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 numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.