No Big Ten? No Notre Dame? No Problem. It's Time for a Bear Hug.
The Big Ten is still nearly four weeks away from making its pandemic-delayed debut.
Notre Dame is in the midst of a two-week hiatus, courtesy of Coronavirus.
What’s a Midwestern football watcher to do?
Look at the Bears. The Monsters of the Midway are 3-0 for the first time since 2013.
They have made two miraculous fourth-quarter comebacks with two different quarterbacks.
And they have kindled tentative hopes that they can beat the Packers, who have won 17 of the last 20 meetings since 2010.
That, as they will tell you in Ann Arbor, is not a rivalry. That’s humiliating. And infuriating.
This year’s first Bears-Packers game is not until Nov. 29, on a Sunday night in Green Bay. The second meeting is in Chicago on Jan. 3. That’s a long time to wait. Then again, it’s that kind of year.
I am not sure what to make of all this. My Bears roots run deep. But I swore them off a long time ago, consigning those emotions to the bad-investment receptacle.
College football, with its all of wild swings and unpredictability, generally seems so much more compelling. Although the Bears' pair of three-touchdown fourth-quarter rallies is right up there with what Texas did at Texas Tech.
Down 23-6 in the fourth quarter of their opener at Detroit, the Bears scored 21 to win 27-23.
Down 26-10 in the fourth quarter on Sunday at Atlanta, they put up another three touchdowns to win 30-26.
Enigmatic Mitch Trubisky engineered the first comeback. Super-Bowl-winning insurance policy Nick Foles came off the bench to lead the win against the hapless Falcons.
That’s the other thing. . . as much as Bears fans are excited, they are realists.
When I pointed out to one dedicated Bears lover I know that beating Detroit, the Giants and Atlanta, who are a combined 1-8, is comparable to the Illini beating Western Illinois, Akron and Kansas, he replied that at least the Bears will be relevant for a while.
Another lapsed Bears fan reminded me that because they are 3-0, he will be forced to pay attention. And added, “So that’s another aggravation. Another itch that cannot go unscratched.’’
When I was young, we took delight in the Bears’ foibles. If they didn’t win, and they usually didn’t, we enjoyed the creative ways they found to lose—as a distraction.
When I was in high school, a history teacher who had season tickets informed us that the Bears were so bad that. . . instead of taking a drink after they had scored, his group had started pulling out their flasks after first downs.
Yes, the Bears have had some fine moments, notably the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffle Bears. I covered that team, which was as fun to be around as it was successful.
And yet, we are left to wonder why what looked like a team for the ages—a record-setting defense and Walter Payton—only won one Super Bowl.
Even the Bears’ lone good recent season—they went 12-4 in 2018—Matt Nagy’s first season as coach—started and ended with a bad taste. They blew a 20-0 lead in their opener at Green Bay.
And they lost a very winnable playoff game to Philadelphia 16-15 when Cody Parkey infamously missed a 43-yard field goal with 10 seconds left. The Eagles’ quarterback? Nick Foles, who had led Philly to a joyous Super Bowl win the previous season.
No wonder the Bears—increasingly faced with the reality that drafting Trubisky No. 2 in 2017 ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson was a big mistake—brought in Foles last off-season.
When Trubisky “won’’ the starting job in this virus-shortened pre-season, one of my Packer friends—yes, I have Packer friends—asked me what I thought.
“Good move,’’ I said. “You start with Trubisky, the guy you drafted too high in the mistaken hope that he would fill a quarterback void that has gone on for decades. When he falters, you put in Foles, having given Trubisky every chance to deliver on the investment you made in him.’’
If the Bears had done it the other way around, Trubisky would be languishing and lurking, a grim reminder of a draft mistake. And when he came in to replace Foles, he would not be nearly as adept as the more experienced Roles in being dropped into a difficult situation.
So this is good. Trubisky had his chance. And now, Foles can proceed with that question addressed.
What happens when Foles struggles? And don’t kid yourself, these are the Bears, where struggles are inevitable. The next two opponents, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, for example are a combined 4-2.
That’s a question for Bears fans to worry about down the road. If anybody deserves to enjoy a 3-0 start, it is Bears fans.