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Posts Tagged ‘NFC Championship’

Top 5 Issues for Chicago Bears Success This Season

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem:  too much depth.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth?  But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley.  I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.

Cedric Benson at Bears training camp

(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7?  If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.

The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal.  Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again.  For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:

1.  Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season.  If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.

2.  Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense.  Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing.  For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate.  Last season, he was at 54.6%.  This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits.  RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s.  WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.

3.  KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options.  I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history.  The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work.  Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR.  Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position.  He didn’t stand out as a DB.  The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….

4.  Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season.  It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears.  The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown.  That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January.  New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.

5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced.  KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble.  The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles.  If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.

Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner.  The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener.  The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best.  The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….

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Chicago Bears are Super Bowl XLI Champions — In Zimbabwe

Posted by sportsmaven on February 7, 2007

For those of you that watched the Super Bowl, you might think that the Indianapolis Colts won the game. For 288 Zimbabwe citizens, the Chicago Bears are the Super Bowl XLI Champions, as the sideline apparel for the Bears was donated to a charity that will send the erroneous clothing to Zimbabwe.

Bears Super Bowl Merchandise

I wonder if Zimbabwe will have the Super Bowl Champion parade for the Bears, since Chicago didn’t provide the march of the NFC Champions. I’m sure that for all in Zimbabwe, their Chicago Bears are World Champions. Who would have thought Zimbabwe would be the place where the “American Dream” rings true? Go figure…..

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Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts Do Media Day At The Super Bowl

Posted by sportsmaven on January 31, 2007

Today was Super Bowl XLI Media Day and I found it to be quite an amusing and fun day. The day began with the Chicago Bears taking the interview podiums first (12 podiums lined end zone to end zone on one sideline of the playing field in Dolphins Stadium) for one hour followed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Bears Media Day 1

When the day began, the media mavens rushed down the aisles of the stadium towards the players on the field like shoppers rushing the Wal-Mart at 5am the day after Thanksgiving

Bears Media Day 2

The Indianapolis Colts were 10 minutes late to today’s media session, keeping up a trend which the media finds quite disturbing. The big name players got the podiums (names such as Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Bernard Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad for the Bears, Peyton Manning, Adam Vinatieri, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne). The topics were varied.

Bears Media Day 3

Bears Media Day 4

Some of the highlights of today’s media session:

– Bernard Berrian was asked what kind of syrup he liked on his pancakes (he likes maple)
– An unnamed Bears player was asked his preference, Levitra or Viagra.
– Peyton Manning admits he was pulling for the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game (obvious, as he is from New Orleans)
– Reggie Wayne being asked what it was like to receive a pass from Peyton Manning.
– Adam Vinatieri asked if he is related to Evel Knievel by Steve Mariucci from the NFL Network (he is) and asked to say hi to NFL fans in Japan.
– Tank Johnson asked about 100 questions on his pending gun charges and murder of his bodyguard.
– American Idol rejects (hired by Jimmy Kimmel) trying to get Bears and Colts players to sing.

All and all, it was a good day. Seemed like the Bears embraced media day while the Colts endured it. Deion Sanders from the NFL Network stated that he thought the Bears were exciting and provacative in their sessions (no mention of what the Colts did for Deion).

Another note on routine and adaptability: Plenty has been made on the Bears showing up to Miami early Sunday and the Colts choosing to come later on Monday. The Colts wanted to maintain as much routine as possible, which is a fine goal, BUT THIS IS THE SUPER BOWL, the biggest stange in the world. There is absolutely NOTHING routine about the Super Bowl, where everything is super sized and done to the max, so sticking to as much routine as possible throughout this circus environment may prove to be an exercise in futility. Routine is good for preparation, but too much stock can be put into routine. My belief is not that the team who sticks closest to their weekly routine has the edge, but rather the team that is most adaptable and adapts to the demands of the bright lights the quickest has the advantage. Right now, I feel the Bears have been that more adaptable team, giving them my edge in the chess match known as the Super Bowl…..

