Downing the Packers a key playoff tuneup at least

Downing the Packers a key playoff tuneup at least
December 28, 2010, 7:00 pm
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Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
12:34 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The New Orleans Saints gave the Bears a boost toward the seemingly unlikely prospect of the No. 1 seed when the Saints upset the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

If the Philadelphia Eagles lose one of their last two (and playing three games in 12 days makes that a distinct possibility); the Falcons stumble again and lose to lowly Carolina at home (very, very unlikely); and the Saints slip up against Tampa Bay at home (another longshot), the Bears could ease into the NFCs top spot with a win over the Packers in Green Bay.

Downing the Packers in a flexd (to 3:15 p.m. next Sunday) becomes a key playoff tuneup at the very least.

W 19-14 Sept. 12 vs. Detroit Lions (5-10)

Bears survive four turnovers and red-zone failures to escape with a W after officials rule Calvin Johnson did not complete a potential winning TD catch. Jay Cutler passes for 372 yards, Matt Forte nets 201 yards on 24 touches.

W 27-20 Sept. 19 At Dallas Cowboys (5-10)

Cutlers zero INTs plus in-game adjustments to Dallas pressure produced TD passes to Devin Hester, Greg Olsen and Matt Forte. Physical defense forced three Cowboys turnovers, all involving nickel back D.J. Moore who gets his first two career picks.

W 20-17 Sept. 27 (Mon.) Green Bay Packers (9-6)

Nothing like a truly pivotal game just three weeks into a season. The winner gets the first tiebreak edge and the Bears have a chance to go 3-0 in the NFC. All games are statement games this one comes with an exclamation point.

L 3-17 Oct. 3 At New York Giants (9-6)

The missing pass rush returned to get Jay Cutler and vault the Giants squarely back in the midst of a very tight NFC East race among non-exceptional teams. Cutler was sacked nine times and left at halftime with a concussion that ruled out realistic chances for a comeback.

W 23-6 Oct. 10 At Carolina Panthers (2-13)

A horrendous, four-interception performance by Todd Collins was offset by 218 rushing yards, 166 by Matt Forte who scored twice, and the defense shutting down the Panthers with 147 yards. Bears finally exploded in a first quarter and stayed with a run commitment with changes in the OL.

L 23-20 Oct. 17 Seattle Seahawks (6-9)

Seattle bumbled to 3 points in a loss to St. Louis, then came in from the week off to handle the Bears everywhere but special teams. Bears play calling (12 runs, 47 pass plays) becoming an issue as Cutler was sacked six times and Bears rarely got close to laying a hand on Matt Hasselbeck.

L 17-14 Oct. 24 Washington Redskins (6-9)

Jay Cutler throws 4 INTs to DeAngelo Hall and fumbles at the goal line in another game in which Mike Martz refuses to run the football. Bears lose at home for the second straight week, first time since Lovie Smiths rookie year (2004). Questions now are whether Bears can change course on offense after three miserable performances in last four games.

Oct. 31 Off week

W 22-19 Nov.7 At Buffalo BillsToronto (4-11)

Tim Jennings interception led to a game-winning touchdown in a game that the Bears nearly let get away and gave up 3 TDs on defense for just the second time this season (Seattle). Jay Cutler managed the offense with some control and the offensive line allowed just one sack while coaches committed to the run enough to call 26 plays on the ground.

W 27-13 Nov. 14 Minnesota Vikings (5-9)

In a best game of the season with all three phases playing well, the Bears all but bury the season for a dysfunctional Vikings team that has a quarterback done after the season and head coach possibly sooner. Jay Cutler throws three TD passes and backs carry 32 times; defense gets four takeaways; and Devin Hester shows he hasnt forgotten how to return kickoffs as well as punts.

W 16-0 Nov. 18 At Miami Dolphins (7-8)

The defense recorded the first shutout since 06 and the offense, while not punching in red-zone opportunities the way it needs to, was efficient. A third straight game with 30 or more rushes was a first for a Mike Martz offense and has helped the offensive line settle in and taken pressure off Cutler. The result is another solid game of third-down conversions against a respectable defense.

W 31-26 Nov. 28 Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)

The building continues with a new high for Jay Cutler passing as he throws 4 TDs on just 21 attempts and Matt Forte runs for 117 yards in 14 carries. The defense stays basic to deal with Michael Vick, who gets some passing yards but into the end zone only twice.

W 24-20 Dec. 5 at Detroit Lions (5-10)

With third-stringer Drew Stanton in just his second NFL start, the Lions ran over the Bears for 253 yards in the first half as the Chicago offense had to prop up the D for a change. Jay Cutler was sacked four times but big defensive plays in the second half held Detroit to 49 yards and 3 points as the offense turned in a workmanlike performance with more of the run-pass balance that has worked.

L 36-7 Dec. 12 New England Patriots (13-2)

For the second straight week the New England defense showed that statistical rankings mean nothing, and the Patriots offense also showed the Bears to be as vulnerable as any other supposedly top defense. The 33-0 halftime score was jaw-dropping but the overall should have showed the Bears how far from true elite status they are.

W 40-14 Dec. 20 At Minnesota Vikings (5-9)

Brett Favre made what turned out to project as his final NFL start, by virtue of a sack by Corey Wootton of the future Hall of Famer. The weather was abysmal for the game moved outdoors because of the Metrodome collapse and Devin Hester celebrated with a history making TD return to set the NFL record.

W 38-34 Dec. 26 New York Jets (10-5)

A botched fake punt opened the door for the Bears to put up 21 points in the third quarter as Jay Cutler threw 3 TD passes against one of the NFLs elite secondaries. The defense allowing 27 points is worrisome but the offense has become capable of winning games on its own.

Jan. 2 at Green Bay Packers (9-6) Next: vs. Bears

The Packers got Aaron Rodgers back from his concussion absence and obliterated the Giants in a game that kept Green Bay in the playoff discussion. If the Eagles win out and the Bears fall in Lambeau, the Bears and Packers will face each other a week later in Soldier Field, a matchup neither team may find all that appealing.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.