When Bears players arrived at training camp in July, there were t-shirts were waiting for them on each bed that said “Monsters of the Midway.” Coach Lovie Smith evoked the franchise’s classic old identity all offseason.
At the time, Smith sounded a little crazy. Pairing offensive coordinator Mike Martz with mistake-prone Jay Cutler didn’t sound like a formula for Chicago’s old brand of tough guy dominance. Nearly six months later, Smith’s vision has been realized.
The Bears defeated the Seahawks 35-24 Sunday in a game dominated by Chicago’s defense. Seattle scored three meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter (one on a short field), but Smith’s new “Monsters” had already won the game.
Only one of Seattle’s first nine drives went longer than 20 yards. (It went 36 yards and ended in a punt.) Seattle’s leading rusher was wide receiver Golden Tate with 13 yards. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher constantly looked like they were going to blitz, then dropped into coverage. Matt Hasselbeck couldn’t find any open receivers all day.
While the Bears defense played like Smith’s 2006 NFC champion team, the Bears offense showed again they can play ball control football. Chicago ran the ball on 12 of its first 19 plays and 44 times overall. Jay Cutler rushed for two scores and threw two long touchdowns to his tight ends. They built a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
Seattle sacked Cutler seven times the first time they these teams played. They only had two on Sunday as Cutler enjoyed a lot of time in the pocket all day. The Bears offensive line has cut down on the mental mistakes that defined their early part of the season.
This game was a snoozer, but it sets up a classic NFC Championship game matchup. The Bears and Packers will face off in the playoffs for the first time since 1941. The Packers have been installed as three point favorites.
Smith will probably appreciate being an underdog. His team hasn’t been overly respected all season long, and Smith knows his defense can slow down Aaron Rodgers.
These Bears aren’t flashy, but they have steadily grown very effective. Just like Smith envisioned back in July.