Chicago Sun-Times

Aftermath of Giants' SB title -- Bears so close, yet so far

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If the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are the past two Super Bowl champions, how far away can the Bears actually be?

The Bears were NFC North champions ahead of the Packers in 2010 and only lost 21-14 in the NFC Championship Game even with third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie playing most of the second half.

As for the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Giants, they were below the Bears in every NFL power ranking with six games left in the regular season. The Bears were 7-3 after beating the Chargers, while the Giants were 6-4 after losing to the Eagles and Vince Young -- the same Eagles team the Bears beat in Philly with Michael Vick at quarterback.

Even two weeks after Cutler suffered his broken thumb against the Chargers, the Bears (7-5) on a two-game losing streak still were just one spot behind the Giants (6-6) in both the ESPN and Brian Billick (Fox) power rankings.

If Cutler had not suffered the injury, the Bears would have finished 11-5 or 10-6 and made the playoffs. The Giants needed to pull that annoying last-split-second time-out trick that wiped out a tying field goal by the Cowboys to win in Dallas, then had to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 just to make the playoffs.

The Giants won it all with a wide-receiver corps almost as modestly acquired as the Bears -- Victor Cruz was undrafted in 2010; Mario Manningham was a third-round pick (95th overall) in 2008; Hakeem Nicks was a first-round pick, but 29th overall, in 2009.

Manningham, who made a heroic catch to start the winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, was taken 25 picks after the Bears selected Earl Bennett. Manningham had 39 receptions for 523 yards and four touchdowns this season. Bennett had a similar season shortened by an injury -- 24 receptions for 381 yards -- except of course, for the touchdowns. Bennett had just one. In four seasons, Manningham has 18 touchdowns. Bennett has six.

That seems to be the difference between a team like the Giants and a team like the Bears. The Giants make big plays in the clutch and they score touchdowns. Bears wide receivers combined for nine whole touchdowns this season -- undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher leading the way with three. Without a ''No. 1'' guy, the Giants' wide-receiver corps combined for 21 touchdowns.

Is Eli Manning that much better than Jay Cutler? Is Kevin Gilbride that much better than Mike Martz? Is Tom Coughlin that much better than Lovie Smith?

I'm pretty sure most Bears fans would say, No. No. And Yes.

Lovie Smith sure seemed like a better coach than Tom Coughlin when Jay Cutler was healthy. But it seems like it was more than just bad luck that separated the two. Coughlin has a knack not only for keeping his quarterback healthy (Eli Manning has started 130 consecutive games since taking over for Kurt Warner in 2004), but for having his team primed to take advantage of every opportunity late in the season.

Of course, if Cutler stays healthy and Manning was injured, it would be non-issue. But Cutler didn't stay healthy. And Manning didn't get injured. After two unlikely Super Bowl titles, there must be something to it. It's hard not to be encouraged when a team of destiny wins the Super Bowl. But you can only take it so far. We've seen enough to know that the Bears might be further way than we think.

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ONE THING IM CERTAIN OF IS YOU SO CALLED EXPERTS, DONT KNOW TO MUCH ABOUT THE BEARS. FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS YA'LL BEEN WRONG ABOUT THEM. I DON'T KNOW IF WE WIN THE SUPERBOWL, BUT IF CUTLER DOESN'T GO DOWN ONE OF THOSE WILD CARD TEAMS IS SITTING AT HOME. HOW FAR WHERE AWAY...ANOTHER DEFENSE END, NUMBER ONE RECIEVER, AND ANOTHER ADDITION TO OUR OFFENSIVE LINE AND WHO KNOWS. AND TO THE L;OVIE COMMENT WHO GETS MORE OUTTA THEIR ROSTER THAN HIM? SUPER BOWL WITH A YOUNG ERATIC GROSSMAN, NFC CHAMPIONSHIP WITH NO OFFENSIVE LINE AND NO RECIEVERS...THE GUY GETS A BAD WRAP.

Power Rankings? Really Mark? The basis for your story is power rankings? I do agree that guys who score a lot of TD's are better than ones that score only a few. Funny how that works.

"Is Eli Manning that much better than Jay Cutler? Is Kevin Gilbride that much better than Mike Martz? Is Tom Coughlin that much better than Lovie Smith?"

Ummm no, yes and yes. Believe it or not Mark Chicago fans for the most part, hate Mike Martz, cause he sucks.

Basically Mark what you are missing is yes the Bears need better recievers and it's not where you draft them, it's who you draft. But Eli has spent his entire career behind a more talented offensive line than Jay, Manning has been sacked 30 times once in his career, that helps. The Giants also have a better pass rush, better rushers, and a better secondary (when healthy). In the last three years the Giants have given up 75 sacks, the Bears 140, almost double.

