I am happy to say that my 7-9 Bears prediction for this season is looking like a pretty bad bet at this point. Following what was hands-down the team's best game yesterday, a decisive 27-13 win over Brett Favre and the rival Vikings, the Bears sit at 6-3, and for the first time this season I feel like I might have actually seen a good Bears team play on Sunday.
The offense didn't need to be bailed-out by the defense yesterday. Likewise, the defense was effective in pinning Minnesota at 13 points and not allowing them to creep back into the game. The special teams came through giving Cutler and Co. great field position, and with the best blocking by the offensive line to date, especially considering who they were going up against, the Bears were able to finally put a team away.
It is almost scary that this is the same team that kept trying to find ways to give the Buffalo Bills the game last week. The Vikings surely are not among the best teams in NFC, but for once the game was about what the Bears did, instead of what their opponents didn't do or what breaks went which way.
Yesterday's game actually offered legitimate reasons for Bears fans to be optimistic about the team and its ability. Yes; Cutler still threw a red zone interception. Yes; the Vikings are a 3-6 team. Yes; the Bears could still easily end up at 8-8... but now we finally have evidence to support positive trends.
The offensive line blocked Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, and Kevin and Pat Williams better than they have blocked inferior defensive lines earlier in the season. Cutler continues to facilitate the offense by utilizing his ability to roll-out, and whatever fogginess had been lingering on from the concussion seems to be gone. Devin Hester has remembered which way is forward on kick returns for multiple weeks in a row now, and Greg Olsen is actually hanging on to balls thrown into his hands.
Furthermore, the defense, which has been sharp all year, stepped up to have yet another statement game, holding future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre, pro-bowl running back Adrian Peterson, and the rest of the potent Vikings offense to a measly 240 net yards while forcing four turnovers. [See the box score for this game]
All-in-all, what I mean to state, is that this was exactly the type of game the Bears easily could have lost. The Vikings are 3-6, but they have a wealth of talent on the team, but the Bears effectively shut them all down. This victory was not like squeaking past the Lions or the Bills, and it was not nearly as sloppy as the win against Green Bay. The Bears played a solid game on all sides of the ball, won the game, and looked good doing it.
With the Dolphins, Eagles, and Lions up next, the Bears are in a very good position to put the pressure on Green Bay during the final week of the season. The Bears will be in Green Bay then for a [potential] game to determine first place in the NFC North. If the Bears go 1-2 in this stretch, I still wouldn't be that surprised, no matter which team the win comes against, but for the first time this season, I think that its reasonable to say the Bears could win all three of these games, especially considering Miami's injury problems.
Looking farther ahead, then, is much less scary. No one is frightened by the Vikings anymore, though the Bears better show up strong for that rematch in Minnesota on December 20 if they want to run the table against Minnesota. Likewise the team should be confident and pumped-up for the season finale in Green Bay. That leaves two games to be actually worried about: December 12 against the Patriots and December 26 against the Jets.
Everything, of course is up in the air, but the Bears actually look like a team that can finish with a 10-6 record now, something I could not say at any point before now this season. The rest of the year could easily be as up and down as the first nine games, but the Bears did a good job of effectively minimizing mistakes during their performance on Sunday.
Now, instead of worrying about Cutler's safety or if the defense will get burned at one game-changing moment, fans can hang their hats on a solid and impressive victory during this short week before Thursday night's tilt in Miami.
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Tags: Adrian Peterson, Box Score, Brett Favre, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Football, Green Bay Packers, Greg Olsen, Jared Allen, Jay Cutler, Kevin Williams, Miami Dolhpins, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Pat Williams, Philadelphia Eagles, Ray Edwards, Schedule, Standings