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I can't figure out if the Bears are tantalizingly close to being good, or the Lions are just that close to being bad.
One thing is for certain: The Bears excel at losing close games.
Six of their 10 losses have been by one score or less.
We've seen comebacks fall short and leads blown late, but this loss was of the particularly painful variety in which a solid overall performance is marred by penalties.
The Bears committed them early, they committed them often, they committed them in the house, they committed them with a mouse, they committed them in a box and committed them with a Fox.
And they committed them at the worst possible times.
There's going to be plenty of bad news to dissect after any loss, but it's worth mentioning that the Bears bucked a couple of negative trends along the way to "L" numero "X."
For one, they put together two halves of football that were worth watching, even if the penalties made you want to throw the remote at the television.
Don't worry if you did.
Physically assaulting something is one of several effective methods of showing it you really care . . . is what my good friend Tawny Kitaen taught me back when we worked together on the "Here I Go Again" video shoot (I was her stunt double).
2016's calling card has been that half of almost every game has been, at minimum, a dumpster fire fueled by diapers filled with rancid meat.
At least this was a consistent effort, albeit a losing one.
- Pass Coverage: The bar is set pretty low in terms of creating turnovers, as the Bears hadn't created one in almost four games, but thanks to two interceptions in the fourth quarter last Sunday, another awful trend was nixed.
According to the Chicago Tribune, this was the first game since Week 6 in which the Bears had multiple takeaways.
Full disclosure, I will not be finding a second source on that one.
If your visual of my research process is an image of me slouched in front of the computer with a thought bubble above my head that reads "meh sounds about right" upon encountering a single useful stat in an online article posted by almost any publication I've heard of, followed by a copy/paste of said stat into a Word document, you're close.
I'm also wearing nothing but an open bathrobe, eating Saturday night's tater tachos straight out of a doggie bag and searching food.com as to whether or not unrefrigerated nacho cheese is safe to ingest after 72 hours.
When he's been on the field, Cre'Von LeBlanc has rewarded the Bears faith in him (faith = "oh shit, this guy was on the Patriots? How bad can he be, give him a contract!") by making plays, including a rare pick six.
Demontre Hurst contributed the other pick; a play which pads a resume that basically just includes "is NFL player" and the anagram-based nickname "Mo The Rust Nerd."
- Matt Barkley: Another Hoyer-esque performance for the young QB, made less statistically impressive by penalties. Two consecutive holding calls against the O-line negated throws would have that put the Bears in or near field goal range on the Bears' final drive against the Lions.
Alshon Jeffery will return against the Packers after serving a four-game suspension after testing positive for the Mexican generic alternative to Cialis, the aptly named "Sí-alis."
As if a date with the Pack wasn't enough of a reason to watch, we'll get to see Barkley huck jump balls to a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver against a team desperate for a win.
With a win and two great efforts under his belt, the time to determine if we're watching the Bears' next real quarterback is now.
If nothing else, the man has upgraded his standing in the NFL from a guy whose game film was deemed by one anonymous scout as "a waste of time that could have been better spent on the Certified Amateurs section of Porn Hub" to "yeah, I could see this dude getting paid $3 million dollars to hold Derek Carr's clipboard one day."
- Jim Bob Cooter: I know he's the Lions Offensive Coordinator, but hear me out . . .
Ok, I got nothing. It was just plain awesome to hear that dude's name get tossed around constantly on last Sunday's CBS broadcast.
What Should Never Happen Again, For A While Anyway
- Penalties: As mentioned above, the final two nails in the coffin occurred on the Bears' final drive of the game. You gotta give the O-line this: their timing is unmatched.
I won't say that 11 penalties for 139 yards will never happen again, but it's as unlikely to happen again any sooner than someone from the cast of the movie Predator* or a member of SNL runs for office . . . so at least for another three seasons.
- Running The Ball, Or Lack Thereof: Another alarming trend that has developed over the course of 2016 is the offense's habit of going completely away from a rushing attack that is often working.
It's the equivalent of trotting out a sex move that drives your partner wild, then stopping abruptly and throwing a Cobb salad in their face.
Why did you stop?
Where did you get that salad from?
Do you realize that you just wasted a combined $11 worth of bacon and avocado?
Cobb salads are substantial.
