The New Curt Alliaume Blog (calliaume) wrote in illinois_sports,
The New Curt Alliaume Blog

Time to Be Optimistic

The Chicago Bears may not be as awful as everyone first thought.

Yes, they had a great all-around game yesterday - they scored touchdowns via the air, the ground, on defense, and on special teams. (How often does that happen?) Kyle Orton is proving he can do a decent job running the offense. Thomas Jones had an outstanding game, and Cedric Benson had time to run some plays. The defense intercepted Joey Harrington five times.

But the best news isn't the Bears - it's the rest of the division.

The Bears are 1-1. So are the Lions, who certainly looked worse than Chicago did yesterday. No doubt Steve Mariucci was hoping Jeff Garcia would give Harrington a run for the money at quarterback this year. But Garcia broke his right leg in the last preseason game and will be out until mid-October at the least, and the Lions really don't have any other options. Lions owner William Clay Ford was banking on Matt Millen and Mariucci turning this awful team (16-48 the last four seasons) this year; it may not happen.

The team Detroit beat in the first week of the season is Green Bay, which is 0-2. They've lost to Detroit and Cleveland, neither of whom was supposed to be a powerhouse. They haven't looked horrible, but they haven't gotten a win, either. Their star received, Javon Walker, is out for the year, and their other offensive stars (Brett Favre, Ahman Green) haven't looked as good as they have in years past. The defense, thought to be suspect before the season started... is.

But that beats the Minnesota Vikings, who are also 0-2, and went from bad to worse in their two defeats. Daunte Culpepper was intercepted five times in yesterday's 37-8 pounding by Cincinnati, with the sole touchdown by the Vikes coming during garbage time in the fourth quarter. Culpepper has been awful, the defense has been lousy, and the team may miss Randy Moss more than they thought.

All of which leaves the Bears - at 1-1, with their loss coming 9-7 at the hands of the Redskins - looking at least on a par with the rest.

Chicago has a tough assignment next week against the Bengals, who are 2-0 and have a quarterback who two years ago was where Kyle Orton is now. Carson Palmer tossed three touchdowns yesterday, and stands a good chance of making the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks this year. But they have a bye the week after that, and then four very beatable teams - at Cleveland, home against Minnesota and Baltimore, and then at Detroit. If the Bears can be 3-3 after this stretch - not at all impossible - they can contend in a very weak NFC North. And if the other three teams continue to play as they have, the Bears could do even better than that.

They need to do two things - exactly what they have been doing on defense, and improving steadily on offense. Playing not to lose - the modus operandi of Bear quarterbacks since I can't remember when - is not going to cut it. If their youngsters get the momentum going, this team could surprise.
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