and its really, really good. 

There are so many things that need to go right and Ryan Pace is a guy that makes sure it does.

I know New Orleans and Los Angeles, hell even the Green Bay Packers look like big mountains, but I don’t see why the Bears couldn’t make some loud noises in the playoffs.

MATT NAGY

It all starts with the coach and the way he implements his vision, gets people buying in it, and how they execute. 

John Madden always said you got to be authentic, because the players can spot a phony, and I think that may be his best quality. He’s a genuine dude and that helps players trust him. 

Plus the Bears finally look like a complete team. So many of their teams have always looked one sided. If only they had an offense, you can hear the Bear faithful whine. 

The fact that Nagy was a quarterback I think has really helped Trubisky. He’s gone from being an indecisive quarterback, to playing a game of pitch and catch. It really doesn’t have to be a complicated game. Hit the open guy, and if he’s not, scamper for some yards. 

Is it possible the Bears have an offense that can win a championship? If they do Nagy will become a legend and get all sorts of credit, as will a handful of players. One of the things I look for in a team is how good are the second and third string players. It says a lot about the coach when the whole roster is ready to play.

KHALIL MACK

Ok this was the ballsy move of the century. 

Word had it that the Packers were about to pull the trigger too and the Bears just out bid them. 

I mean could you imagine the Packers with Mack? People who say the Bears spent the farm to get him are ignoring the most important point. Mack is a once is a lifetime player. 

Every Super Bowl team always seems to have Hall of Fame type players on it, at least one or two and hopefully more. 

Is he at 100% yet? If he is I think that defense climbs a few more rungs on the ladder. When he’s a step quicker, he’s going to require a double team. That opens huge chances for everyone else on that line to get the quarterback. 

If they can pressure the quarterback with four they are going to be a handful come winter.

MITCHELL TRUBISKY

I keep thinking they did something to that offense. The team that just beat Arizona by two points is now seeing a confident decision maker in Trubisky. He looks better. Cooler. A cooler head to prevail whilst sitting in the hottest seat in professional sports. But he still makes some decisions where you just scratch your head.

He of course is the key. If he fails the team will fail, but if he has these kind of dominant performances, I don’t see why this team can’t win it all. Nick Foles doesn’t have a giant contract with 80 million dollars guaranteed, yet, but he did have a career day in the Super Bowl, and went throw for throw with the unmatchable brilliance of Tom Brady. 

Is Nagy getting him to play a little over his head, or is his ceiling still being set? Does he have the potential to be not just good but great? If he’s not great, even with that defense, I don’t see them winning it all. 

Also, does he have to run all the time and does he know how to slide?

INTANGIBLES

I could pick a lot of players in this last spot. The ones I named earlier, the whole defense, the whole offensive line, how about how good those playmakers have been? 

Something about confidence makes it impossible to keep it hidden. The world can’t help but notice it. 

I remember from my own competitive playing days how important it was to believe in yourself and in your team. It always seemed to me that intangible quality of belief was just as important as skill. They’re both critical don’t get me wrong, but guys who possess qualities like attitude, character, and enthusiasm always seem to be the guys holding the trophies up. 

Football is such a sport that demands you play with an edge about you, and this team is doing that. Finally some swag to back up the way you play on the field.

Happy Thanksgiving!