Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Beating the Bears is So Satisfying

Chicago-style Road Kill
One of my earliest sports memories is watching the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears.  I don't remember quite how old I was, or who the starting quarterback was (probably Lynn Dickey or David Whitehurst), but I remember realizing it was a significant game.  The first Packers game I watched with both my sons (the first from the hospital after the delivery) was against the Bears.  The two games games against the Bears (last year 3) are the ones I, my kids, and every other Packer fan look forward to every season.  And Sunday's victory lived up to all the anticipation that we all expected.

But why is it that a victory over the Bears is so satisfying?  A lot has been written about the Packers-Bears rivalry.  Dating back to 1921, it is the oldest rivalry in the NFL.  Kinda makes the Steelers-Ravens seem lame by comparison.  The two teams have played each other 183 times, with the Bears holding a slight edge, 92-85-6.  But that's not really the reason this rivalry is so sweet.

This is also a rivalry the Packers have dominated in the last 20 years.  Starting with Favre's impressive 20-4 stretch against the Bears between 1992 and 2003, including a 5-year 10 game undefeated streak from 1994 to 1998, the Packers have had the Bears' number.  Rodgers has reinvigorated that dominance, winning 6 of 8 contests against Chicago in his career as a starter.  But that also isn't the reason this rivalry is so satisfying.

No.  The Packers defeating the Bears is so satisfying because it's just so right.  It's what you want to have happen.  It's good vs. evil.  It's small market vs. big market.  It's cheese heads vs. FIBs.  It's the happy ending.  There are a few immutable facts you need to teach your kids.  Capitalism is better than Communism.  Cheddar is the best kind of cheese.  And the Packers are better than the Bears.  Those lessons, along with lifting the seat up when you pee, is all they need for a happy, fulfilled life.

With that said, a few notes from the game:

  • The injury bug continues to circle our heads.  Good news that Bulaga only has a knee bruise/sprain rather than a torn ACL as originally feared.  But that's the third guy to go down in 3 games.  Marshall Newhouse did an admirable job filling in, though.  So, hopefully, they can weather this till Bulaga is healthy again.  Great to see Tramon back.
  • Nice to see Ryan Grant get going.  His 92 yards on 17 carries was key to controlling the game and showed why he's still the starter.  By contrast, Starks, after a lot of work the first two weeks, is probably in McCarthy's dog house after his anemic 0.5-yard per carry average and nearly single-handedly letting the Bears back into the game with his fumble in the 4th quarter.
  • Pressure on Cutler in the first half was non-existent.  It was great that the Packers were able to make some adjustments and get that pressure in the second half -- forcing Cutler into several 3-and-outs accompanied by his usual chorus of "boos" at Soldier Field. 
  • The Bears fake-out punt return near the end of the game was one of the most genius special teams plays I've ever seen.  I can't imagine how irate the Bears' special teams coach was after designing that play, practicing it for hours, whipping it out at the perfect moment, and executing it perfectly -- only to have it called back due to a debatable holding call.  Now everyone will be ready for it.  Not sure it would have won them the game, but, damn, you have to give them props for that.

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