|by Mike Celizic, NBCSports.com contributor |
To say that Monday night's train wreck of a football game between the Bears and the Packers was painful to watch is on understatement. For most of the three hours that the game consumed, you wanted to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon rather than watch another Bears' offensive series.
It was beyond ugly. If somebody had come in your living room at halftime and said you could either watch the rest of the game or spend the next 20 years locked in a room listening to Barry Manilow sing NWA's greatest hits, you'd have taken the locked room.
It was that bad.
But as badly as the Bears played on offense, especially in the first half when they stretched the definition of incompetence, they won the game. And in sports, ugly wins count just as much as the pretty variety.
I'm not going to say all was forgiven by virtue of the Bears' one real drive of the game - the one that won it in overtime with a field goal. Some of the things fans were forced to watch will remain with them forever, coming back in frightening flashbacks when least expected.
Still, you have to give the Bears credit. They did the impossible, winning a game they had no business winning and keeping their tenuous playoff hopes alive.
And make no mistake about it. The Bears were going to lose. That was obvious. If the Packers hadn't all but handed them a touchdown on a turnover in the shadow of their own goal line, the Bears wouldn't have been in the game at all.
And yet, if you were a fan, you had to watch it, because this game had playoff implications. If the Bears could somehow work a miracle and pull it out, they'd still be in the hunt for the NFC North title and a playoff slot. Like the 62,151 maniacs who sat in arctic cold of Soldier Field watching this exercise in incompetent offense, you had to stick it out to the end, no matter how bitter.
I don't know about you, but I spent the endless time waiting for Kyle Orton to generate two consecutive first downs thinking of all the reasons the world would be a better place if the Bears lost and failed to make the playoffs. The biggest reason was that it would ensure that the Vikings would represent the NFC North. At least then we'd get to see Adrian Peterson, the game's best running back, for at least one January afternoon.
The Bears totaled 48 yards and two first downs in the first half. And they call that an offense.
But the Bears tied the game in the fourth quarter. They blocked what should have been the winning field-goal attempt by the Packers. And then they won it with a field goal on the opening drive of the extra period.
They won it because no matter what new depths their offense sinks to, their defense remains one of the best. It's not good enough to win them a Super Bowl, but if it gets them in the playoffs, it will be one of the more remarkable feats in NFL history.
It is a credit to the determination of the Bears and their coaches that they can still be in the hunt for a playoff spot. But it is also an indictment of the organization that no one seriously thinks they can make significant noise in the postseason.
You can't help but think while watching them on a night like Monday against the Packers how good this team could be if it just had a quarterback who could rise even to the level of mediocre. This isn't something new with the Bears.
The last time they had a competent quarterback was in the mid-1980s, when Jim McMahon was at the controls of the team's only Super Bowl squad.
Before and since, Chicago has gone through more bad quarterbacks than any four teams in the league. There is no conceivable reason for that to be the case.
There have to be at least a dozen back-up NFL quarterbacks who are better than Kyle Orton or any of the other impostors who have called signals for the Bears over the decades. Where were they when Kerry Collins, the hero of Tennessee, was available? How do the Patriots find Matt Cassel? Why didn't they take a shot at Kurt Warner?
It's not just this year. The Bears have turned lousy quarterbacking into a perverse art form. Look at the guys they've had in just the last decade: Brian Griese, Orton, Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Kordell Stewart, Henry Burris, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and Moses Moreno.
The best of that bunch is Griese, and he's in Tampa now backing up Jeff Garcia. I've no idea why the Bears traded Griese after the 2007 season. He must have been too good.
Keep going back and the list gets no more impressive and the names no more recognizable. Every year the Bears go into the draft and every year they come out without a decent starting quarterback. And every year they go into the season knowing that it's all going to come down to defense and special teams.
You have to sit in awe that they're as good as they are. Monday night, they showed again why their fans are so devoted to them.
They've turned winning ugly into an art form. You don't have to enjoy watching it, but you have to admire it.
Mike Celizic writes regularly for NBCSports.com and is a freelance writer based in New York.
© 2008 NBC Sports.com
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