Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT: my weekly musings about Bears history, making me the Carrie Bradshaw of the Bears or at least of this website. If you track the metaphor a little bit deeper, you’ll find that Josh Bellamy is my Mr. Big, whereas Dez White had my love slip through his fingers like so many 3rd down passes.

Today’s blog is, like a Sex and the City article, based on a series of vaguely existential questions; questions that make you really stop and think. Questions like:

“Why don’t Bears fans give Dez Clark the amount of respect and reverence for his time in Chicago as they do Greg Olsen?”

“With an understanding of the roster at the time, is Cedric Benson one of the worst Bears draft picks ever?”

“Was Muhsin Muhammad right when he said Chicago is where receivers go to die? Is Mark Bradley dead?”

“What do you think Tommie Harris is doing RIGHT NOW, and is it more or less interesting than whatever Mark Anderson is doing?”

Finally, and most importantly: “Why is it that whenever any national sports broadcast shows the Devin Hester missed field goal return they never use the WBBM call?” Jeff Joniak CLEARLY has the superior play by play call of that score and Tom Thayer’s exuberant ‘NO WAY!’ is so so so good.

These questions are all above my pay grade as a single woman trying to find love in New York City. Speaking of the Big Apple, the 6-2 Giants hosted the 7-1 and eventual Super Bowl-bound Bears on Sunday Night Football.

This of course was back before we were blessed as a nation with Carrie Underwood welcoming us to the “Nasty Showdown” of the week. Instead,m we were listening to Pink singing roughly the same song with a few major exceptions. Pink’s version has the lines: “All right, Sunday night, where are you? Just kickin back from the things that you do”, whereas Carrie Underwood’s version until 2015 starts: “All right Sunday night, where are you? Waiting for the game that bleeds red, white, and blue.”

Look, I know. I know how this is gonna sound, because both my short and long term memory has been ravaged by decades of recreational drug abuse, but hear me out because I fell in a pretty deep rabbit hole here: the Faith Hill 2010 Sunday Night Football theme song is the first one since the song debuted in 2006 with the patriotic lyrics in the first verse, and it ran until Carrie Underwood’s revamped version hit the air in the 2016 season without those lyrics.

As some of you may recall, the NFL and the Department of Defense were essentially selling the military to fans between the years of 2011-2015, where several teams received a combined amount of more than $5 million in taxpayer money to run promotions for the armed forces (1). It also needs to be noted that the NFL didn’t have players on the field during the anthem as standard practice since 2009 (2).

How much money was Carrie Underwood getting paid under the table to change the lyrics to the Sunday Night Football theme to make it coincide with a massive pro-military, nationalistic push deep into the very concept of the National Football League? How deep does this all go? Did Carrie Bradshaw ever feel like this, like an Alex Jones level journalist, exposing the hidden agenda of the deep (NFL) state? How deep does this rabbit hole go? All I’m saying is if you type “Roger Goodell” into an anagram generator, one of the results is “Old Leg Gore Or” and while I’m not trying to convince you that this is all a ploy to fuck my fantasy football team, I’m not denying the presence of old legs Frank Gore has SEVERELY impeded on Devin Singletary in multiple weeks for me this season.

Okay yes I am trying to convince you that the Department of Defense, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Roger Goodell, and the NFL have all formed a secret cabal to screw me out of fantasy football money.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the Bears won this game. Rex Grossman looked competent, Thomas Jones was excellent as always, and every time the Bears scored they mocked the stupid Giants jump-shot celebration. Look, if you’re gonna pretend to hit a fadeaway jumper, you better be playing for the same city as the guy who made that move iconic. The Giants should’ve stuck to an iconic New York basketball move of their own, like maybe they could pull an Ewing and celebrate by pretending to miss a wide open finger roll at the buzzer in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

REAL JOURNALISM HOURS:
1- https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/defense-department-paid-5-4-million-nfl-honor-troops

2- https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/new-england-patriots/nfl-teams-being-field-anthem-relatively-new-practice

