Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Bear Weather

As I write, wind is whipping, temperatures are falling, and snow is accumulating here in Chicago. And these conditions are expected to continue off and on throughout the weekend. I don't need advanced statistical analysis to tell me that the Bears are going to beat up on those dome sissies, the Minnesota Vikings. It's Bear weather. Every time I see these conditions, I picture a convoy of Bear defenders headed down the sideline as the snow starts falling, the crowd starts screaming, and the Los Angeles Rams start packing their bags for the off season, while the Bears start packing for the Super Bowl.

Seriously though, who could ask for a better welcome home for the road weary Bears? Before the season, winning two of three on this road trip seemed unlikely. After the debacle against the Dolphins, avoiding a sweep on this road trip would have seemed like a victory. And yet, because the Bears lost the last of the three games, and did so with their biggest question mark looking like, well, a question mark, Chicagoans are acting like the sky is falling. The Bears just went on the road against three straight teams with winning records, won two of the games, and only lost in what was essentially a toss-up game. The defense is playing well, the running game is waking up, and Ron Turner will have five weeks of relatively low pressure outings in which to figure out how to play to Rex Grossman's strengths and stay away from his weaknesses.

Speaking of which, the Vikings actually pose a tricky match-up for the Bears. On defense, they stifle the run, but are vulnerable to the pass. In other words, the Bears' best bet is to put the ball in Rex's hands, and ask him to win the game. This concept probably just made some of you throw up a little bit in your mouths,but this may be just what Rex needs.

There shouldn't be too much pressure to put points on the board because the Vikings offense shouldn't have much luck against the Bears' D. The Vikings offense ranks behind the Bears in overall efficiency, and in both passing and rushing efficiency. Grossman has struggled, but Brad Johnson has been just as unproductive and inefficient. Johnson has eight touchdowns and 10 picks, plus he's fumbled eight times and lost three of them. Plus, while Chester Taylor has received a fair amount of attention for his gaudy rushing yardage, the Vikings rushing attack has been one of the least efficient overall in all of football. Taylor has nearly as many fumbles as touchdowns.

Combine the Vikings' offensive ineptitude with the Bears' heavy advantage on special teams, and you have the recipe for some very short fields. The Bears still have the most efficient punt return unit in the game, and the Vikes are only average covering punts.

So, Rex should have short fields to work with, little pressure to put a ton of points on the board, but the team will need him to play well if they're going to move the ball at all on offense. It's a test for Rex, but one he should easily pass. Grossman seems like a streaky kid, and this may be exactly the game he needs to get his confidence and rhythm back. And if he can't pass this test, then as much as I don't like Brian Griese, it may really be time to consider a change.


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