Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
By John Mullin
The Bears do not need to show well against the New England Patriots to establish that they are a legitimate A-list team in 2010. They already are, and the result Sunday will not change that.
If the Bears defeat or hang with the Patriots, thats a statement that skeptics and anxious fans can respect. But New England has beaten Pittsburgh, Baltimore and split with the New York Jets and my guess is that no one is dismissing those teams as contenders, especially the Steelers, who were double-digit losers.
The Bears have beaten the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears have won five straight, tied with New Orleans behind only Atlanta (six) for the longest active win streak this season. That alone is a statement of legitimate no matter what happens Sunday.
The damage from snow to the Metrodome this weekend has forced the NFL to shift the Minnesota-New York Giants game from noon Sunday in Minneapolis to Monday night in Detroits Ford Field. It is unclear whether the Bears visit to the Dome is in jeopardy but the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Stadium could be readied in a matter of days for an NFL game. And the extent of damage and repairability of the dome is still being assessed.
The Big Fella
The sometimes-struggles of the New England defense have not dimmed the luster of one of its anchors: nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a former No. 1 draft choice and the linchpin of the Bill Belichick 3-4 schemes.
Wilfork is listed at 350 pounds, but that typically gets an eye-roll for being on the low side. But Wilfork is enough of an athlete that Belichick has shifted him out to an end position, although since the defeat in Cleveland, he has been anchored at nose, which puts him opposite Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz.
Kreutz has faced the likes of Pat Williams from Minnesota and was a teammate of Ted Washington. He sees Wilfork in precisely the same class.
Hes like Pat, smart, hard to move, and they are better athletes than people give them credit for, Kreutz said. All the elite nose guards are the same: Theyre big guys who can run, can use their hands and they know their scheme and whats going on around them.
Each weeks game seems like it is the new most difficult to assess but this one really is. No, I mean it. The issue isnt weather; New England is used to this. It is that there are so many aspects to the Patriots that isolating one on which to base a decision.
What I keep coming back to is Belichicks lackluster performances in games after short weeks. Also, Greg Olsen and others have always, and correctly, stated that it is more difficult to come back from a good win than a bad loss. What the Patriots did to the New York Jets last Monday night is akin to the Bears upending the Packers in Game Three on a Monday, then being pounded by the Giants the following Sunday on the road.
New England is coming off a hugely emotional win over its chief division rival and off a short week. In a game of small factors, that is a big one. Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Bears defense, Patriots offense, Mike Martz, Bill Belichick those are all major elements in what will play out Sunday afternoon. In the end, the Bears are three-point underdogs, equating to roughly a handicapping equivalent of a touchdown, given the home-field advantage being worth about a field goal. They will win by three, not lose by three.
Bears 17 Patriots 16
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.