One week left and the Bears finally get interesting

That. Was. Ridiculous.

As is observable by my incredible lack of posts here, the Chicago Bears this season have been nothing to write home about. Sure, Kyle Orton was better than expected, but he’s not the second coming of Jim McMahon. The offensive line has been adequate. Special teams have been less special than usual with Devin Hester’s season-long touchdown slump. Hester has shown improvement as a wide receiver, but in general the receiving core has been uninspiring. And the defense has been just plain bad. Their play has improved in the last few weeks, but so far they’ve only managed to climb back to average. On the plus side, we do have Matt Forte to scrub away the bad aftertaste of Cedric Benson.

In spite of their best efforts, the Bears somehow still find themselves in the playoff race here at the end of the season. They have the good fortune to be in a horrible division. The Detroit Lions are set to be the first team in NFL history to lose sixteen straight in a single season, and the Green Bay Packers misplaced their defense about six weeks ago and only just started finding pieces of it again last night. That leaves only the Minnesota Vikings, who have managed to keep pace with the Bears for the entire season, with one noteworthy edge: The Vikings beat the Bears in both meetings this season, meaning that if the two teams finish with equal records the Vikings win the division by virtue of owning the tiebreaker.

At the beginning of this past weekend, things looked grim indeed for the Bears’ playoff hopes. If the Vikings beat the Atlanta Falcons or the Bears lost to the Packers, the Bears were out of the division race. If the Vikings won, the Bears would still have a slim shot at a wild card – but only if the Buccaneers, Eagles and Cowboys ALL lost. One could say that hell would have to freeze over for the Bears to keep their shot at the playoffs alive after this past weekend.

I don’t know about hell, but Chicago certainly froze over, and apparently that was good enough. The Vikings lost. The Bucs, Eagles and Cowboys – all of whom were favored to win – lost. The Bears? Last night’s game against the Packers was the coldest Bears home game since 1963. They played a straight-up horrible first half. They came into the second half with more energy, but that led to huge mistakes as much as gains. Late in the fourth quarter Forte literally saved the season by an inch as he just barely made a critical fourth-down conversion. That drive ended with a game-tying touchdown, but things almost went down the crapper again on the following kick-off, when Adrian Peterson drew a personal foul on a hit out of bounds. The Packers looked ready to put the game away with a go-ahead field goal, but defensive end Alex Brown managed to get his huge hand up high enough to block the kick, sending the game into overtime.

Even the coin toss went weird. The referee bounced the coin off Brian Urlacher’s helmet, and everybody had to run after it to see where it landed. In the end the Bears won the toss, Kyle Orton put together a decent drive, and Robbie Gould sealed the deal with a game winning field goal.

What does this mean? Hard to say. There is only one week left in the regular season, so it all comes down to this. The Bears have to win against the Houston Texans, who have been showing real signs of life in the past few weeks. And the Vikings still have to lose. The good news there is that they play the reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants. Sports Club Stats puts the Bears’ chances of reaching the playoffs at 31.9 percent. Considering the way the season has gone so far, I’m glad they’re finally starting to make things interesting.

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