Oh so close. One win away from the Super Bowl. The Bears almost pulled it off, after many ‘experts’ picked them to finish well under .500. But in the end it’s Green Bay moving on and the Bears left with a bitter hibernation ahead.
Before we get into the game itself, I have to address all of this Jay Cutler garbage. That’s what it is. Pure trash. The man was injured during the ball game. It was determined that he would not return. This is something new in pro sports? Guys get hurt all the time and do not come back in a particular game. Cutler’s early exit from the NFC Championship however, set off a firestorm like I’ve never seen.
Let’s first address the cowards. You know, the NFL players who were already eliminated and sitting at home watching the title tilt on the boob tube. They tweeted away about Cutler. They said he let the Bears down, that he should have kept playing, that he quit. This is the type of behavior you expect from wimpy journalists who obviously would be crushed by Cutler if it came down to a physical altercation. Instead this slimy behavior came from fellow NFL players. Big, bulky men who figured they’d take a shot at the quarterback from their smart phones and computers. Why? Well, for some it’s to get their name in the paper and on ESPN. If you noticed, many of the tweethearts aren’t exactly household names. The unfortunate and biggest reason they did this however, is that they truly believe Cutler didn’t ‘man up’ or whatever dumb moniker you want to give it. Interesting. A man who has only missed one game due to injury and has been sacked more than anyone the last couple seasons is suddenly having his toughness questioned.
Here’s the most disturbing part. NFL players are notoriously loyal to their union and its members. So, when Mike Vick did what he did to dozens of innocent dogs and Ben Roethlisberger had his bathroom etiquette in question, we saw no tweets, no postings, nothing. But now Cutler is crucified because they think they know how hurt the man is. Wow! What a bunch of hypocrites. By the way, if this same situation unfolded and Vick was the player in question, we wouldn’t of heard a thing. Except of course the same sickening show of support for him from his peers.
Another reason Cutler is being bashed is simply his position. If Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs left the game no one would blink an eye. It would be chalked up as an unfortunate blow to the Bears at the worst time possible. Quarterbacks are always under the microscope. Too much praise when teams win. Too much credit when teams lose. Yet, that misconception that QB is always the most important position on the field is still there. Sometimes it is the top reason a team succeeds. Yet for every Montana or Aikman or Elway that has won it all, we also have our McMahons and Rypiens and Dilfers and Johnsons etc. So long story short, stop and think before you fly off the handle about a situation you don’t even really know about. That goes for milquetoast journalists and muscle bound athletes alike.
If you want to talk about the real quarterback controversy, let’s consider why Todd Collins was the man backing up Cutler. Not only should Collins not have been the number two, he shouldn’t even be in the league. Collins was an absolute disaster in his relief appearance against the Giants and not much better when he started in Carolina. If he was a third-stringer because you thought he had something to offer as a ‘coach in pads’, I could maybe see that, but to even let him sniff the field is ridiculous. I don’t know that the Bears would’ve won if Collins never came in, but I do know Chicago wasted two drives with him. Drives that perhaps Caleb Hanie may have done something with. Heck, I’d rather have Earl Bennett under center instead of Collins. I’d even give Matt Toeaina or Anthony Adams a few snaps before I’d bring Collins in. It was hard to watch him in New York and in Charlotte, but just down right painful, on so many levels in the NFC Championship.
Now, let’s examine the real reasons the Packers won. They earned it. Green Bay shut down Devin Hester and dominated the field position battle, especially in the first half. Cutler’s lack of success had little to do with his fortitude or his injury. It had to a lot to do with the fact that the Bears were starting drive after drive in their own red zone. The playbook gets smaller and smaller back there. By the time Chicago had a little breathing room on the field, Cutler’s day was long over. Another thing that will haunt Bears backers even more than the ‘what if they didn’t waste two drives with Collins?’ question, will be the thought of ‘what if Cutler played the whole game?’. I think many believe the Bears would’ve pulled it out.
For all the talk coming in, about Aaron Rodgers, Cutler, and both defenses, the player of the game was clearly Tim Masthay. The Packers’ punter neutralized Hester and continually placed the Bears in horrible position. Just if one time he didn’t come through, if just once the Bears got a touchback instead of another impossible starting point, perhaps Chicago would be getting ready for the Steelers. Masthay is no doubt the reason Green Bay won.
With good reason, many fans feel the Bears would’ve completed their frantic comeback if just a few things bounced differently. The defense looked terrific all second half. They bloodied Rodgers and came up with huge stop after huge stop. Urlacher’s interception was the stuff legends are made of. However, on a day that every bounce seemed to come up green and gold, you just knew that when 54 didn’t take it to the house, that it just wouldn’t be enough.
It’s an old cliche, but you could also argue that the Bears ran out of time. All momentum was swinging the Windy City’s way until Hanie threw his second pick ending the Bears run.
The Packers won this game fair and square and they deserve to be heading to Dallas. To be fair though, the Bears got a very tough whistle in this one. I understand the refs had to call the Julius Peppers penalty because that’s the rule and even though every other hit in the NFL used to look like that a mere few years ago, it is what it is. The pass interference on Tim Jennings however was awful and the Hanieintentional grounding was about as bad as it gets. This same officiating crew called 18 penalties against Green Bay back on September 27 when the Bears won 20-17. You have to wonder if there was any make-up call mentality here. That’d be unfortunate for both squads because the Packers earned the victory and the Bears played with the heart of winners. I never thought that crew should’ve called this game in the first place. It put everyone in a weird situation. Whatever the reason, some calls against the Bears down the stretch were terrible.
