Well, there’s no longer a quarterback controversy in Chicago. The Bears mauled the Frozen Dirty Birds 16-3 at Soldier Field last night as Kyle Orton got yanked for Rex Grossman in the second half. Like a cowboy gunslinging back into town (by cowboy, I mean the Clint Eastwood-type as opposed to the Jake Gyllenhaal-type), Grossman’s return to action showed the potential of the Bears having some semblance of a passing game. Kudos to Lovie Smith and Ron Turner for calling the long pass play from Grossman to Mushin Muhammad right out of the gate – the bold move to change the QB midstream would not have meant anything if wasn’t backed up with aggressive play-calling. Of course, Grossman still had to channel the spirit of A.J. Pierzynski after throwing a goal line pick that was fumbled right back by the Falcons on the same play. The Bears offense did look like it changed attitudes after the QB change, but as excited as I am with these developments, this was only one half of a football game and Grossman still threw a pretty bad interception. We should hold off drinking the Kool-Aid of how great this offense is going to be for the rest of the season and postseason. Let’s just call it a positive step for now.
For all of the headlines Rex is receiving in today’s papers (Rick Morrissey, Mike Downey, and Jay Mariotti are all predictably gushing), the Bears defense once again won the game last night in what was probably their best performance of the season to date. In addition to 2 interceptions, they held Michael Vick to 122 yards passing, 35 yards rushing, and, most amazingly, ZERO “Are you kidding me?!” calls from Mike Patrick. When the average NFL QB, much less Vick, receives about 5 “Are you kidding me?!” calls from Mike Patrick for routine passing plays on any given Sunday night game and your defense holds the opposing QB to zero, that defense has done its job not only for your team but also the ears of every ESPN viewer in the country.
We should also take a moment to reflect on Kyle Orton since it seems that a lot of Bears fans are just piling on him right now. This guy was drafted in the 4th round this year with the intent of him being #3 on the Bears depth chart. After Rex broke his ankle in the preseason and the Bears finally figured out that Chad Hutchinson is a much better surfer than passer, the team, without any other viable alternative, threw Orton in there.
At the beginning of the year, most sane Bears fans thought we would be lucky to do a repeat of the 5-11 record from the 2004 season with a rookie QB at the helm. Instead, we’re now looking at the Bears possibly clinching the NFC North division title on Christmas Day against, of all teams, the Packers on the Frozen Tundra (I can’t tell you how beautiful that sounds). While Orton may never be a player that an NFL team could build an offense around, he largely has played mistake-free football for 13 weeks, which can’t be said of guys like Brett Favre. Let’s all thank him for making a huge contribution for what’s been an incredible season so far.
Other Weekend Sports Tidbits:
1) The Vikings Not Currently Incarcerated Finally Lose – The Steelers continued their romp through the NFC North by pasting the Vikings in the Hump Dome. This thankfully gives the Bears a 2-game cushion in the division with 2 games to go. At the same time, the Vikings’ inexplicable 6-game winning streak before yesterday practically guarantees us to see another year of the coaching train wreck formerly known as Mike Tice. Man, this season has gone so well for the Bears on so many levels.
2) Don’t Be Fooled Again: Pats Will Win the AFC – After witnessing the Patriots’ deconstruction of the Bucs on Saturday, I became convinced that New England is heading to the Super Bowl yet again (and this was before the Colts’ quest for perfection was stomped out by San Diego). I don’t care how the Colts spanked the Pats in Foxboro a few Monday nights ago or if the AFC Championship will be played on the carpet of the RCA/Hoosier/firemikedavis.com Dome – Bill Belicheck has adjusted his defense to compensate for that unit’s rash of injuries and the offense is humming along. I’m calling it right now – the Patriots will beat the Colts in the playoffs.
3) Illini Sloppily Roll Over the City of Coppin (State) – From all accounts I’ve seen of this game, the 19-point margin of victory by the Illini last night over Coppin State was illusory. 16 turnovers and trouble against yet another zone defense doesn’t sound very pleasing. Maybe our guys were, uh, a little groggy from studying for finals all week. Still, for all of the game-to-game inconsistencies in terms of quality of play, the Illini continue to be extremely consistent in grabbing victories by pushing their record to 11-0 and have vaulted to #6 in the latest AP and Coaches’ Polls.
4) Ol’ Dirty Wants DePaul’s Money - Jeez, any complaints about the inconsistency of the Illini are quashed by the bipolar performances of DePaul. Literally moments after a triumphant upset of #16 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, the Blue Demons suffered the worst defeat in their program’s entire history on Saturday in a road game against Colonial Athletic Association power Ol’ Dirty University. ODU more than doubled up on DePaul in a ridiculous 87-43 game. I really have no clue on what to expect from the Demons when they get initiated into the Big East in a couple of weeks.
5) Detroit Roadblock Part II and a Coach Dale Whuppin’ - It’s starting to feel like the world prior to 1991 again, when a young Bulls team kept making strides until getting slapped back to Earth by the Detroit Pistons. The only difference is that the old Bad Boy Pistons teams were dirty and evil thugs (I have never hated nor will I ever hate an athlete more than Bill Laimbeer. Larry Bird once said “God was disguised as Michael Jordan” when His Airness was on the basketball court. By that same token, Satan’s Spawn was disguised as Bill Laimbeer) while the current Pistons play brilliant lock-down defense while passing the ball on offense as well as any team in the NBA. So, it wasn’t a shock that the Bulls were pulverised by the Detroit by 28 points on Friday evening. Fortunately, Scott Skiles went Norman Dale on the team by running them through a full 2-hour practice right before their Saturday evening game against the Celtics. Coach Skiles might need to do this more often – the Bulls went out and trounced Boston by 32 points while hitting 14 out of 17 from the 3-point arc.
Anyway, any weekend with victories by the Bears, Illini, and Bulls is a great sports weekend. I’ll have much more on the Illini following Wednesday night’s Braggin’ Rights Game against Mizzou. Plus, I’ll reveal the celebrity that Mizzou coach Quin Snyder spookily reminds me of.