If the Bears had a rinky dink opponent on the schedule for Sunday (though I’m not sure those exist in the NFL any longer) there would be little they could do in Week Two to erase the disappointment of Week One. But they don’t. Instead they are traveling to Santa Clara, where they haven’t beaten the 49ers since the invention of the forward pass. They are opening a new stadium, in prime time, in front of one of the league’s rowdiest fan bases. They are playing the most difficult game, at least contextually speaking, on their schedule.
And if they win, week one is forgotten. If they win, the season is reborn. Hell, even if they play a terrific game and lose the conversation changes from the End is Nigh refrain currently singly somewhat proudly from the pages of the Chicago dailies to Bring on the Jets and the 2014 campaign!
The opportunity is there, Sunday night in northern California, whether most want to acknowledge that fact or not. There is no amount of film study to make week one’s fumbles, wrong routes, drops and indefensible interceptions dissolve in water like a packet of morning after twenty-one pints Emergen-C. There is no amount of effort exerted on the practice field to suddenly make the defensive starting lineup believe they are capable of shutting down Frank Costanza, let alone Frank Gore. Only a big time performance in the big time national spotlight can cure what ails these Chicago Bears. They need to play it off.
One game does not define a season and many of the league’s recent champions had a game, if not a collection of games, sending their fan bases into a relative panic. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens lost by 30 points in Houston in Week 7 and dropped 4 of their final 5 games of the regular season. The 2011 New York Giants were dismantled by a crappy Redskins team on opening Sunday. Both teams won the last game played in the NFL those years. (There was no Super Bowl awarded for the 2010 season. I reached out to the league for a reason why and have not yet heard back.)
Sunday Night Football will tell us a great deal about this group of Chicago Bears, coaches included. An inspired effort in a hostile environment will summon the optimistic enthusiasm of their desperate and hungry fans. A flat effort in the face of a superior opponent will have fans awkwardly tip-toeing up the movie theater aisle to hit the bar before the credits.
Which effort will the Bears deliver?