View from the Moon: History in Bears' favor

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View from the Moon: History in Bears' favor

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
9:34 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Sundays divisional playoff will be the second meeting of the Bears and Seattle Seahawks in the span of about three months. While it may be convenient to say that rematches benefit both teams from the standpoint of knowing each other, that is not likely to be the case.

And that has potentially ominous implications for the Bears.

Playoff rematches, typically have a couple of patterns:

1.) Unless the winner of the first encounter borders on legendary stature, rematches favor the lesser of the two teams;

2.) They tend to reduce the point differential between the two;

3.) There is frequently a very wide point swing from first game to second.

What the Seahawks did to the Saints last weekend fit the pattern; the lesser team closing the gap and surpassing a decent but hardly superior team. (The Packers defeating the Eagles did not, but an Aaron Rodgers team with a Dom Capers defense is capable of breaking more than a few rules.)

These unofficial rematch rules have usually worked to the detriment of the Bears, in both of their playoff appearances under Lovie Smith and in previous trips regardless of head coach.

The Bears arent expecting to obliterate the 8-9 Seahawks despite the double-digit point spread that has stretched out in front of them like a trap. Nor are they expecting to embarrass themselves again with a home loss giving up 6 sacks and 353 yards to an offense that averaged less than 300.

Every team grows and gets better as the year goes on, said receiver Devin Hester. Teams are not up to their A-game the first couple weeks of the season. I can honestly say we werent up to our A-game.

We gradually got better and weve still got growing to go. We have been feeling a lot more confident than we had, which is really helping us out a lot.

That confidence also could be dangerous, however, whatever its source. The Bears have Seattles 23-20 win to remember in addition to the Seahawks handling of the New Orleans Saints last weekend, if overconfidence starts to set in because of the Seahawks record.

Roots of the problem

Second-meeting woes involving the Bears, although not always at their expense, go as far back as the birth of the Monsters of the Midway in 1940. The Bears, with a roster sprinkled with Hall of Famers, muddled to a 7-3 loss to the Washington Redskins in the regular season, then laced the Redskins 73-0 in the championship game.

Closer to modern times, the 12-4 Bears of 1988 got by the San Francisco 49ers 10-9 in a Monday Night Football regular-season game. That 49ers team, in the midst of its decade of dominance, destroyed the Bears 28-3 in the NFC Championship game.

Point swing: 26 points. The Bears were very good; the 49ers were legendary good.

The Bears were on the better end of the rematch pattern in 1994 when they lost by 28 in their first meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, by 6 in overtime the second, and then won by 17 in a playoff road upset.

Point swing, all games: 45. The lesser team learned a little bit each time.

Lovie Smiths 2005 team was good enough at 11-5 to drop the Carolina Panthers 13-3 during the regular season. In the divisional round, after their bye week, the Bears were embarrassed 29-21 at home.

Point swing: 18. The lesser team learned the Bears couldnt cover Steve Smith.

The Super Bowl team of 2006 crushed Seattle 37-6 in the regular season and went on to another first-round bye in the playoffs. When the Seahawsks came to Soldier Field in the divisional round, the Bears needed OT to escape with a 27-24 win.

Point swing: 28. Whether the Bears took the Seahawks seriously enough, only they know for sure.

The first thing Lovie Smith did this week was to show the players film of the Seattle win in October. It was a good message to send: Remember what they did to you.

Hopefully, well play better this time, Smith said. They played well, to beat a good New Orleans team this past week. But all of the teams are good this time of the year.

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.

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Apart from any specific player or statistic, one unavoidable part of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions looms ominously in front of the Bears, and there is no way they can avoid it: The fourth quarter.

Every game has one, and it has been the blessing of the Lions’ 2016 existence and the bane of the Bears’. The Bears talk constantly about the importance of playing a 60-minute game.

Before last Sunday’s 28-13 win over the New Orleans Saints, the Lions had trailed in the fourth quarter of all seven of their previous victories this season. A team that had traditionally found undisciplined ways to squander games has been finding ways to win them, according to a formula.

As Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Seidel noted, “every single one of these games has looked the same: There was the drive, the field goal and the huge defensive play or, at least, some variation of those things."

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This is particularly relevant — and concerning — for the Bears, who have been the virtual opposite: Three times this season (at Houston, at Indianapolis, vs. Jacksonville) they have led in fourth quarters and lost those games.

The reasons lie in different phases, not simply cases of one, same unit failing.

"With us it’s not excuses, but we’re young, on our third quarterback, and that can affect it as far as experience and just being in that situation,” said coach John Fox. “To close the game, sometimes it’s just a mindset. When you have young players, it’s learning how to deal with adversity and learning how to deal with prosperity.”

The Bears did not outscore an opponent in the fourth quarter of any of their first 10 games this season, finally getting something going late in the Tennessee and San Francisco games, outscoring those two opponents by a combined 19-3.

“Being able to finish games, that’s something we’re learning and I think I saw examples of it last week in the San Francisco game and even going back to Minnesota, games where we have closed it, even in the first Detroit game, although we made that one interesting,” Fox said. “We found a way. So a lot of it’s experience under pressure and hopefully we’re figuring it out and can figure it out the last four games of the year.”

Beginning Sunday, presumably, against the NFL’s reigning comeback team.

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Sunday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.