Despite being given only 15 touches, rookie sensation Jordan "Seriously Stop Calling Me Juwan" Howard totaled 110 yards from scrimmage.
When asked about the choice to go away from Howard, Bears Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains responded, "Fuck that, bro."
Eye On The Opposition: Curds On The Rise
Sure, the Packers have been inconsistent on offense, shoddy in the secondary and poorly coached.
They're also ninth in the NFC and smell like feet.
But I think I speak for the entire NFL when I say that nobody wants to run into Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs.
The Pack have been rolling of late, ripping off three in a row after starting the season 4-6.
Perhaps this run is too little too late, but I'm glad Green Bay has something to play for.
For one, it would make it that much sweeter if the Bears could play spoiler. And by "spoiler," I mean I want them to effectively eliminate Green Bay from contention, thus crushing the near-term hopes/dreams of Packer fans everywhere, like on a personal level.
That's right, Justin Larkin of De Pere, Wisconsin. I'm talking to you.
Your son Cortland just came out, and while you feign acceptance of his sexual orientation, you know that he is unlikely to conceive any biological children as he and his fiancé Rayford both feel strongly about adoption.
It's a generous impulse, but it means that you've lived just long enough to watch your bloodline reach its end.
First Billy decided to pursue a career outside of the family injection molding business and now it's certain that you'll never get to experience the joy of being a "real" grandfather. So much for your legacy.
It's a shame that you can't fully accept a beautiful little Chinese baby as one of your own, Justin.
Looks like you'll die unfulfilled the moment that hereditary heart condition finally gets the best of you.
So if on Sunday the Bears manage to snatch away the Packers' playoff hopes by securing a win at the lakefront, you have to wonder . . . Can that faulty ticker of yours take another hit? Do you have it in you to limp through another Northern Wisconsin winter with a broken, bitter heart?
Do you, Justin? DO YOU?! BWA-HAHAHAAAAA!!!
Joking, of course! It's all in the spirit of friendly rivalry!
Back to the Pack.
Unsurprisingly, Green Bay's recent success is tied directly to Mr. Rodgers reclaiming his Hall Of Fame form. As their QB goes, so go the Packers.
Leg injuries and brutal cold are likely to limit Rodgers' usually fleet feet, which could be trouble for Green Bay since Rodgers is the second leading rusher on the team by only a few dozen yards (65 yards behind Eddie Lacy) and he leads the team with three (count 'em, three) rushing touchdowns.
What is working for the Packers is their passing game.
Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams (not to be confused with his son Davante Quincy Adams) are world-class deep targets for Rodgers, even without a running game to play off of.
If the Bears plan to fudge up the remainder of Green Bay's season, they'll need to put a lid on these wideouts.
Kool-Aid (4 of 5 Glasses Of Copper Fiddle's Creamy Tommy)
In general I'm more of an old school cocktail guy, but this Crystal Lake Distillery's sweet 'n' boozy concoction gives your tongue and liver reason to smile.
I mean, your doctor may not be smiling as much as you, but since this is the last game of any emotional meaning left on the schedule in 2016 short of talent evaluation, let's cut loose.
The Bears will not only need to shut down the Green Bay passing game, but will need to generate turnovers in order to compete on Sunday.
That starts with quarterback pressure and containing Aaron Rodgers in the pocket.
If the guy gets the opportunity to run bootlegs on the reg' and heave it deep with ease, we are gonna have a long day ahead of us.
Oh and Loggains.
Give Howard the rock.
Leave the Cobb salad under the bed for once.
Based on the conditions, Rodgers' leg injuries and a prescription drug-related optimism I predict an upset.
Matt Barkley isn't spectacular, but with his best receiving option back the big throws get caught by a big man at the right time.
Bears win an icy one late.
Bears 17, Packers 13
About The Author
The Author recommends that you watch this week's contest somewhere warm and, if possible, with someone warm. It will be cold and snowy. Alcohol helps.
* This happens more frequently than you might think. Everyone remembers Schwarzenegger and Ventura's political careers, but for those of you not tuned into the day-to-day comings and goings of the Libertarian Party, the guy who played f-ing Billy ran for Senate back in 2008. Turns out, he was dangerously racist.
Carl Mohrbacher is our Kool-Aid Korrespondent. He tolerates your comments.
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