Bears fans saw an incredible defense carry a flawed offense all the way to the Super Bowl in 2006.
This year, Chicago will see more of the same, but, this time, the Bears will be the ones hoisting the trophy.
Sure, this Bears defense is older, Devin Hester has gone from ridiculous to regular, and sometimes the offensive line is more of a turnstile than a blockade.
But there is one shortcoming that the '06 squad had that this year's squad does not: Rex Grossman.
His name still enrages Bears fans like The Incredible Hulk, and the pick-six he threw to current Bear Kelvin Hayden sealed Chicago's fate in Super Bowl XLI.
While the comparison between the two Bears teams means very little in relation to how this year's team stacks up with the other 31 franchises, the distinction between Grossman and Cutler is quite important.
The Bears are back to their old ways of frustrating opposing offenses and taking the ball away with ease. The Monsters of the Midway rank second in the NFL in points allowed (less than 15 per game) and second in takeaways.
This is surely not too much to ask, though Cutler's critics will say otherwise. His outing against Green Bay was nauseating (28.2 QB rating), but Bears fans should know better than any that it can get so much worse.
Since Cutler's debacle against the cheeseheads, he has thrown six touchdowns and only three interceptions during the Bears' five-game winning streak.
The highly-criticized quarterback has heard complaints about his facial expressions and demeanor, but the Bears don't need Mr. Rodgers (from PBS) under center to go deep in the playoffs.
What Chicago needs is a quarterback who can win football games—and winning 11 of his last 12 starts—Cutler has done just that.
The presence of Marshall has added another gear to the Bears offense, making for one of the most potent quarterback-wide receiver combos in football. However, it's no secret that the offensive line is the engine that will determine how well the offensive machine will function.
Many times their play has stalled the offense, disabling Cutler from effectively delivering the football. For the Bears to reach their full potential, offensive coordinator Mike Tice must find a way to improve his protection schemes to mask the team's most glaring weakness.
Luckily, for them, there is still a great deal of time to work out the kinks. Furthermore, no playoff contender has proven to be completely flawless.
The 49ers may be the Bears' biggest obstacle, sporting the best defense in the NFL, but the jury is still out on who would perform better between Cutler and Alex Smith in a potential postseason clash.
With a 6-1 start, the Bears have set themselves up favorably in the NFC picture, and should have at least one home playoff game in January. The Falcons remain as the only unblemished team, but the race for home field advantage is only at the halfway mark.
Stellar defense and hot quarterback play—especially in the clutch—has proven to be the recipe to winning Lombardi's trophy. This year, the Bears have all of the ingredients.
No one in the NFL has a higher fourth-quarter QB rating than Cutler this season (132.0). If he's given time to throw, the combination of Marshall on the outside and Forte on the ground will prove to be deadly.
Defensively, all the pieces are in place. With Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Shea McClellin, the Bears can rush the passer with the best of them. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher hold down the middle, and playmaking cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman provide instant turnovers.
Last year, the Giants showed that it's all about being hot at the right time. If Tice can earn his pay and do his best Mr. Fix-It job on the offensive line, the Bears will be right there.
The Bears have Super Bowl aspirations, and their talent is of that caliber. Why not the Bears?
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