It sounds crazy mark but yes having very good, recivers, excellent pass rushers, a talented secondary, an offensive line that protects you and something your really missing, a head coach who understands you need to not just give your QB weapons but you need to protect him. It's funny how Lovie likes watching Jay get sacked, in fact the head coach loved it so much that the last time they played the Giants Lovie just sat and watched Jay get killed while he tried to think of what to say during the press confrence. "Jay is our QB." "Jay gets hit a lot but he gets up a lot." "We expect Jay to get hit and we expect him to get up." ' I thought the defense played defense, they kept us in it." "Special teams was good as usual." Lovie should go to the press confrences wearing a quarterback's wrist band, then when he is asked a question he can just flip it open and answer using one of his pre-written sayings. This would show even greater disdane for the media than usual. He can also where the helmet, that way if he does not have an answer on his wrist band, they can have Martz call in the answer to him, "the fish was delicous." "Greg Olsen is a great blocker, don;t you think?" Or Angelo "Whistle Dixie Potash."

Ahhhh I am gonna miss the good old days. I think with Emery and Lovie together the press confrence will consist mostly of cricket noise, and the occasional contradiction. "Our priority is the draft, but right now it's free agency, and afte that it will be the draft, but for now it's the draft if you don't include free agency."

The Bears are getting serious now, smoke and mirrors, shadow games, the new counter media intelligence division at Halas hall code named, contradiction chaos.

Sorry Mark I forgot something. How long do you think it will be before Emery says "Bear Weather?"

The Giants main advantage over the Bears is they have receivers that can run routes, keep their feet under them (don't fall down)m and who can hold on to the ball. Those three things can make a huge difference.

Mark,
I would say no, yes, and yes. Martz is an idiot who refuses to believe that any defense could possibly be smarter than him, and won't let his QB audible out of a bad play. He has no conscience about how many times his QB gets hit because of his slow-developing route tree. He only committed to the run when Tice got more of a voice in the meeting rooms. Gilbride scores points consistently, has a diverse passing game involving short, medium, and long passes, and uses his tight ends as weapons in both the running and passing games. So yes, Gilbride is way better than Martz

And as far as Lovie, here is the difference between he and Coughlin. When Lovie tries to wait it out and hope the other team makes a mistake and loses the game, Coughlin is cutting his offense loose and letting them try and win the game. Coughlin treats his players with respect, but is also demanding of them. Lovie doesn't hold the same high standards for some players as he does others, and like his offensive coaching staff, he is more than willing to sacrifice his non-favorites to save his own hide. Lovie does not display the galvanizing leadership at the head of the team that Coughlin does. Lovie is in charge of the organization, but the inmates are running the asylum when it comes to the team. Coughlin started tough, and has softened on his discipline, because players respond to it and respect his requirements. Lovie just got soft, and only shows a firm hand when he thinks a message is necessary.

Coughlin's coaching staff was assembled from a group that was not his cronies from previous jobs. He puts together a talented group of coaches who are committed to his vision. Lovie can't get a coach to come here, especially on offense, because they know his stifling collar on the offense (whatever you do, don't take any chances) is not a good career step for a coordinator, passing game or otherwise. He has one of the better QBs in the league, and is wasting him with a Pop Warner game strategy.

Clock management, in-game adjustments, challenges, and command of the sideline are all areas where Lovie falls short when matched up against Coughlin, and Mike McCarthy, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, and any other playoff coach. Heck, Jim Harbaugh displayed more coaching ability in his first year as an NFL head coach than Lovie has shown in his entire time here. Great coaches, even good coaches, try to win games. They don't play the staring contest, hoping the other guy blinks first.

The comments here are pretty astute and interesting, but Mark is being unjustly attacked I think. I see his comment as simply stating that the bear could have easily been that team that took the Giants' place as the wild card and that they too could have had a solid run if Cutler and Forte were back on the field.Last year was pretty much the same situation. What if the Bears had knocked Green Bay out of the playoffs? The point is that the Bears have been close but damned unlucky. I mostly buy the idea that teams make their own luck and would agree that some losses could clearly be attributed to the offensive coordinater and the head coach, but at the same time would certainly maintain that the Bears were very close to a Super Bowl appearance the last two years, only to blow it toward the end of the season.

Creighton, thank you. i was having a crappy week until I read your post. Freakin' hillarious...

Creighton, thank you. I was having a crappy week until I read your post. Freakin' hillarious...

Really the Bears should have made the playoffs with a 10-6 record or even 11-5

Kansas City, Denver and Raider games all displayed poor discipline, poor clock management, untimely penalties, with Lovie not taking charge and getting the team to the playoffs. How can Bears out penalty the Raiders? They blew a 10 point lead by playing not to lose prevent way too early in the fourth quarter against the Broncos and KC should have never won that game, but they did. I blame Lovie and his coaches, but the fish stinks from the head.

Niners, Saints, Packers, and Giants are all better than the Bears. The coaching, the head coaches, theBears O line, Wr's, Db's and D line pass rush iare not on par with these teams. Five years and counting, no playoffs. Lovie should have been history with Angelo.

The Bears won their Division and were in the Playoffs last year, Dahlilama. Where were you? In the Himalayas?The Packers only got in as a sixth seed by beating the bears in the last regular season game.

The Bears won their Division and were in the Playoffs last year, Dahlilama. Where were you? In the Himalayas?The Packers only got in as a sixth seed by beating the Bears in the last regular season game.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on February 6, 2012 2:26 PM.

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