Hanie was super. Imagine if he pulled it off. What a story we almost had. He may have even been the Super Bowl starter depending on Cutler’s health. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. You can’t criticize the kid for his two picks. He has virtually no experience and then to be thrust into this epic battle is asking a lot. Yet he handled it with great poise. He looked like he belonged. His energy and effort canceled out the errant throws. He was valiant.
Everyone is criticizing Lovie Smith’s decision to pass up on a 49-yard field goal attempt early in the game and punt instead. While I could see going for it on fourth down, I can’t be too down on the call. I would have went for it or punted. I would not have attempted the three. One, in my mind Gould would not have made it. Two, everyone would say it was brilliant if the Bears downed the ball at the inch line, which they almost did.
Here are some things I didn’t like. The Bennett reverse on third down, the next to last Bears offensive play, was inexplicable. To reverse there is a head scratcher. To do it with anyone but Hester is a down right travesty. A different play call there, may have averted the Hanie pick and may have set up the tying score. I also was disappointed that the Bears didn’t take a shot down field to Johnny Knox or Hester in the closing minutes. Hanie could have made the throw and if he had enough mustard on it, even if it was covered it would have likely been just an incompletion. It would’ve been worth the risk.
The Bears had a tremendous season. We get greedy as the wins pile up. If I told you 9-7 in the beginning of the year, most of you would’ve signed up for that. If I even whispered about a wild card, virtually all would have gobbled that up faster than the Fridge could down a turkey. To win the North, secure a bye week, and come within one touchdown of the Super Bowl is truly a great year. The problem is, the final loss was to THEM. If the victors on Sunday were just about anyone else, the Bears’ accomplishments would serve as great comfort, but because it was the Packers it is a bitter pill. A very bitter, cheesy, nightmarish pill. I’m with you Bears fans. The Navy and Orange Blues has set in. I too will have cold sweats thinking of that massive B.J. Raji backside wiggling and jiggling all spring and summer long. It was a horrific end. No pun intended. But, it was a successful season. There is plenty of hope looking forward as well, with most key players and coaches signed. Hang in there fans. We were in this together and we will be back. Bear down.
Oh how I was hoping Hanie could’ve been the Don Beebe to Raji’s Leon Lett. He nearly was. Nice hustle by Caleb.
Hanie shaved his mustache before talking with the press after the game.
The new NFC and AFC Championship trophies are hideous. Why were they changed? Unnecessary.
It was nice to see all of the other Chicago clubs supporting the Bears. The Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Sox all sent their well wishes the Bears’ way.
Former White Sox slugger Robin Ventura was on hand at the United Center Saturday to watch the Bulls gore the Cavs. Staley was in attendance as well.
Ozzie has his own web site now. Get ready.
The Blackhawks wee beaten by the Flyers on Sunday. In Philadelphia they were calling it revenge for the Stanley Cup defeat. Right. Because a regular season game in January erases losing in the Finals. Please!
I am definitely watching the Puppy Bowl and Lingerie Bowl. Super Bowl? Not sure yet. Anything good playing at the movies?
About the Author
Written by Kevin Scholla
Kevin Scholla is an American news and sports anchor/writer for CBS Radio. He has been a professional journalist for more than a decade. Scholla's other current projects include: Anchor/Host- LBL Radio. Announcer- Trenton Thunder Baseball (New York Yankees AA), Holy Family University Men's & Women's Basketball, Lincoln University Football. Host-"Delaware County's Most Wanted TV Show" on Comcast. TV/Radio Panelist-Fox News Channel, TCN, TBN, WBCB. Scholla's past projects include: Public Address Announcer- Villanova Men's Basketball, Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse, Penn Baseball, Sotball, Lacrosse, Sussex Skyhawks Professional Baseball Club, New York Majesty and Philadelphia Passion of the Lingerie Football League. Writer/Host- LBL 360 Radio. Play by Play-Centenary College Basketball, William Paterson University Football. Radio Analyst-Delaware State University Football. Press Secretary-Gubernatorial Race. Reporter/Anchor-Millennium Radio. News Director-Clear Channel. Reporter/Anchor-ABC Radio. Scholla interned at WFAN in New York City working alongside Don Imus and Chris Russo. Scholla's career highlights include reporting live from the NCAA Basketball Final Four, serving as courthouse reporter at the Jayson Williams trial, and interviewing three U.S. presidents and two U.S. vice presidents. Scholla was the only radio or television reporter to interview former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey on his first day out of office. On January 28, 2009, Scholla was the public address announcer for the Villanova vs. Pittsburgh game at the Wachovia Spectrum. It would be the final college basketball game ever played at the historic arena. Scholla wrote, produced, and acted in a public service announcement that was named the American Cancer Society Award Winner. Scholla has also compiled quite a resume outside of journalism. He coaches youth softball and baseball. He is a committee chairman for the Miss Illinois Scholarship Association. Scholla also works as a booster and consultant for DePaul University, the Montgomery Biscuits, the Tri-City Dust Devils, and the Helena Brewers. Scholla has been recognized for his volunteer work with various charities including VFW, ASPCA and the Philadelphia Zoo. Along with Shannon Elizabeth, Scholla supports Animal Avengers, a California-based pet rescue group. Scholla has worked for numerous political campaigns and twice won the nomination for township committee in Springfield Township, Union County, New Jersey. Scholla is a fan of the Bears, Bulls, White Sox, Blackhawks, and DePaul Basketball. Outside of Chicago, he also roots for the Mets and University of Florida Football.