Ofman: Are The Bears Who We Think They Are?

By George Ofman

One man's ex-wife is another man's soul mate.

Sure beats one man's trash is another man's treasure.

The Bears' victory at Seattle wasn't pretty. Neither is the Mona Lisa when you take a closer look. But consider losses to Tampa, Atlanta and Houston last season and all of a sudden Mona looks like Miss Universe.

It's a new season producing different results, at least for now.

This is what happens when you employ a quarterback with moxie, guile and an arm!

And this is what happens when opposing kickers can't split 'em. Special thanks to Olindo Mare and Jeff Reed.

A little Luck and a franchise thrower leaves a trail the Bears hope to follow to the playoffs.

Jay Cutler engineered another nail-biting finish. His quarterback rating was 126.4. The last time a Bears QB put up that kind of gaudy number was the Good Rex Grossman three years ago.

Rex Grossman . . . You're no Jay Cutler. Neither are you, Kyle Orton even though the Denver Broncos are an unimaginable 3-0.

The Bears are still a work in progress. They could be 3-0 if it wasn't for Cutler's abominable showing at Green Bay. But it was a winnable game until Nathan Vasher was toasted by Aaron Rodgers on a game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears could also be 0-3. See above for aforementioned kickers who can't kick straight.

So, who are these guys?

Good question.

For a team supposedly lacking quality receivers let alone receivers qualified to play in the NFL, the Bears have fared better than expected. Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett are not ready to make you forget Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham, each of who caught over 1,000 yards in passes during the 1995 season. But each already has made an impact and so, too, Devin Hester, whom Lovie Smith still refers to as the team's number one receiver. Two of the three caught touchdown passes Sunday at Qwest Field, where a 747 would sound like mere ambient noise compared to the volume emanating from the stands.

What once was a team that got off the bus running appears to be a team going through a passing phase. And it could be permanent!

But the Bears are not a juggernaut headed to Miami next February unless sun block and vacation plans are included.

Matt Forte seems as if he's running in place partly because of a slight knee injury, partly because the offensive line isn't doing him any favors and partly because he's not a premiere running back.

And at last look, the defense is still yielding too many big plays while tackling the concept of tackling. Brian Urlacher is a cheerleader, Pisa Tinoisamoa hasn't played, Vasher has and shouldn't and Tommie Harris is trying to break out of the shell he created from the old Tommie Harris, the one who regularly authored big plays.

And what once appeared to be a fairly manageable schedule has become tougher. The Lions are next and finally shed the Rod Marinelli era by winning a game. There are games in Atlanta, scene of last season's most incredible defeat, and Cincinnati, where Cedric Benson is trying to prove the Bears shouldn't have taken away his bong. There are also games at San Francisco, where Mike Singletary's 49ers look for real and Baltimore, where, as long as Ray Lewis exists, the Ravens are contenders. And we haven't mentioned the Vikings, who stunned Singletary's boys on Sunday when Brett Favre heaved a game-winning touchdown with seconds left. I still believe Favre will be a non-factor by the time the Bears play them for the first time November 29th at the Hump Dome. I predicted he would be a victim of injury by then. I also said the Bears would go 5-11 last season.

I'm not always right, just most of the time.

The Bears are not the Steelers who are not themselves these days. But they possess the tangible in Cutler, a game-changing quarterback who might be able to overcome his own foibles and that of a questionable defense.

There are 13 more games to find out.


George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

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