For three and a half quarters against the Panthers on Sunday, Bears fans seated high in the end zone of Soldier Field were cold, quiet, and miserable. They cursed Jay Cutler. They cursed Lovie Smith. Some might have even cursed that lone Super Bowl banner from three decades ago, which, as it turns out, is not a magic carpet.
The only thing that banner did this sloppy Sunday was inspire a comparison between the 1985 Bears and the 2012 Bears, who are… wait for it… legit Super Bowl contenders.
That’s right, I’m not afraid to say it, even after another mediocre performance by the stagnant O and one of the weaker showings of the season by the celebrated D.
Hear me out.
The 2012 Bears have the top-scoring defense in the league and they’ve already created more points defensively than the 1985 team. And even though Devin Hester hasn’t cracked one yet, neither Dennis Gentry nor Willie Gault (who both returned kicks for touchdowns in ’85) gave the Super Bowl XX champs the threat on special teams that Hester does.
Through seven games, the defense has been as great as it has ever been, giving up a net total of two touchdowns (six for, eight against) and harassing opposing offenses so obnoxiously they could pass for Chicago Tribune executives.
The offenses eerily resemble each other, as well. Both teams run the ball effectively and stretch the field vertically. Looking at personnel, Sweetness clearly trumps Forte, but Cutler, Marshall, and Bennett/Jeffery trump McMahon, Gault and McKinnon. The 1985 team finished second in the NFL in scoring, and while the 2012 team has yet to score consistently, they know how to score when it matters most—in the 4th quarter. Over the last 3 weeks, the Bears are the No. 1 4th-quarter scorer in the NFL.
But assuming they survive a lurking let-down game next week against the Titans in Music City, the schedule gets brutal, and inconsistent with a dash of heroism won’t cut it: Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, Minnesota, Green Bay, Arizona, Detroit.
It all hinges on a progressive offense—the one we’ve been waiting for week after week. Cutler came through handsomely on the closing drive Sunday, but that’s no recipe. If the Bears can’t score regularly, this comparison is only as good as the digital paper on which it’s written.
Ask the Bulls how far a hard-nosed defense gets you without a real scoring threat.