Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Those "Lucky" Bears

It was only a matter of time before there was a sports related post.

If you're a Chicago Bears fan you've heard, and may have said, that the Bears have been really lucky this season.  And I agree that they've been lucky particularly in one aspect which I'll touch upon later.  But frankly, all successful teams are lucky.  Some are luckier than others but all successful teams take advantage of their lucky breaks. Let's see how lucky the Bears have been.

The first thing people point to when stating how lucky the Bears are is their first win over the Detroit Lions.  "They only won that game because of the stupid rule on the Calvin Johnson catch!", they'll say.  I disagree.

If you saw the Green Bay Packers play the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night you'll probably note that after the Tramon Williams interception return for a touchdown that game was pretty much a blowout.  The Packers dominated the game in winning 48-21.  Sports Illustrated's football expert Peter King said in his Monday Morning Quarterback column, "You don't win a lot of games -- home, road, on the North Pole -- when you get outgained 442-194."

So in this game that the Bears were "lucky" to win do you know how much they outgained the Lions by? 463-168!  They gained more yards and held the Lions to fewer yards than the Packers did in embarrassing the Falcons in Saturday night's game!  The only reason this game was close was due to 3 Bears turnovers in Detroit territory, including a Greg Olsen fumble on the 8 yard line, and the first of the Bears early season failures in attempts to score from 1 yard out.  The Bears should have blown them out.

Another example of the Bears being lucky that I've heard is, "It seemed like every week they played against a backup quarterback."  And yes, the Bears did get their share of backup quarterbacks.  Like in their rematch against the Lions where they played Drew Stanton and the Bears prevailed 24-20 in Detroit.  The problem with this example is the following week, also in Detroit, the same Lions led by the same Drew Stanton beat the Packers 7-3. 

Or how about when the Bears knocked Favre out early against the Minnesota Vikings and got to play most of the game against Joe Webb in Minnesota?  The Bears killed them 40-14.  In turn the Philadelphia Eagles got to play those same Vikings in Philadelphia and handled Joe Webb so well they lost to the Vikings 24-14. 

Another argument is, "look at how they got to play Seattle in the playoffs?  They're a sub-.500 team!"  Yes, they are.  And that same sub-.500 team beat the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints the week before for the right to play the Bears.  In all three examples the Bears handled a team that another playoff team couldn't under similar circumstances.  Good teams take advantage of their breaks and the Bears have done a great job taking advantage of theirs.  The Bears success this season isn't due to luck.  This is a good football team.

It should be noted that the great '85 Bears got lucky too.  They got lucky that the Rams beat out the 49ers for the division crown so that the Giants and the 'Niners played for the right to play the Bears in the playoffs.  The Rams were a one-dimensional team offensively with no QB (Dieter Brock) but a great running back in Eric Dickerson, not unlike the Bears teams of '77 and '79 with Walter Payton at RB but Bob Avellini and Mike Phipps, respectively, at QB.  The Rams were a great match-up for the Bears defense.  They certainly got lucky with a wind gust in the middle of Sean Landeta's punt.  They also got lucky when the Dolphins lost in the playoffs so they got to face the Patriots instead of a better Dolphins team.  This team is nowhere near as good as the '85 team but both got their share of breaks and took advantage of them.

All that being said there is one area the Bears have been extremely lucky and that's with injuries.  They've only lost important players for 2 games all season.  Lance Briggs missed the Seahawks game and Jay Cutler missed the Panthers game.  Pisa Tinoisamoa missed some games but the injury record with their starters has been remarkable.  That's incredibly lucky. 

So what's gonna happen on Sunday?  The Packers started as 3-point favorites and the line is moving up.  It's currently at 3.5 with some thought that it might go to 4.  With that line I'd bet the Bears.  I don't think the game will be decided by more than 3 points.  Does that mean I think they'll win?  You know where my heart lies but as an objective football observer I'd unfortunately have to say...*

*I can't bring myself to type the words.

In the next post I'll discuss what the Bears need to do to beat the Packers.


  1. None of these things by themselves is a great definition of lucky, but combined they encompass the greatest run of good fortune I can ever remember seeing for any team in any sport. If any one of the things you mention doesn't happen, this isn't a 2 seed and we possibly aren't talking about a home game for the NFC championship. Are they good? Sure...but so is much of the nfl. They are first and foremost lucky. Because now, their luck has put them in a spot where they actually just have to play 8 good quarters of football to win a title.

  2. Dave O. nominated the 2006 Bears. I prefer the 2001 model as the luckiest Bears playoff team that I can remember. What you described on Facebook almost exactly matches the 2008 Steelers - they got to play the 8-8 Chargers after the Chargers upset the Colts, beat the 11-5 Ravens for the conference title, a wild card team from their own division, and then barely beat the 9-7 Cardinals, the worst division winner in the NFC, to win the Super Bowl. So there a few examples of lucky teams - teams luckier than this year's Bears. If I dig I can find many more examples.