Though it's coming a week late, the Bears/Packers game must be discussed.
The offense didn't play particularly well and the win served to reduce our draft status, as I predicted, to the mid-teens, but I actually thought that this was a good game for the team. That's because it was in large part due to the efforts of younger players, some of whom have the potential to be excellent. Nick Collins had his best game as a professional with two picks, nearly a third, and six solo tackles. The pick in front of Desmond Clark that he returned for a touchdown was beautiful, except for the dancing bit at the end. (Get in the endzone already!) Unfrozen Caveman Linebacker (Hawk) had a pick in the second half. Corey Williams had a sack and batted down several passes, including tipping the pass that Dendy returned for a touchdown. Ruvell Martin (!) had a big game. This was all quite encouraging.
Now despite this solid individual play from our younger guys, we did give up a 100-yard game to Cedric Benson on less than 15 carries, only scored one offensive touchdown, and allowed the Bears converted a fake punt on us. But at least we sent the greater Chicago area into a fuss over their quarterback play. Sexy Rexy actually finished with a "Mr. Blutarsky" 0.0 rating for the game. Hysterical. And despite throwing that bomb against us, Griese also managed to look terrible. Have you ever seen a quarterback (Griese) "improve" so much over the course of the season by doing so little? I have no idea about what's going to happen in the playoffs, except for this--there's no friggin way the Bears are winning the Super Bowl. God it's fun watching the Bears perform terribly.
What made the game doubly fun was watching it during the wind-down of a New Year's Eve party in London with two of my old friends who are Bear fans. The UK's Channel 5 started showing the game at 1:30 a.m. A brillant way to cap off the evening, and reminiscent of the rain-soaked MNF Halloween game back in 1994-- a night I also spent harassing those same Bear-fan friends.
As far as Favre and his future, I think this might be it. We'll have to do some analysis of what it'll look like either way at some future point. But boy, the announcers sure know how to beat a subject to death, don't they? Remember the pre-season MNF game against the Bengals? During the entire game there were only two subjects of commentary: Favre returning and Palmer's return from his knee injury. Similar to Sunday night-- is it Favre's last game? Hasn't he been awesome? Should we pay any attention to the game? Where are my pants? I guess they needed something to talk about since the Giants won the previous evening, essentially eliminating us from the playoffs, and the Bears had nothing to play for. But man, give us something, please.
Anyhow, congratulations to fans of the Eagles, Patriots, Colts and Seahawks, whose teams triumphed in the first round of the playoffs. (Sidenote-- I hate the way the NFL doesn't draw up a finished bracket until after the first round games have played; just let the first seed play the winner of the 4/5 game already). I have no idea what's going to happen from this point on, except chances are very strong that an AFC team will win the Super Bowl, chances are 100% the Bears won't, and that no journalist will ask Shawne Merriman about his suspension for steriod use. I wonder if the same guys who voted him third for defensive player of the year this season, and voted him rookie of the year last season, also voted to exclude Mark McGuire from the baseball hall of fame?
Seriously, I can't believe how easily Merriman's positive test and suspension blew over. Why is steriod use quickly overlooked in the NFL while everyone decries its use in MLB? Is it something to do with expectations-- football players are supposed to be loutish, oversized man-children but baseball players should be lithe and graceful, like Joltin' Joe? Is it because steriod-era players shattered Ruth/Maris' season home run records like they were nothing after years of no one coming close? Is that record, single-season home runs, due some special honor or protection? I don't get it. I think people should be shunning Merriman, but instead they're breezily fellating him during 15 minute halftime interviews (as they did during CBS' Sunday playoff telecast). Bizarre. At least with baseball, the sophisticated dopers probably weren't breaking any laws or league rules-- MLB had a utterly primitive steriod ban in the 90's and any half-dilligent player could get drugs through a doctor (read, legally) that weren't on the banned list. In contrast, Merriman explicitly broke the NFL's rules. You all better hope that the Chargers don't win the Super Bowl because I may go spastic.
I still owe everyone a formerly known as Citrus Bowl review. That should be coming soon. Tonight, I think I'll root for Ohio A&M, because I'm tired of all the SEC whining, and it would make three Big Ten teams over three SEC teams in the Bowls (PSU over Tennessee, Bucky over Whoo Pig Sooey, and O A&M over UF). That'd be a fun stat to throw around. I'm also hoping for a sloppy, unimpressive game that makes people yearn for a playoff. Way to blow helping the cause, Michigan.