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This Is What We Play For….Lets Get It On

Posted by sportsmaven on January 21, 2007

So Sunday is finally here. I am at my usual Sunday morning tailgate writing this blog. As of now, it is currently 27 degrees, and some frozen something or another is falling out of the sky. We decided to eat New Orleans style today, in honor of our worthy opponents, the New Orleans Saints. Jumbalaya, red beans and rice, cornbread, the works…we are doing it up right. This is it….our 12th home game of the season (including the preseason). The 13-3 record, the NFC North Division Title, the Divisional playoff win, the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors all mean nothing without a victory today. I love our chances today, I really do.

I believe the Bears understand this deeply. I believe the Bears will come out with intensity, fire and singular focus. No looking forward, no looking back. For 60 game minutes, the Bears will will lay it all on the line, as they learned from last season’s Carolina loss, there is no tomorrow in playoff football.

I couldn’t sleep last night in anticipation of today’s game. I really wanted to savor every moment of getting to this game, the dedication it took from the every person in the Bears organization from the first day of training camp in July to today’s game. Lovie Smith has consistently called this the “Championship Season” and I want to appreciate every moment of today. The Saints will not go easily into the night; the Bears will have to earn this one, but as a fan, I would really have it no other way. It is their time, and this is not being cocky or talking team of destiny, but it is their time. This began last season with the Carolina Panthers and comes to this moment.

So I plan on eating my jumbalaya, red beans and rice, cornbread, drinking a Blue Moon, walking the 1+ miles to Soldier Field in the elements, thinking of Papa Bear and Walter Payton. I will be on the edge for every single play and might never sit down today, because this is the NFC Championship and the Halas Trophy is on the line. I agree with Lovie, wouldn’t it be nice to win the Halas Trophy at Soldier Field? This is what we play for……so lets get it on.

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The Chicago Bulls DO Play Basketball In January, Well Kind Of…

Posted by sportsmaven on January 21, 2007

With the focus of the Chicago sports scene on the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game and this weekend’s Cubs Convention, it is easy to forget that there are other Chicago teams in the midst of their season. The Bulls played the Utah Jazz tonight at the United Center before embarking on their NFC-AFC Conference Championship tour/roadtrip to Indianapolis to play the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. I’ve been trying to hold off on a Bulls post until after the NFC Championship game, but thought tonight would provide a great opportunity to ease into a long, somewhat ho-hum NBA season. I just wanted to see if I could work both the Bulls and the Bears into the same post successfully (I use the word successfully very loosely)

The Bulls, winners of three in a row coming into tonight, couldn’t hit the side of a barn. They shot 38.2% from the field, including 8.3% from three point range, and they did it ugly. They did out rebound the Jazz 46 to 43, mostly out of self defense. Utah got physical with the Bulls, turning this game into a half court scrum, as noted by the 54 fouls and 72 free throws combined.

This game essentially displayed some fundamental flaws of the current Bulls team. The Bulls lack an inside scoring presence, and it doesn’t look like that presence is going to appear anytime soon. When the Bulls perimeter game is off, like it was tonight, it makes it difficult to stay in games such as tonight’s. The Bulls also didn’t defend well down the stretch tonight. When it mattered, they couldn’t stop Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, or even Derek Fisher from scoring key baskets and grabbing key rebounds. Now the Bulls go on the road to play a Pacers team that underwent an extreme makeover. (wouldn’t Al Harrington have looked good in a Bulls jersey right about now) The Bulls are a work in progress at the moment, and it shows in their night to night performance on the court.

As for that roadtrip, the Bulls plan to leave Chicago, by bus, just after 2pm CT today to avoid the traffic from the Chicago Bears/New Orleans Saints NFC Championship game, drive the 3.5 hours on a frozen interstate to pull into Indianapolis just in time to hit the traffic for the start of the Indianapolis Colts/New England Patriots AFC Championship game. If the Bulls play more games the way they did tonight, these might be the only championships they experience this season. At least they can say they were involved in two in one day.

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