The Bears and Packers have a seemingly endless history between them, but Week 3 showed these teams operate on totally separate playing fields.
Sports rivalries as humongous and overbearing as Bears-Packers seem to come prepackaged with a special ingredient geared to provoke the maximum amount of emotion out of a single human being. Hardly any other event will make your text messages or Twitter timeline appear so desperate. I'd be willing to bet those similarly invested in Duke-UNC hoops or Yankees-Red Sox would agree. These rivalries are so entrenched in our culture -- sports culture, city culture, perhaps even your family culture -- that they often appear to transcend sport. An old cliche tells us to 'throw out the record books' when this level of prominence has been reached. Better advice may be to throw out your iPhone. This is the type of stuff custom built to make a man lose not only his perspective, but also his mind.
Emotions are rarely nuanced. When Bears-Packers is on the table, the word you'll hear as much as any is "hate". That term isn't as heavy in the sports world as it is in the real one, but it's just as prevalent. After watching the Packers' 27-17 Week 3 victory in Soldier Field yesterday afternoon, though, "hate" should be furthest thing from the collective mind of Bears fans. These Packers -- with their efficient vertical passing attack and blitz-heavy defense -- are pretty damn likable. The real emotion at play here for Chicagoans should be jealousy.
The Bears have been more successful under Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo than anyone is willing to admit -- hard to argue with a Super Bowl and conference final appearance in the last five years. Still, when compared and contrasted, the Bears look like a community college to Green Bay's Ivy League university. When the Bears whiff on draft picks, the Packers connect. When the Bears misevaluate their own talent, Green Bay finds outside aid to sure up problem areas. The Bears have started an incalculable number of quarterbacks over the past two decades. It looks like Green Bay could go 30 years with only two.
On Sunday, the Packers furthered the analogy once again. The final margin may have only been 10 points, but it felt three times as wide. The Packers are simply in a different class, and this is something even the most biased Bears backer has to admit. Everything for Green Bay just felt so easy in Week 3, even if that wasn't always the case. For the Bears -- particularly when they had the ball -- it seemed as if the Packers were playing with an extra man or two on the field.
The Bears even *looked* -- visually -- like the inferior lot. Those traditional home blues carry with them an inordinate amount of history; the orange tops Chicago went with on Sunday made them look like your little brother's created franchise in Madden. The final stats may have been even uglier: those rushing totals aren't a typo, it just initially appears that way.
Chicago threw the ball 37 times and ran it just 12 on Sunday, numbers that are a tad skewed because the Bears were playing from behind from the opening drive, but still far from the balanced ratio for which success can be built on. Every Monday morning QB wants to find fault with Mike Martz's imbalance, but when those 12 runs only net 13 yards, it's tough to argue too passionately. What's the point of going to an empty well? Truth be told, the Bears' passing attack was likely doomed even before Week 3 kicked off. Dom Capers' 3-4 can blow up even the most automatic offense. With two-fifth's of an already horrendous offensive line injured and the league's best cornerback tandem just waiting to eat up Chicago's underwhelming stable of receivers, Jay Cutler was probably predestined for a long day. He had one: three sacks, two picks and one loss later, it probably won't be very difficult to locate a Cutler doubter. Whether he's even been given a fair chance is a debatable issue, but there's nothing controversial about those always objective statistics. If you're still holding onto the "Cutler as savior" dream, drop it now and just hope he makes it out of this season alive.
I'm going to use this spot to preach perspective all season long, though, at least until I've lost my own. The Bears played three very tough opponents to open this new season. Losses to Green Bay and New Orleans hardly means it's time to start scouting high first round draft picks. If the Bears can up-end a pair of impressive yet unestablished teams over the next two weeks -- Carolina and Detroit -- they'll find themselves primed for a playoff run.
Lovie likes to talk about the regular season in terms of quarters; after Carolina next week, he can close the book on the first one. He'd never admit it, but the theme of his team's first quarter for 2011 just should have been 'survival'. With the opportunity to exit .500, the Bears have a chance at attaining that mediocrity-clad benchmark. The opponents get easier for Chicago from here on out. Now the Bears have to prove early season losses don't always foreshadow late season ones. This is a team that has to get better. No matter how discouraged you were by Week 3, they still have a chance.
Ricky O'Donnell is a writer and editor in Chicago and the founder of the Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential. He is always very much available for hire. Follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.