The Bears: Worse Than You Think

By George Ofman

Be forewarned: The Bears will not win the Super Bowl.

Nor are they likely to play in it.

This is not a revelation from high above, though some people higher than Geovany Soto think the 2009 edition just might make it. Not that Sports Illustrated guru Peter King has something funny in his pipe; however, he did predict the Bears would lose Super Bowl XLIV to the New England Patriots. Stranger things have happened.

I once had the Hindenburg minus three and look where that got me.

Maybe King knows something we don't? He's actually picking three teams from the NFC North to make the playoffs, with the Bears beating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

And global warming is the reason Chicago suffered a frigid summer.

Maybe King is enamored of Jay Cutler. Perhaps he owns interesting pictures of the Bears savior of a quarterback.

Could it be a Ouija board?

I'm not sure. Does King realize the Bears ranked 21st in defense last year?

Oh, but wait a minute, you might say. The Oakland Raiders' defense was 25th in passing yards allowed and 12th in total yards and actually made it to Super Bowl XXXVII.

Yes, but flukes like that occur about as often as the Cubs make the World Series.

What happened to the old adage defense wins Super Bowls?

Not to worry. Defense is still king.

The Pittsburgh Steelers owned the top-ranked defense last season and beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

True, you have to go back to 2000 for the last Super Bowl champ before the Steelers that had the number one defense. That would have been the Baltimore Ravens. And in 2001, the St. Louis Rams trotted out the top-ranked D only to lose the New England Patriots. But they got there.

Over the last ten seasons, 13 teams ranking in the top 10 in defense have made the Super Bowl. Eleven teams ranking in the top 10 in offense advanced. So who won the big game? The defense seven times.

(Then there were the 2006 Bears, who were guided and misguided by Rex Grossman. They ranked fifth overall on defense but succumbed to Peyton Manning and the mighty Indianapolis Colts, who were 21st.)

What does this mean? A lot of numbers, that's what! And it also means that unless the Bears manage to clean up their mess in the secondary and hope age and injury hasn't manifested in the likes of Urlacher, Ogunleye, Tillman, Vasher and Tommie Harris, their chances of even making the playoffs might be challenged.

Cutler can throw just so many touchdowns. The Bears defense can find a way of giving up more.

And don't look for new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to save the day. Remember, Marinelli patrolled the Detroit Lions sidelines last season and his record was perfect: No wins, 16 losses and an exit sign. To be fair, Marinelli is well-seasoned and highly respected when it comes to working with defenses. But he's not The Answer.

I guess when you're 30th against the pass, there's very little room to fall.

But there's also room to rise on offense. The Bears ranked 26th in that department; 21st in passing, and 24th in rushing.

So there's lots of work on both sides of the ball.

Can Peter King predict the weather, too?

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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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