Football

Rams (5-4) vs. BEARS (4-5)

Kickoff: 7:20pm

TV: NBC

Radio: 780 WBBM

You ever see the movie “Big Fan”? It’s a wonderful film, and at the end (no spoilers), the main character played by Patton Oswalt is looking at the newly released schedule for the NY Giants (his favorite team), and says aloud “it’s gonna be a great year.” I remember looking at the Bears schedule before the season and marking this game down as the game where the collective fanbase could know what type of team we were looking at by how they played against the cream of the NFC’s crop. This, my friends, is why I don’t write about football for a living.

Both the Rams and the Bears hobble into this game starkly different than they were when they battled at Soldier Field nearly a year ago, despite not many major personnel changes save for the addition of Jalen Ramsey. The places these teams find themselves is a testament to the parity of the modern NFL, when two teams that were primed to be perennial playoff contenders last year now look at the playoffs from the outside if the season ended today.

That said, these two teams have stumbled to a position where they can ride a mid-season surge to relevancy and possible Wild Card spots, but both need a win to do that. A win here for the Bears could be a signature one, and with their next two games at home against the Giants and at Detroit, the best case scenario for Nagy and the boys would be a 3 game win streak before the season ending gauntlet of Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota. A 7-5 Bears going into that last 4 game stretch could be confident knowing that going .500 and catching a break or two along the way could get them into the playoffs, where anything can happen. This paragraph is the last of my optimism for 2019 about this team save for a convincing win on Sunday in front of America and Carrie Underwood.

The Rams need this one badly too, since while their remaining schedule has Arizona twice, they also go against Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, and the 49ers. Both teams are looking for a big win to prove the same thing: the best moments of last season were not just flashes of what could be, but honest reflections of who these teams are when they get hot. Both teams also look at a potential loss as the moment when hopes for this season are dashed hopelessly against the rocks like Lady fuckin MacBeth did it herself. Admittedly, the Rams can lose this game but the Bears absolutely cannot.

I wholeheartedly believe an embarrassing showing by the Bears puts Matt Nagy on the hot seat, less than a year removed from winning Coach of the Year, a mind-blowing take that really encapsulates exactly how far this franchise has fallen. Both the Bears and Rams have been trainwrecks, but not even especially fun to watch trainwrecks.

Todd Gurley has been underutilized this season, and the Rams as a whole aren’t taking the league by storm in terms of how effectively they run the ball, which I believe was a big reason why play action was so essential to their success last year. Gurley has 104 carries on the year, while David Montgomery has 129. Monty also has more rushing yards than Gurley, which blows my mind considering I believed that he had been underutilized for most of the beginning of the season.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this is the time of the year when offenses buckle down and start to rely on the run game to prepare for the postseason and I believe that is a major strength for Los Angeles. Danny Trevathan is out, Akiem Hicks is out, and the Bears are weak up the middle. Nick Kwiatkoski has filled in well, but this game is a big test. Zone blocking techniques have found success against this defense (Oakland, anyone?) and I fear this might be a breakout game for Todd Gurley. It’ll be interesting to see if an offensive line missing a starting Tackle (Rob Havenstein) and it’s Center (Brian Allen) can find consistency against the Bears.

One key element of the Rams offense that is playing this week and didn’t last year is Cooper Kupp, Goff’s favorite target. He was shut out last week, but still ranks 7th in the NFL in catches and yards per game. Expect the Bears to pay extra attention to Cupp while also trying to contain Robert Woods, who is coming off a 7 catch, 95 yard performance in last weeks drubbing by the Steelers. Woods hasn’t scored yet this year, but he should still be considered a threat.

Do the Bears have what it takes to build another win streak and set themselves up for a December run? There is certainly going to be an opportunity to do that on Sunday night. The Rams are not playing at their best, but at the same time do we really even know what the best version of these Bears looks like?

Prediction: Bears 16 Rams 14

Statistics from Pro Football Reference @ pro-football-reference.com