Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bears - Carolina Playoff Preview

Brian Urlacher isn't fucking around this time. 2005 will not be like 2001.

Cory has inspired me by his recent article detailing the Steelers’ win over the sorry-ass Bengals. It’s about time that some of the players light a fire under their ass and take this shit personally. Because I can guarantee that many of the fans do. Before the ’85 season, Mike Ditka told the Bears to put a chip on their shoulder and leave it there until the season is over. I consider myself somewhat to moderately a classy person, but something has to be said for playing with a little attitude. The players after all, to some extent, represent the fans. And I guarantee that the fans of Chicago are really fucking pissed off over the Bears recent history. We enjoyed the Sox recent triumph and the dominance of the Bulls in the ‘90’s, but this town is really about football. As a Midwestern town where it’s really cold more than half the year, where it snowed on opening day in April at Wrigley two years ago, we pride ourselves on being tough. We are the Windy City, the City of Broad Shoulders. As Mike Ditka said during the ’85 season, we are a team of Grabowski’s. He was echoing the ethnic flavor of Chicagoans. Chicago prides itself on toughness, and therefore football is a popular sport here. Soldier Field is our Coliseum, and we have watched an awful product since the Fall of Ditka. We last won a playoff game in ’94, endured the ugly tenures of Wanny and Jauron, and our finally getting our shit together. Lovie Smith, recently named Coach of the Year, has made a difference here in as little as two seasons. Not only is this year exciting, but we have most of our defense signed for the next two to three years. We finally have some stability going in Chicago, and I say that it's about fucking time.

With the Bulls’ recent resurgence, a three game winning streak, I feel the karma bouncing back in my favor. This game against Carolina is HUGE. Although we have already made it to the Divisional round of the playoffs, we didn’t win a game to get here. If we don’t even win a playoff game this year, this year won’t be considered a success. Yet if we can win this game, then that will be enough of a momentum swing to take into next year. In one more year, we can get our offense to at least being mediocre (offense finished 29th in yards per game, passing game 31st). The Bears this week aren’t sitting back and waiting for the big Carolina matchup. They are not providing the media with the usual clichés, but they have rather been stirred by Carolina’s wildcard victory. ESPN’s Sean Salisbury, among others, picked Carolina to win against the Bears, partly because of how dominant they looked against the Giants. The Bears whipped up on Carolina 13-3 in their sole meeting this year, including two picks on Delhomme and 8 sacks. Yet this more recent Carolina team may be better, as evidenced by their dominant 23-0 victory over the Giants. Carolina’s obvious momentum and the media’s reaction to it have caused some of the player’s to go on the defensive. Adewale Ogunleye provided most of the bulletin board material. He said that "They get a lot of credit for a team that people who predict these things figured would go to the Super Bowl. I just don't think that they deserve that credit," Ogunleye said breezily. "I think that they have to prove it. We proved it one time. What we have to do is prove it again.” Ogunleye had more to say. "They had a lot of hype coming into that game, and we felt they didn't deserve it,'' he said. "And I think again, they're getting a lot more hype than they should.'' Mike Brown said that “If we play our best game, I don’t think they can beat us.” I say good for them. I like to see deep emotion, because you can feed off that in bringing home a victory. For the players who play well when angry, I say, play angry then. If you lose, it doesn’t matter if you predicted victory, because the losing will hurt anyway.

The Bears have the obvious edge going into the game. They are playing at home in the cold, which is good for a defensive team, and they have already proven that they can beat these guys. When Lovie Smith was asked if he is going to see a different Carolina team, he responded in the negative. Carolina has a simple recipe, and they win like Pittsburgh when they stick to that recipe. Carolina plays good defense, tries to establish a strong running game, and will look to Steve Smith as the first option in the passing game. Steve Smith had success against almost everyone this year. He always finds a way of getting open, even though he is the obvious first choice of Delhomme. The Bears will allow Smith to get open as he did in the first encounter (14 receptions, 169 yards), as long as he is held without a touchdown. Carolina was able to beat the Giants by establishing the running game. Deshaun Foster had 151 yards rushing. Against the Bears, they will try to establish it early. The Bears know this and will be ready. In week 11, the Carolina running game was held to 55 yards. Yet Carolina will look to the Pittsburgh game and try to find the same success running as the Steelers had against us (190 yards rushing). If Carolina can establish the run, they will have a good chance of winning the game. Yet they do not have the same personnel as the Steelers, and the game will likely not be played in sloppy conditions. In short, there version of the bus, Stephen Davis, is not healthy. On defense, Carolina is not sure what to expect from Rex Grossman, since he has only started seven career games. Yet Grossman will do more than take three snaps and kneel the ball. He will look downfield and try to make some plays to take the pressure off the defense a little bit. They will try to stop the run and force Rex to beat them. The four young quarterbacks this postseason – Manning, Simms, Leftwich, and Palmer – have all failed so far. Yet Grossman won’t have to make tons of plays to get the win. He has to be aggressive and once in a while throw it underneath. The running game and defense should provide the rest.

My pick: Bears 23, Carolina 0


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