The Chicago Bears are 9-3 and sit atop the NFC North. With 2 upcoming road division games along with 2 games against the 9 win Jets and Patriots, the final 4 games will test this team’s playoff readiness. The 2009 Bears team is reminiscent of the 2001 Chicago Bears who caught several breaks as they went 13-3 winning the NFC Central. Most teams who achieve surprisingly successful seasons have some good luck along the way and both the 2001 and 2009 Bear teams have had their share of it.
In 2001 the Bears first big break came against the San Francisco 49ers on October 28th. Down 28-9 late in the 3rd quarter the Bears stormed back sending the game into overtime. On the first play of overtime Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia threw an interception intended for Pro Bowler Terrell Owens that Mike Brown ran back 33 yards for a touchdown. In the very next game against the Cleveland Browns the Bears were losing 21-7 with less than one minute remaining. Wide receiver Marty Booker caught a touchdown pass making the score 21-14. The touchdown catch was followed by the Bears recovering an onside kick. The Shane Matthews-lead offense scored on a 34 yard touchdown heave sending the game to overtime. Unbelievably repeating the previous week’s magic, Mike Brown intercepted a tipped pass and returned it for yet another game winning touchdown. These are two of the biggest breaks the 2001 Chicago Bears caught that season which helped lead them to the NFC Central title.
This season the Bears have gotten their share of luck aiding them to a 9-3 start. In week one against the Lions with just 24 seconds remaining it appeared Detroit regained the lead (and likely secured the victory) on a 25-yard touchdown reception by Calvin Johnson. Though just watching the play tells us it was a clear touchdown, the rulebook states that because the ball wasn’t secure throughout the entire process of the catch, it was called an incomplete pass which allowed the Bears to secure the week one victory. In week five, the Bears had to take on the Panthers on the road without their franchise quarterback Cutler, who missed the game with a concussion. This game came at an opportune time as the Bears defense teed off against rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen who only passed for 61 yards on 22 attempts. Four weeks later when the Bears played the Vikings, Minnesota was in turmoil dealing with a coach/owner struggle along with players who disliked their coach. Along with a solid all around performance, the Vikings off-the-field issues allowed the Bears to put together a commanding 27-13 victory. If Viking owner, Zygi Wilf, had fired coach Brad Childress in the week leading up to the Bear game as many thought he would, the Viking players may have put forth a better effort that day in Chicago. Instead he was fired after the following week’s Packer game and the Vikings have now won two games in a row under interim head coach Leslie Frazier. For further proof of a lucky season, recent games against the Dolphins and Lions were played against each team’s third string quarterbacks. The Bears defense dominated Dolphins QB Tyler Thigpen on a Thursday night in Miami. They weren’t nearly as successful against Drew Stanton who moved the ball well throughout the day but they ultimately held him under 200 passing yards preventing the Lions from topping 20 points on the day. Throughout this season the Bears have also been incredibly healthy placing only one player on injured reserved and usually having all other players available each week through 12 games.
Like the 2001 Chicago Bears, this year’s 9-3 team continues catching breaks weekly. They’ll need this luck to continue as they face the toughest part of their schedule to close out the year. Last week it was reported that New York Jets standout safety/punt returner Jim Leonhard has a broken leg. Him missing the game will aid both Martz’s offense and Dave Toub’s special teams units. I haven’t heard of injuries to Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers yet but I’ll keep an ear out as it seems the stars are aligning for this year’s good luck Bears team.