The Detroit Lions are 4-0. Undefeated. And for a few hours every Sunday they are helping one of America’s great cities forget about the cobwebbed factories, rampant unemployment, inflating crime rates and Matt Millen. They have magic too, this Lions team. Les Frazier inexplicably refused to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson with a twenty point lead and instead let Donovan McNabb stop drives (and the clock) with his arm. Stafford. Calvin Johnson. Lions win. Tony Romo wasn’t content with throwing two pick sixes to revive an offensive-challenged Lions team Sunday. He had to loft up a Favrean masterpiece of an interception late in the fourth quarter and ice his shitty quarterbacking cake. Lions win.
Now ESPN is bringing the circus to town for the first Monday Night Football game in Detroit since the Carter administration and they’ve invited the Chicago Bears to play heel. It will not be an easy place for any opponent. The fans will relish the national stage. They will make communication impossible inside that building. It will be a celebration for the people of the city and an expected coronation of sorts for a rising franchise. The Lions want to be the talk of the football world Tuesday morning.
But the Bears could be. If Bears fans were offered a 2-2 first quarter of the season in August, many of us would have signed on the dotted line. It has been a bizarre first quarter, to say the least. The defense has showed an inconsistent pass rush, poor gap discipline against the run and struggled to weather injuries at the safety position. Nevertheless they’ve managed to force turnovers in big spots and scored a pair of touchdowns. The offense has been a puzzle but it’s become very clear they are at their best when Matt Forte has the football in his hands. With penalties, drops on third down and shaky pass protection rearing their heads at various moments it is more than safe to say the Bears have yet to play a cohesive game offensively.
Now we start the second quarter of the season. The issues of those first four games now must be addressed and fixed over the next four. If you’re going to be a playoff team, a team that contends for the Super Bowl, these are the games where that championship infrastructure is built. The Bears are not going to acquire depth at safety. They are not going to see one of their wide receivers turn into Willie Gault, though their recommitment to Johnny Knox is welcomed. But Brandon Meriweather is going to become more acclimated to the scheme. Chris Harris is going to get on the field. Jay Cutler is going to develop something of a rapport with Roy Williams. Dane Sanzenbacher is going to continue his journey to Ricky Proehlness. They will improve, if just by the benefit of time.
It all starts Monday night. I won’t make any bold general statements, applying fictional meaning to the outcome. But personally I will be ready to take this Bears team quite seriously if they go into Detroit Monday, deliver an inspired effort and win. I won’t be checking hotel rates in Indianapolis or anything but I’ll believe they are capable of stringing together enough wins to play one of them elimination affairs in January. If the Bears want to play in the postseason, they’ll need to beat teams like the Detroit Lions. Why not start with beating the Lions themselves?