CHICAGO -- Until Sunday, they were a rumor. The Chicago Bears had won seven of their first 10 games, but what did that mean? They had played a series of mostly bad teams, and they had won more than they had lost. Fantastic. But don't start planning that Super Bowl parade just yet, Chicago.
And then, Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles came to town, and the Eagles were no rumor. The Eagles were the truth.
|More on Eagles-Bears|
And Chicago beat them up. Took their lunch money. Sent them home hungry. The final of the Bears' victory was 31-26, and lots of you Eagles fans will use that score, and the final stats that show Philadelphia outgaining the Bears 398 yards to 349, to tell me I'm wrong. That Chicago didn't beat anybody up. Didn't take anyone's lunch money. Didn't dominate this game.
What can I tell you? There's a reason I'm writing, and you're reading. So read this, and understand it: The Bears mugged the Eagles, holding a 31-13 lead after 51 minutes, before going into slow-motion. They milked the clock when they had the ball, and they made the normally explosive Eagles offense work the clock on their possessions as well. With Chicago happily allowing the Eagles to creep down the field, 5 or 8 yards at a time, Philadelphia racked up 170 yards -- and 13 points -- in the fourth quarter alone.
When the game was basically over.
So now it's time to believe in the Bears. Rumor became fact on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears are 8-3, and they are the first team to beat the Eagles in five weeks, and they are the first team to beat the Eagles all year in a game started, and finished, by dynamic quarterback Michael Vick. The Bears are for real. It's not anyone's fault for doubting them before, not with Chicago "boasting" wins against Carolina and Detroit and Dallas and Buffalo and Minnesota.
But if you doubt the Bears now? Well, now it would be your fault.
"We knew what we had in this locker room, even before this game," Bears safety Chris Harris said. "Hopefully the world knows it now, too. But if not, oh well. We'll just keep on winning."
The Bears are for real, Jay Cutler and all.
Hell, Jay Cutler amen.
|Jay Cutler makes like Michael Vick, scrambling against the Eagles. (Getty Images)|
"When he plays like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Cutler, "we're hard to beat."
Cutler took advantage of an Eagles secondary playing without injured cornerback Asante Samuel. His replacement, Joselio Hanson, was faked off his feet on a 39-yard catch-and-run by Devin Hester, and two plays later slipped to his rump as Johnny Knox beat him for a 6-yard touchdown that made the score 14-3.
"It doesn't matter," Reid said. "The next guy comes in and he's got to play. Listen, my hat's off to [Cutler], but we have to play better."
Vick wasn't bad himself. He ran for 44 yards and threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but his first interception of the season was arguably the biggest play of the game. It came with the Eagles poised to take the lead before halftime, trailing 14-13 but perched at the Chicago 4 with two minutes left. It was second and goal when Vick tried to sidearm a pass to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. Bears lineman Tommie Harris tipped the throw and Chris Harris grabbed it, going 39 yards the other way. Cutler drove the Bears the rest of the way, hitting Earl Bennett with a 6-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left in the half.
The Bears led 21-13, and they got the ball to start the third quarter. Hester returned the kickoff to the Chicago 46, and Cutler needed only two passes -- 34 yards to Hester, 9 yards to Olsen -- to make the score 28-13.
The rout was on. The game was all but over. And the message was clear:
Time to believe, America. Time to believe in the Bears.
"We know what everyone [has been] saying about us, but that really hasn't had anything to do with how we feel," Smith said. "Even as people have been talking about us, we've been in front of the division most of the time.
"Perceptions ... whether we're getting enough respect, none of that matters."
Well, it sort of matters now. It matters outside the Chicago locker room. Think of the Bears as an IQ test for everyone else. Anyone who still refuses to believe in the Bears? You failed the IQ test.
Which brings me to the following quote from Eagles tackle Jason Peters.
"Oh yeah," he said when asked, stupidly, if the Eagles are better than the Bears. "As bad as we played, we lost by five. They know that we're the better team. ... Hopefully we'll see them again."
Wow, Jason. It's like another of Illinois' finest, Abraham Lincoln, once said:
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.