The Chicago Bears extended their winning streak to four games, and simultaneously showed the NFL that they are for real via their 37-13 romping of the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
This Chicago Bears team is quite similar to last year's team that went to the NFC championship game. They both had quiet starts, and hit their stride during mid-season, riding the coattails of the defense and special teams.
The difference this year is that the offense is actually good, they are not a great unit, but they are definetly better than last season.
With each win we continue to learn more about this 2011 team, and this win over the Lions was a great example of how much they have grown.
When Jay Cutler got injured in the NFC championship game last year and was forced out of the game, he was labeled weak, soft and a quitter.
This infuriated me to no end because it could not be further from the truth.
Let's look at the facts.
- Jay Cutler plays with diabetes, and he played for an entire season with it going undiagnosed. During this stretch he was losing two pounds a week, and still did not miss a game.
- He has been sacked more than any other quarterback since coming to Chicago, and has missed one game which was due to a concussion.
- During the 2010 championship game, everyone said he didn't even try to come back in the game. This is a flat out lie. He was injured during the second quarter and started the second half, but could not plant so he had to stop playing.
Jay showcased his toughness when he was banged around by Lions, especially when Nick Fairley drove him into the ground, or the licks he took while scrambling. Even after these tough hits he bounced right back up and was ready for the next play.
There is no doubt that Jay Cutler is tough as nails.
Devin Hester is without a doubt the best returner the NFL has ever seen, and arguably the most exciting player to come into the league since Barry Sanders.
Hester returned a kick for a touchdown for the third time this season and the 17th time of his career against the Lions. During this game he also averaged 40 yards a return, and nearly broke free for a second touchdown.
He might be just an average wide receiver, but his special teams play has won the Bears more games than any other Bears receiver.
Hester's contributions to the NFL and football world are incalculable. He has changed the way people kick, draft and asses players. It will be a travesty if he is not voted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot.
In the infamous words of Jeff Joniak, "Devin Hester, you are ridiculous."
Just moments before the Bears and Lions mini brawl, which ended with D.J. Moores ejection, a fellow Bears supporter told me, "Bears vs. Packers is a fan rivalry, and Bears vs. Lions is a player rivalry."
This is not to say that the Bears players like the Packers, but they really hate the Lions. Throughout the game the Lions made it clear that they feel the same way about the Bears.
There were several instances where the Lions made dirty plays out of hatred and frustration. The late hit on Jay Cutler made this glaringly obvious. Fairley drove Cutler into the ground well after he threw the ball, and it was the catalyst for the intensity that was present throughout the remainder of the game.
The Bears and the Lions are very simlilar. Both teams have great young quarterbacks, an extremely talented skill player—Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson—and a very strong defense.
The Bears got the best of the Lions in this rematch, but if they were to meet again in the playoffs I would expect this game to be a physical, close game.
I have said this over and over for the last few weeks, and I will continue to repeat myself until people stop arguing.
This Bears defense is elite.
They are giving up 20.8 PPG which is just 14th in the NFL, but they are shutting teams, and star players down.
Over their four game win streak they are only allowing 16.25 PPG, and have allowed just 18 or fewer points in three of those four wins.
The Bears are fourth in the NFL in interceptions with 13, third in interceptions returned for a touchdown, and sixth in fumble recoveries.
Lovie Smith's teams take the ball away, and that is exactly what they are doing.
The Bears forced six turnovers against the Lions, including four interceptions from Matthew Stafford which doubled his season total to eight.
When the Bears defense plays as good as they did on Sunday, no one can beat them.
The Bears have shown the NFL what they have believed all season long, that they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Bears have done this two seasons in a row now.
Both seasons they have entered with the expectations of seven to nine wins at most. Last year as we all know, they easily eclipsed this mark and hosted the NFC championship game.
The Bears have a better team than last year because they actually have a good offense this year. They are just 17th in the league in offensive yards per game, but they are sixth in the NFL in PPG at 26.3. Although this number is a bit inflated because of their contributions from Devin Hester and the defense.
The Bears have the best special teams unit in the NFL, an elite defense, a very talented offense, and to top it off they have the heart and drive to win.
It is not ridiculous to believe they can make it all the way to the Super Bowl this year.